Updated: Sep 15, 2022
If you’re in need of a quick pick-me-up, fancy marketing may suggest that you reach for an energy drink or protein bar — but truth be told — simple, whole foods are what your body is craving!
Whole foods are natural foods that are unprocessed, unrefined, and without any artificial ingredients. They carry a complex array of vital nutrients that will fuel and energize your body. You will most likely find these whole foods in the perimeter of the grocery store! Think fruits, veggies, animal protein, nuts and seeds, etc.
In today’s article, we’re going to spotlight foods that contain specific nutrients known to boost energy, including carbohydrates, fats, B vitamins, and caffeine.
1. Eggs — Let’s kick the list off with pasture-raised eggs, a superfood that many have feared for far too long!
Eggs are an excellent source of protein from the whites and fat from the yolks. They’re rich in B vitamins and many different minerals. All of these nutrients are specifically aimed at increasing energy levels and supporting the body on a cellular level! If you’re concerned about cholesterol check out “Eat the Yolks” where you’ll learn that fat, cholesterol, and calories are essential for your health. Hard-boiling eggs are an easy way to incorporate this as a snack on the go.
2. Salmon — Wild-caught salmon is a nutrient-dense food packed with protein and healthy fats, specifically omega-3’s. They’re also rich in B vitamins and many different minerals!
The healthy fats found in salmon (and the other foods on this list) provide your body with a long-burning source of energy. B vitamins help a variety of enzymes do their jobs, ranging from releasing energy from carbohydrates and fat to breaking down amino acids and transporting oxygen and energy-containing nutrients around the body (1). While you can easily incorporate salmon as a protein in any meal, you can also choose wild-caught salmon jerky if you’re in need of this food on the go.
3. Walnuts— Walnuts are an incredible source of omega 3’s and part of the tree nut family. This food family includes Brazil nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pine nuts, and pistachios (2). Rich in protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, this food family is perfect for trail mix when feeling sluggish. Adding in some high-quality dark chocolate (85% cacao or higher) is great for an extra boost of energy (and flavor!).
4. Banana— Bananas are the first on this list that is a rich source of complex carbohydrates! Carbohydrates provide your body with a quick-burning source of energy compared to healthy fats, so this will be a great option before a workout!
While bananas may have a higher sugar content than any aforementioned food, these complex carbohydrates digest slowly, delivering energy steadily, keeping your blood sugar levels more stable (3). Bananas are a very good source of vitamin B6 and a good source of fiber and minerals like potassium and manganese (4).
5. Carrots— Carrots are truly the unsung heroes of digestion. These hardy vegetables carry a high-water content and are rich in complex carbohydrates, fiber, potassium, and B vitamins that are wonderful for energy production! Aim to include one raw carrot per day with the skin on if organic.
6. Chocolate— Probably the easiest food to regularly incorporate on the list will be chocolate! High-quality chocolate, especially dark chocolate, contains a small quantity of caffeine and also theobromine, which is a stimulant. The darker the bar, the more caffeine and theobromine it contains.
Before you run off and grab the closest bar, please note that quality is really important! Look for 85% or higher content of organic cacao as the first ingredient.
7. Coconut Water— Let’s wrap up this list with some beverages, as solid foods are not the only way to increase energy.
Hydration is paramount for optimal energy! When plain filtered water gets boring, choosing a high-quality electrolyte beverage like coconut water is an excellent choice. Always read the ingredients list and ensure the only ingredient is actually organic coconut water, like this one.
8. Coffee/Tea— The final item on this list includes organic, whole-food sources of caffeine, like coffee, tea, or cacao that will provide a boost in energy levels in addition to other nutrients that will benefit your body!
You may be surprised to learn that caffeine is actually a nutrient identified in more than 60 plant species, offering many benefits including improved memory, mental alertness, speed reasoning, weight loss, improved physical performance during endurance exercise, and protection against certain skin cancers (5). So, grab that cup-o-joe and experience a boost!
Whether you’re feeling a dip in energy or needing a boost of brainpower, incorporating one of these 8 foods listed will most definitely fuel your body! The common thread amongst these foods is that they are nutrient-dense (yes, even chocolate could be nutrient-dense!). Regularly incorporating foods like the ones listed above and focusing on a balance of high-quality protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs throughout your day is key for a nourished and vibrant system with sustained energy!
1. “B Vitamins.” The Nutrition Source, 11 Aug. 2020, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamins/vitamin-b/.
2. Walnuts, https://whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=99.
3. Rodriguez, Diana, et al. “Carbohydrates: Your Body's Most Important Source of Fuel.” EverydayHealth.com, https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/101/nutrition-basics/what-about-carbohydrates.aspx.
4. Eggs, Pasture-Raised, https://whfoods.com/genpage.php tname=foodspice&dbid=92#healthbenefits.
5.“Caffeine: Benefits, Risks, and Effects.” Medical News Today, MediLexicon International, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/285194#risks.