10 High Impact Foods to Boost Your Energy and Productivity
There are several factors that affect one’s energy and productivity. One’s environment (e.g. the people around them, or even the circumstances), culture, educational background, character and attitude.
If we are motivated enough, we feel more energized to perform assigned tasks. If asked, you can probably name a dozen ways for you to get a boost in your energy levels and, without a doubt, food would be one of them.
But did you know that what you eat also affects your productivity? Making the connection between the food that you eat and your energy may be easy. However, most people find it hard understanding how it may affect productivity.
In this article, we will explore 1) the connection between food, energy, and productivity, 2) 10 foods that will boost your energy and productivity, and 3) some additional tips.
THE CONNECTION BETWEEN FOOD AND ENERGY & PRODUCTIVITY
The relationship between food and energy is pretty much established for most of us: in order to have energy, one must eat. Try skipping meals in the morning, and you are likely to feel completely drained of energy a few short hours into the day.
To better understand the connection, let us take a look at the physiological side of things. Food contains calories, which are essentially units of energy that our bodies then utilize, much like a fuel, in the performance of all bodily functions. The very act of breathing is fueled by these units of energy, so you can just imagine the amount of energy required in order to perform more strenuous activities, such as doing a household chore or playing your favorite sport.
Essentially, the more active you are, the more energy that your body will need. This means that you will also need more food.
It is in foods where you will find macronutrients, such as carbohydrates, fat, and protein – the three main players in the generation of energy in the body. Carbohydrates and protein, by themselves, already provide calories or units of energy. Fats, on the other hand, still has to undergo some processes before they can provide energy that can be used by the body. In the end, however, it is considered to be another great source of energy.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), for optimum energy, the recommended calories to be obtained from carbohydrates on a daily basis is 45% to 65%. Fats and proteins, on the other hand, should provide around 20% to 35% and 10% to 15%, respectively.
Food contains specific nutrients that help us feel more energized. For example, women aged 20 to 49 have been found to be more prone to fatigue attributed to iron deficiency. The solution is to consume more foods that are iron-rich.
Now where does productivity come in?
It is like a chain reaction: the more energized you are, the better a performer you will be in any assigned task. You will be able to work longer hours, and your concentration and focus will be much more improved, as compared to when you haven’t eaten anything.The nutrients found in many foods also protect you from various diseases and health problems, so you are healthier, which means you are more capable of carrying out simple to advanced tasks and functions.
But wait, it’s not just food and eating per se that will have a positive effect on productivity. According to the World Health Organization, “adequate nutrition can raise productivity levels by 20% on average”. Take note that they specifically cited “adequate nutrition”, which means you also have to take into consideration the quantity and the quality of the food that you eat, not just the mere fact that you are eating food.
10 FOODS FOR BOOSTING ENERGY AND PRODUCTIVITY
The general consensus when it comes to choosing food to eat for energy is to combine a fruit or a vegetable, whole grain, lean protein, plant-based fat, and any herb or spice. As long as these 5 ingredients are present in one meal, you can expect to get the maximum amount of energy, which you will then use to be more productive at work, at home, or in school.
Technically, all foods supply energy. It is just a matter of some foods being better suppliers than others. With so many types of foods out there, the big question is what are the best choices that you should include in your “energy and productivity” diet? We have narrowed the list down to the ten best energy- and productivity-boosting foods.
#1 CHICKEN BREAST
We have mentioned the three macronutrients required for energy, and they include proteins. Chicken is one of the best and most abundant sources of protein that you can find, and the fact that it is tasty definitely doesn’t hurt.
To get the most out of the protein provided by chicken breast, avoid deep-frying or frying it. Leaving it overnight in a marinade or preparing it with lots of sauces and other ingredients will diminish its protein content. Try to keep it simple by grilling it. It’s tastier and healthier that way.
Eggs are usually a favorite breakfast fare, but they can actually be eaten at any time throughout the day. This is because eggs are rich in protein (they came from chicken, which we have already established as protein-rich, so that’s a given) as well as other nutrients such as healthy fats, potassium, and fiber, boosting your energy and providing long-lasting fullness.
In fact, if you eat an egg in the morning, you tend to feel fuller longer, and more energized to carry out your tasks for the day.
Consume the whole egg. Others may say you should just eat the white part, completely avoiding the egg yolk.
#3 FISH & SHRIMP
Seafood has always been a great source of various vital nutrients, which is why you see it recommended in almost every type of diet. Seafood, particularly fish and shrimp, is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have a close correlation with one’s mood and memory.
People who have optimal to high levels of omega-3 seldom experience depression, and you rarely see them display pessimistic outlooks. They also tend to be more calm and objective, instead of acting on impulse often to the point of recklessness.
What types of fish should you consider including in your diet? Salmon (particularly wild salmon), sardines and mackerel, often come highly recommended.
Watch Jamie Oliver cooking some really healthy fish recipes. Yummy!
#4 GREEK YOGURT
Dairy is generally good for the health, but there have been issues lately with some types of dairy causing more harm than good. Greek yogurt is one of the exceptions, as it has been proven to contain a lot of proteins.
Why not just stick to normal yogurt? There is nothing wrong with normal yogurt, since they also contain protein. However, since we are talking about the best options, Greek yogurt is the way to go. After all, they contain about two times the protein that you will find in normal yogurt.
When choosing Greek yogurt, steer clear of those with high sugar content. Go for plain, unflavored and unsweetened Greek yogurt. To add flavor, you can simply add a little bit of fruit or your favorite jam.
Another way to enjoy Greek yogurt is to blend it with your favorite fruit for a smoothie. This will give you a healthy dose of protein (for energy) and fiber (to make you feel fuller for a long time).
#5 SEEDS AND ALMONDS
Looking for an energy snack? Then try some seeds and nuts, such as almonds. Some seeds, such as hemp seeds, can even be added in salad dressings and smoothies. Chia seeds are also often added to cereals. Eat them raw or toast them, if you prefer. These seeds are great protein providers, and also excellent sources of fiber, good fats, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids.
Nuts such as almonds are not only good for the prevention of various heart diseases. They are also effective in hunger management. If you find yourself easily feeling hungry at any time of the day, almonds are great for easing these hunger pangs.
Take note that not all nuts are recommended, since some of them may have high sugar or fat content. Almonds are considered to be an excellent alternative since they are much healthier.
If plain almonds are too boring for you, you can try almond variations, such as almond milk and almond butter. They will also give you the same amount of energy that regular almonds provide.
#6 OATS AND QUINOA
We have to be specific about this, since there are more than a few oatmeal varieties available today. Look for steel-cut oats or oatmeal. They are also referred to as coarse oatmeal or pinhead oats, depending on which part of the world you’re from. They are basically whole oats which have been roughly chopped into several pieces. The oat groats are essentially unprocessed, unlike your usual rolled oats or instant oatmeal.
When you look over the shelves at the stores and supermarkets, you may feel overwhelmed with the wide variety of choices of oatmeal. Some are dubbed as “quick-cooking”, while there are also the instant ones, which you can prepare just by adding hot water.
Eat the oats raw or toast them a bit. Again, when serving oatmeal, avoid putting too much sugars. If flavor is what you want, healthier alternatives are jams or preserves, or a side serving of your favorite fruit.
The same is true for Quinoa, or the “Mother Grain”. Quinoa is 20% protein, and also rich in vitamin B, which actively works in converting carbohydrates into energy that will be used by the body. Usually, quinoa is a great addition to baked goods, soups, stews, and cereals.
Kale may just be the most popular and highly recommended leafy green vegetable lately, and with good reason, too. Kale supplies the body with iron, Vitamin A, Vitamin C (which aids in better iron absorption) and Vitamin C (which improves blood clotting and blood flow in general).
The great thing about kale is how flexible it is when it comes to serving it. You can eat it raw with your salads, or use it as toppings on your burgers or pizzas. You can even mix it with your soup. A popular way of preparing and consuming kale lately, though, is blending it in with smoothies. Some even turn them into kale chips, but you have to be careful that they were not prepared through deep-frying.
#8 BLUEBERRIES AND GOJI BERRIES
If you are looking for good antioxidants, berries are one of the first things on the list. Blueberries, in particular, are a perennial favorite, ranking among the “superfruits”, along with apples and tomatoes. Did you know that blueberries can also help improve memory and brain power? This means you can be more confident in tackling tasks that involve using your brain and memory better!
Goji berries, on the other hand, are increasingly becoming popular as additions to baked goods as well as in juices, teas and smoothies. They are even added to soups and cereal mixes. Goji berries contain 18 amino acids, easily providing you lots of protein, and vitamin B2 and iron. Improved blood flow is sure to improve the flow of energy, which ensures you remain in top condition.
Blood flow is associated with energy levels, and watermelon is a great fruit for relaxing the blood vessels and improving blood circulation. That is thanks to the amino acid called L-citrulline, which is found in abundance in watermelon.
If you have often wondered why watermelon is highly recommended after a workout or a strenuous activity, it is because watermelon also helps soothe sore muscles. Eat the fruit on its own, add it to a salad, or blend it into a smoothie. You have a lot of options available.
#10 DARK OR RAW CHOCOLATE
Sweet-lovers rejoice! You can indulge in your love for sweets and not worry that it would cramp your style when working or studying. If you need a quick pick-me-up, your usual go-to may be some candy or a chocolate bar, because the sugar content will perk you right up. However, we suggest you pick up dark chocolate, or even raw chocolate, instead of your regular sweets.
Dark chocolate contains a lot of antioxidants; in fact, cacao is considered as one of the best sources of antioxidants, as well as nutrients such as magnesium, iron, manganese and chromium. Most importantly, cacao contains anandamide, which is instrumental in improving one’s mood and keeps energy going.
If you can’t get your hands on raw chocolate or cacao, choose pre-packaged dark chocolate with the least amount of sugar, and with a lot of cacao. Usually, dark chocolate has a cacao content of at least 70%, so that’s a good starting point.
OTHER TIPS TO BOOST YOUR ENERGY AND PRODUCTIVITY
Eating the abovementioned foods is not going to be enough if you truly hope to give your energy a boost and improve your overall productivity. The food will do its part, but you, too, will have to do your part. Here are some additional suggestions that you should consider in order to make the most out of your “energy and productivity” diet.
- Do not skip meals. Have a regular meal or eating schedule, and stick to it. You will notice that, if you skip even a single meal, you tend to tire easily and even have mood swings. When you finally get to eat, you end up eating too much or eating the wrong types of food. Do not forget that food is your body’s fuel. If you do not “gas up” regularly, then you should not expect your engine to be in good running condition whenever you need it to. Heed what the elders tell you: have a full breakfast, so you can function better for the rest of the day.
- Be conscious of what you eat. Awareness is the first step. You should know what you are eating, and what benefits you can get from them. This will also help you in planning your next meals. Do you have a particularly challenging week at work ahead? Then you should prepare yourself properly, and one way to do that is to eat right, and eat the right foods that will provide the energy that you need.
- Do not eat something because it is cheap. While it is true that eating healthy often translates to “eating expensive”, you are presented with a trade-off scenario. Will you eat a cheap but unhealthy meal that will not be able to sustain you for the rest of the afternoon, or will you eat a healthy and energizing meal, even if it is slightly more costly? In the long run, you will end up spending more, because you will look for a snack to fill you up where your previous cheap meal was not able to.
- Avoid processed foods and foods with artificial ingredients. As much as possible, limit your intake of these foods, because they can actually drain energy instead of supplying them. A good example is caffeine. While some would say that caffeine can perk you up, it actually gives “artificial energy”, because it zaps you right out afterwards. Keep things in moderation. If you have to consume caffeine, alcohol and other foods with refined sugars, do so in moderation. What about energy drinks? These mostly contain sugar, which provide temporary bursts of energy. After a short while, you will feel tired, so you’d grab another bottle of the energy drink. It’s going to be an endless cycle that you could have avoided if you chose the right energy-boosting foods.
- Maintain balance in your diet. If you are going to eat carbs, make sure you have other nutrients thrown in. It’s all about balance, to make sure that you do not fall short on one area and have too much of another.
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