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Healthy, Natural, Energy-boosting Foods

October 26, 2016 (Updated: August 16, 2018)

Around this time of year, many animals wind down their energy-intensive preparations for hibernation. Somewhere in our genes is a similar urge to also wind down as cold weather comes. We can’t fit several months of blissful hibernation into our schedules and snooze away our days. What we can do is look to energy-boosting foods that chase away those winter blahs.

On the winter menu—energy!

My recommendations to keep your engine running:

Don’t caffeinate—hydrate. Go easy on the caffeine and stay away from sugary beverages—they just bring on a momentary buzz followed by a lingering crash. Instead, go with with pure, fresh water throughout the day, start with at least 20 ounces first thing in the morning. And throughout the day, whatever your weight in pounds, drink half that many ounces of water. Mild dehydration is a leading cause of fatigue.

Super-hydrate with coconut water. With its huge stores of potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus—it’s actually more hydrating than pure water. It will keep every cell in your body un-thirsty, mineral-rich, and wide awake.

Consume healthy fats. Yes, the fats in lean meats and healthy oils like olive, coconut, and avocado, are the best, longest-lasting sources of energy. Eat some carbs? You get a 15–30 minute energy shot. Protein? The energy well runs dry after a few hours. But good fats rule. You won’t gain weight, you’ll gain energy.

Get at least 30 minutes of daily moderate exercise. Even “purposeful” walking, meaning you don’t stroll, you walk as if in a hurry. It’s a bit counterintuitive, but any exercise pays you back—with interest. Research has shown that, far from tiring you out, exercise delivers more energy than it takes. It keeps your mitochondria on alert.

Don’t glut, graze. Replace heavy meals with light mini-meals throughout the day, focusing on lean protein and complex carbs, especially fruits and veggies rich in fiber, which steadies the energy flow and prevents blood sugar spikes.

Take a high-quality multi-vitamin and mineral supplement daily. A diet lacking in any essential nutrients is like an engine with a couple of cylinders out.

Add extra vitamin B complex and C to your daily routine—especially B12. They’re water-soluble, so they can’t be stockpiled in your body to use as needed. I recommend 40 mg of complete B complex (with at least 3 mcg of B12) and 80 mg of C.

Foods that deliver best

Brown rice. Its rich store of manganese helps produce energy from proteins and carbs. There’s no end to recipe options—brown rice gets along well with any other ingredients you can think of.

Sweet potato. Its high carb, vitamin A and vitamin C content will help fight off those midday blahs. Treat them like potatoes—mashed, baked, or boiled with any healthy additions you like.

Honey. Remember when (bogus) “energy drinks” were all the rage? A spoonful of honey is the real deal (just don’t go overboard, it’s still a source of sugar)—a slow-releasing muscle fuel that helps keep your fuel tank full.

Bananas. If it weren’t for their high fiber content, bananas would be iffy, because they’re mostly sugars. Happily, the fiber slows your body’s absorption of the sugars. There’s no blood sugar spike, just a steady drip of energy. Top a banana with peanut or almond butter for some protein, or add a few slices to breakfast cereal, yogurt, …etc.

Apples. They keep the doctor away by delivering more high-fiber, high-energy goodness than many other fruits. An apple with cheese snack is a great pick-you-up.

Oranges. High in vitamin C, potassium, and folate, they’re another dynamite combo of high-energy sugars with release-slowing fiber. The juice, of course, is a favorite, but eat the whole fruit so you don’t miss the pectin and fiber in the membranes.

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Spinach. We always need iron to keep our energy sources running. In the winter, even more so. Iron fuels our mitochondria, which fuel every cell in our bodies. Get your inner Popeye on and and you’ll never run on empty.

Beans. You’ve got to love these humble legumes. Not every food combines protein, complex carbs, and fiber like beans. And not every food is as perfect for winter as a hearty bean soup.

Almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, and seeds, raw and in butter form. Their healthy loads of protein, manganese, copper, and riboflavin all help our mitochondria produce oxygen-based energy—just a bite or two does the job. Peanut butter is OK, but not as potent an energizer.

Salmon. Our lovely pink friend is a swimming pharmacy and a buffet of nutrients. Its chart-topping omega-3 content isn’t its only virtue. It’s also loaded with vitamin B6, protein, niacin, and riboflavin. It’ll help keep you in the swim all winter.

Yogurt. We can’t produce energy without magnesium, so it’s hello, yogurt—thanks for helping. Thanks also for the good shot of calcium you deliver—essential for so many functions. And the probiotics that help our immune system stay in top shape. Stick with full-fat, organic when possible and say no to sugary fruit additives.

Eggs. A protein powerhouse, delivering 30 percent of our daily needs—in a 97 percent absorbed and utilized formulation. That’s more than any other food.

Cruciferous veggies. Our mitochondria just love broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, and kale, to name a few. When it comes to veggie power, they don’t give peas a chance.

Sulfur-rich veggies. Onions, mushrooms, and garlic can launch a thousand meals, and keep billions of mitochondria humming along, no matter what the weather.

Special additions to power you through winter

CoQ10 is so important, and so lacking in nearly every patient I test, that I recommend it to nearly everyone. We all need this vitamin-like enzyme to support healthy energy production.

If you’re healthy and want to stay that way, I recommend 100 mg of CoQ10 daily. If you’re on statins or have cancer or a heart condition, I recommend at least 250 mg daily.

Yerba mate is said to have “the strength of coffee, the health benefits of tea, and the euphoria of chocolate.”

It’s got the same caffeine compounds as tea, coffee and chocolate, but without the bitter taste, stomach-burning acidity, or caffeine “jitters.”

It’s a great alternative to the daily grind of coffee and the fussiness of tea.

Bee propolis is a potent anti-microbial, antibacterial, anti-parasitic, cancer-fighting substance that’s also widely found to deliver a gentle, lasting energy boost.

Have a happy, energized fall and winter.

References

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