By: Jacqueline Aizen
Credit: Flickr/Ivan Dervisevic
Still chugging those grande lattes and downing energy drinks to keep you from crashing at your desk? Well, caffeine can deliver a temporary buzz, but it won't provide the long-lasting energy your body craves. As it wears off, fatigue settles in, creating a need for more caffeine. Excess caffeine can also strip your body of precious nutrients, dehydrating you, and exhausting you. You end up reaching for more java, which creates a vicious cycle.
Luckily, these foods and drinks can provide you with the energy you need without the crash-and-burn that comes with a coffee hit.
The flavanols in chocolate may reduce LDL oxidation, inflammation, and improve arterial blood flow, which may boost your energy levels. In one study, a group of adults with chronic fatigue syndrome were given 1.5oz of 85% cocoa dark chocolate daily for eight weeks. After eight weeks, the individuals reported less fatigue without weight gain.
The cacao bean is also chock-full of health-boosting compounds, and is also referred to as the "food of gods." Theobromine and phenethylamine are two compounds in chocolate that are associated with serotonin, the "happy" chemical.
Chocolate with the greatest amount of non-fat cocoa solids will provide the most antioxidants, while milk chocolate, chocolate syrup, and white chocolate rank the lowest in flavonoids (antioxidants). Choose unsweetened cocoa powder or chocolate with at least 72% cacao solids, and preferably Fair Trade.
Credit: Flickr/Tracy Benjamin
Arugula and bitter greens
We can thank powerful compounds called "glucosinolates" for the bitter taste, strong odors, and excellent health benefits of certain greens. Choose from a bouquet of bitters such as kale, mustard greens, turnips, bok choy, radishes, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, cauliflower, and, of course, the almighty kale. A treasure trove of nutrients, these babies will keep your heart pumping and body moving.
If you want to boost your performance at the gym, nothing beats beets! Out of all the fruits and vegetables, beets contain the highest concentration of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide (NO), not to be confused with nitrous oxide, is a compound that increases vasodilation, improving the health of your blood vessels. This translates into increased efficiency and performance, with less need for oxygen consumption.
B12 vitamin-rich foods
Also known as the "energy vitamin," B12 is responsible for energy production. So if your body is low or isn't absorbing B12, you may feel sluggish. B12 is present in eggs, meat, fish, dairy, nori seaweed, and some varieties of mushrooms and tempeh, a fermented soy product.
Studies suggest that one in four American adults is deficient and almost two-fifths or more of the population has sub-optimum levels. Older adults are at a higher risk for B12 deficiency, as are vegans. The body requires hydrochloric acid and IF (intrinsic factor) to absorb B12, so deficiency may be due to a lack of the vitamin or lack of absorption. Therefore you may need to supplement with B12, but make sure to consult with your physician and dietitian to help you choose the best option.
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