Many factors can influence your energy levels. Your age, health conditions, activity level, and lifestyle habits can all influence how energized you feel.
Your body gets energy from the food you eat, but not all foods are created equally in terms of how energized they can make you feel. A low-quality diet high in added sugar and low in nutrients can leave you feeling drained and low in energy.
Eating a diet rich in whole, nutrient-dense foods can not only help give you more energy, but it can improve your overall health in many other aspects. Keep reading to see 15 examples of energy-boosting foods for you to include in your diet today.
15 Foods That Give You Energy
Oatmeal is a complex carbohydrate, which means it breaks down into blood sugar at a slower pace than refined carbohydrates or simple sugars. Complex carbohydrates give you more sustainable energy and can help prevent blood sugar spikes and crashes that leave you feeling drained.
Be sure to choose plain oatmeal instead of sugar-sweetened varieties, which can cause blood sugar spikes. If you like your oatmeal sweet, consider adding fruit like bananas or berries, or a drizzle of honey.
For an even bigger energy boost, add a protein like nuts, nut butter, or seeds to your oatmeal since it’s not naturally rich in protein.
2. Greek yogurt
Greek yogurt is an excellent source of protein, which helps give you longer-lasting energy. It also contains natural sugar in the form of lactose, which breaks down into glucose (usable energy in the form of blood sugar) in your body.
Yogurt is a great source of calcium and can also be a source of vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency is common and can lead to low energy levels, so choosing vitamin D-fortified foods can help give you an added energy boost.
Choosing plain Greek yogurt ensures you’re not getting additional added sugar. You can always sweeten it with honey or fruit for a more natural energy boost.
3. Sweet potatoes
Another complex carbohydrate, sweet potatoes are a great source of fiber and give you sustainable energy. Sweet potato is also a good source of vitamin A, which acts as an antioxidant.
Berries like strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries are a great source of fiber, vitamin C, and other beneficial nutrients that support healthy energy levels. Dark berries are a source of anthocyanins, an antioxidant that helps fight inflammation.
Berries provide energy in the form of natural sugar. The natural sugar in whole foods like berries isn’t detrimental to your health like added sugar in processed foods.
The fiber in berries helps the sugar release more slowly into your bloodstream, helping to promote more stable blood sugar and energy levels.
5. Dark chocolate
Dark chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa is considered a superfood by some health experts. If it has at least 70% cocoa solids (the higher, the better) it tends to be lower in sugar than most dark chocolate candies sold in grocery stores.
Cocoa contains flavonoids and may also play a role in heart health by boosting nitric oxide production. Nitric oxide helps relax your blood vessels which boosts circulation and can improve your energy levels by providing more oxygen to your cells.
Dark chocolate with a high cocoa percentage (80% and up) is a good source of fiber, thanks to the cocoa beans. For instance, one serving of 85% dark chocolate contains four grams of fiber or 14% of the daily value for fiber.
Finally, dark chocolate contains natural caffeine, which can support healthy energy levels as long as you don’t over-consume it. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, try not to eat a lot of dark chocolate in the evening hours close to bedtime.
6. Brown rice
Brown rice is a complex carbohydrate and can be a better choice than white rice. Whole grains like brown rice give longer-lasting energy than refined carbs like white rice. Whole grains are not only higher in fiber but are a better source of protein compared to refined grains as well.
One cup of brown rice provides 3.5 grams of fiber compared to 0.6 grams of fiber in a cup of white rice.
One three-ounce serving of oysters provides over 600% of the daily requirement for zinc, which is more than any other food per volume.
Oysters are also a good source of iron, a mineral necessary to build oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells. If you don’t eat enough iron, you might develop iron-deficiency anemia and low energy levels.
To boost iron absorption, try to eat vitamin C-rich foods along with iron-rich foods. Some examples of vitamin C sources include citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers, and broccoli.
A good source of plant-based iron, legumes are rich in complex carbohydrates to give you lasting energy. They’re also packed with plant-based protein to help support sustainable energy levels.
A diet rich in plant-based foods like legumes is associated with improved health outcomes like a lower incidence of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
9. Green tea
A natural source of caffeine and antioxidants, unsweetened green tea is a good option to help give you a natural energy boost.
Green tea might also help you lose some weight, according to studies. However, the weight loss in one study was considered “small” and “non-statistically significant,” so you shouldn’t expect green tea alone to induce significant weight loss.
10. Nut butter
Nut butter like almond butter and peanut butter (even though peanuts are technically legumes) are a convenient source of protein and healthy fat.
Combining protein foods like nut butter with carbohydrate foods can help promote stable blood sugar levels and consistent energy. For example, eating apple slices and peanut butter together can give you longer-lasting energy than eating an apple alone.
11. Fatty fish
Fatty fish like salmon is one of the few natural sources of vitamin D. As mentioned earlier, vitamin D deficiency can lead to fatigue. Not many foods are natural sources of vitamin D, except for salmon and other fatty fish.
Fatty fish provide healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids and are also rich in protein to promote energy levels. Omega-3 fatty acids act as antioxidants, helping to reduce inflammation.
Lowering inflammation levels might help improve your energy levels, especially if you have an inflammatory health condition like type 2 diabetes or heart disease.
When your blood flow is improved, you might notice better exercise tolerance and improved energy thanks to oxygen-rich blood being carried throughout your body. (Lack of oxygen can lead to fatigue.)
Beef is a good source of vitamin B12, a vitamin your body can’t make on its own. Vitamin B12 helps to form red blood cells, which carry oxygen and other energy-providing nutrients to your body. It’s recommended to supplement vitamin B12 in vegan diets since many natural sources of vitamin B12 come from animal products.
Beef is also a source of heme iron, a type of iron that is most absorbable by your body. While you can get iron from plant-based foods, it isn’t as absorbable as the heme iron found in beef and other red meat. Eating iron foods rich in heme iron (like beef) can help lower your risk of developing anemia and related fatigue.
Vitamin B6 is important for energy metabolism, which means it helps turn food into energy. Tuna is a good source of vitamin B6, with three ounces providing 40% of your daily requirement for vitamin B6.
Tuna is a lean protein, making it suitable for those who need to be on a lower-fat diet for health or digestive conditions. In addition, tuna is low in saturated fat, making it a good choice if you suffer from high cholesterol.
If you’re trying to increase the protein in your diet but aren’t a fan of meat, then eggs are right up your alley. Eggs are a great source of protein and are one of the most budget-friendly proteins available.
One large egg provides around six grams of lean protein. They are high in cholesterol, so if you have very high cholesterol, you should consider speaking with a Registered Dietitian about including eggs in a heart-healthy diet.
Some of the best foods to include in your diet to promote energy are those that are rich in complex carbohydrates (fiber), protein, iron, and other nutrients that help act as natural energy boosters. By improving the quality of your diet, you can feel more energized and improve your overall health.