5 low-kilojoule energy boosters
Feeling tired and looking for an energy boost without the extra kilojoules? Here are five foods that will get you up and going without the sugar crash that leaves you looking for more food and packing on the kilos.
Unfortunately, one of the first things a lot of people do when they lack energy is reach for high-kilojoule sugary snack foods and drinks. Sure, these foods will give you a quick energy fix but their high sugar content will cause your blood sugar levels to spike rapidly and then drop, which will leave you feeling even more tired and craving sugary snacks again. Trying to remedy low energy levels with these types of foods long-term will increase your risk of weight gain and type-2 diabetes.
Your diet plays a fundamental role in maintaining healthy energy levels. It’s incredibly important that you fuel your body with wholesome foods that contain energy-boosting macro and micronutrients that will give you sustained energy throughout the day and for optimal brain function.
Incorporating the following five low-kilojoule foods into your diet is an excellent way to stay feeling energised throughout your day.
For those who are looking for a morning energy boost, oat porridge is a perfect way to start the day.
Oats are an excellent source of slow-release complex carbohydrates that will provide a slow and steady supply of glucose, which is the body’s main source of energy to fuel the brain, central nervous system and muscles.
Oats are also rich in beta-glucan, a type of soluble fibre that slows down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream. This helps keep blood sugar levels stable and gives you a sense of satiety, along with helping prevent sugar cravings and fluctuations in energy levels.
Oats also deliver a good dose of B vitamins and magnesium, which are two nutrients required for energy production in the body. Magnesium also plays a role in regulating blood sugar levels.
Choose fibre-rich whole, steel-cut or rolled oats over instant oats, which have had their fibrous outer bran removed. Half a cup of instant oats contains around 16 grams of carbohydrates with only 2g of fibre, compared to half a cup of whole, steel-cut or rolled oats, which have around 29g of carbohydrates and 5g of fibre. Oats are delicious eaten for breakfast as porridge, Bircher or natural muesli, or used to make healthy cookies, baked goods or bliss balls.
Drinking green tea can help give your energy levels a lift. Green tea’s beneficial effects are due to a combination of caffeine and L-theanine. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and increases energy metabolism and is known to help improve brain energy, focus and cognition. This is why so many people rely on their morning cup of coffee or tea to get their brains into gear.
L-theanine on the other hand has a calming effect, which helps reduce caffeine’s stimulating effects to give you a smoother boost in energy without the jitters. Green tea is a better choice than coffee for individuals who are prone to anxiety.
Bananas are a fabulous source of energy and the snack of choice for many athletes and exercise enthusiasts. Bananas are rich in complex carbohydrates and natural sugars, which provide the body with glucose to fuel the muscles and brain. Bananas are also rich in dietary fibre, which helps slow the digestion and absorption of glucose, making them an ideal pre-workout snack for sustained energy. One medium banana contains 27g of carbohydrates and 3g of fibre.
Bananas are rich in magnesium and vitamin B6, which play a crucial role in energy production. They help the body use carbohydrates, proteins and fats as fuel. Without adequate intake of these nutrients in your diet, you will lack energy.
They are also loaded with potassium. Potassium is needed for carbohydrate metabolism and for glycogen and glucose metabolism. Any glucose that the body does not use immediately for energy is stored away in the muscles and liver as glycogen for later use.
Bananas contain the amino acid tyrosine, which is used to produce norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel alert, focused and motivated.
This fruit is extremely versatile. Bananas are delicious on their own or added to healthy desserts, homemade ice cream, smoothies, baked goods, porridge or served with yoghurt.
Sweet potatoes are another fabulous source of energy. This nutritious starchy root vegetables packs a punch when it comes to slow-release complex carbohydrates. Its high fibre content slows its digestion, which provides a slow and steady supply of glucose for sustained energy. Leaving the skin on will further boost its fibre content and slow the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream. One medium sweet potato contains 24g of complex carbohydrates and 4g of fibre.
They contain vitamin B5 and the trace mineral manganese, which helps to balance blood sugar levels and boost energy production.
Sweet potatoes make a nutritious alternative to regular potatoes. Try oven-baked sweet potato chips sprinkled with cinnamon, sweet potato mash or add them to homemade pizzas, salads, curries and stir-fries. Sweet potato brownies make a healthy, energy-boosting treat.
Adding legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans and green peas to your diet is another great way to boost energy levels. These nourishing vegetables provide slow-release complex carbohydrates and high levels of soluble fibre and protein, which helps slow down the digestion and absorption of glucose into the bloodstream. This helps prevent blood sugar spikes and keep energy levels stable. One cup of cooked lentils contains 36g of carbs and 14g of fibre.
Legumes are also packed with important minerals required for energy production including folate, iron, magnesium and manganese. Iron is an extremely important mineral that supports healthy energy levels. Iron deficiency is a common nutrient deficiency seen often in women, and fatigue is one of the main symptoms. Legumes are a beneficial, iron-rich food for vegans and vegetarians who are at risk of low iron levels.
Soaking and sprouting will improve legumes’ digestibility and enhance the bioavailability of their nutrients. Legumes are delicious tossed through salads, added to curries, dahls, soups and veggie patties, and used to make hummus and baked beans.