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When your energy is low, it's tempting to give in to cravings for caffeine and sugar – anything to help get you through the day. Instead, choose foods that are rich in protein or fiber to give your body the fuel it needs to keep going. Here are 10 of our favorites.
At just 78 calories and 6 grams of protein, the egg is a protein powerhouse. And it's loaded with other nutrients as well, especially in the yolks, says Jonny Bowden, author of The 150 Most Effective Ways to Boost Your Energy. "People avoid the yolk because they're worried about cholesterol, but egg yolks contain choline, which is critical for memory."
Loaded with stress-reducing B vitamins and soluble fiber, oatmeal is the perfect choice for an energy boost. Dietary fiber fills you up without weighing you down, keeps blood sugar levels in check, and helps prevent the overwhelming desire to snooze at 3 p.m. Add a few nutrient-rich berries on top, and you've got the snack of champions.
"Not only are fiber-rich apples an excellent choice for a mid-afternoon snack, they're also disease-fighting powerhouses," says Pamela Nisevich, sports nutrition consultant at Swim, Bike, Run, Eat! What's more, apples contain boron, a mineral that helps keep you alert.
Pumpkin is loaded with potassium, which helps your heart and muscles function better, says Bowden. Plus, it's packed with fiber (which helps stabilize blood sugar levels) and vitamin A (which helps keep your immune system strong enough to fight off energy-draining infections). Add canned pumpkin to rice for a quick, healthy risotto.
How many other foods help protect your heart, boost brainpower, and make you feel happy to boot? Salmon is packed with vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 essential fatty acids which research suggests can boost your mood. Plus, it’s lower in fat and calories than most other protein sources. If you're pregnant, make sure your salmon is fully cooked – seared, smoked, or raw fish is not recommended.
While peanuts are high in calories, they're also more filling than other foods, and they naturally curb your calorie intake throughout the day. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that when people consumed 500 calories of peanuts daily for 19 weeks, their resting metabolic rate increased by 11 percent – even without added exercise.
"Trail mix is quite possibly the world's perfect energy booster," says Nisevich. "It's packed with enough carbs and protein to get you up the trail or over the mountain." To avoid added sugar and fat, make your own mix with nutrient-rich dried cranberries or apricots and heart-healthy nuts like pistachios and almonds.
These quick-cooking legumes are a great source of soluble fiber, which gives you steady, slow-burning energy while stabilizing your blood sugar. That fiber – along with folate and magnesium – also helps protect your heart. Finally, lentils are a healthy source of iron, a nutrient you need more of when you're pregnant or lactating. Serve them with whole grains for a complete protein – meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids.
Yogurt boasts higher concentrations of protein, calcium, and vitamin D than milk. Plus many brands of yogurt have live active cultures, which can aid digestion. Try organic or Greek yogurt since it's less likely to be loaded with artificial ingredients, sugar, and preservatives.
This yummy spread is made from chickpeas, sesame seeds, lemon, and olive oil. It's a great source of protein and fiber, as well as iron, vitamin C, and folate. Use it as a dip for carrots, peppers, and whole wheat pita strips.