With groggy eyes and slow movements, you peel yourself out of bed each day. Between the morning and afternoon slumps, you long for the energy of your youth. Does this sound familiar? Then you’ll be glad to know about five superfoods that can help energize you from the inside out, so you can feel your best all day.
As a registered dietician, nutrition expert at On Target Living, and author of the newly released cookbook “Target To Table: Delicious & Healthy Meals One Superfood at a Time,” Kristen Johnson understands that food plays a big role in health and wellness, and believes there’s no such thing as anti-aging — only aging well. Here are the five energizing superfoods Johnson recommends to fuel your body the healthy way.
1. Ancient grains
“Ancient grains have remained virtually untouched and unchanged for thousands of years compared to modern wheat or corn that's been bred for higher yield and drought resistance,” says Johnson.
Ancient grains are extremely high in protein, fiber and minerals. Johnson notes these grains can be helpful in managing inflammation and are a great source of energizing B vitamins for the brain and body.
Ancient grains include spelt, quinoa, chia, amaranth, buckwheat, wheat berries, kamut, freekah, bulgur, barley, sorghum, teff, millet, oats, wild rice and farro. These grains can be used to make hot dishes similar to oatmeal, or can be cooked and used in salads and entrees.
2. Omega-3 fats
“Mitochondria are the powerhouses of the human cell, meaning they supply the body with energy. The better you feed the mitochondria, the healthier and better performing the cell will be,” explains Johnson. “Cell membranes must be permeable to allow the cell to be fed and allow ‘fuel’ for the mitochondria. The omega-3 fats EPA & DHA found in fish and algae are a great way to make the cell soft and permeable. This will help to fuel the body and improve energy and stamina.”
Our bodies cannot make omega-3 fats naturally, and therefore they must come from food or supplements, notes Johnson. “Because fresh, cold-water, wild-caught fish is not always available, I often recommend a high-quality supplement like Nordic Naturals orange-flavored Arctic Cod Liver Oil,” says Johnson.
Cod liver oil has naturally occurring vitamin D that is needed to absorb calcium, an important factor for bone health. Nordic Naturals Arctic Cod Liver Oil is a great source of the omega-3s EPA and DHA that help contributes to a healthy heart and brain, hormonal balance, and a healthy immune response. Simply take 1 tablespoon daily or add to your smoothies or salad dressings.
3. Spirulina and chlorella
“Spirulina and chlorella are fresh-water algae that are super high in chlorophyll, which is extremely energizing for the body,” says Johnson. “Because spirulina and chlorella are cell-builders, they also help to build the immune system and can help prevent you from getting sick.”
Spirulina and chlorella are also very cleansing and detoxifying, which helps improve digestion. Because both are high in protein, they are also great for vegans. Swallow (don’t chew) the tablets with water 15-20 minutes prior to eating. Aim for 10-20 tablets a day.
Cacao is the raw, unprocessed form of chocolate. It is high in magnesium, manganese, zinc, and iron. Johnson notes that cacao has many potential health benefits, including supporting brain and heart health, mood, healthy body weight, and energy. Cacao can also enhance relaxation and promote a better night’s sleep. Because it is high in magnesium, it has also been shown to help build muscle and aid in muscle recovery. Cacao also contains more antioxidants than red wine, green tea and blueberries.
Cacao nibs are easy to consume and can be mixed in oatmeal, smoothies or trail mix. You can also blend cacao nibs or cacao powder with coconut or almond milk and a little bit of honey in a blender for a healthy version of chocolate milk or hot chocolate.
“Coconuts contain a healthy saturated fat high in lauric, capric, and caprylic acids, which have antiviral and antifungal properties and help contribute to healthy digestion,” says Johnson. “Coconuts also contain medium-chain fatty acids (MCTs) that can enhance energy and metabolism.”
Coconut water, coconut milk and shredded coconut are all great options to add to your diet. Using virgin coconut oil is also a great way to sneak in more coconut when cooking, baking, or snacking. Simply use it in place of oil in cooking and butter in baking. It’s great for spreading on bread and for making popcorn, too.