We all have days when it seems like we’re running on empty. You know the feeling: It’s rainy outside, you only got five hours of sleep the night before, and you’d rather be at home wrapped in a Snuggie than staring blankly at your laptop. You need a pick-me-up, stat, or else you might resort to a shameless car nap. Instead of reaching for a cup of coffee or an energy drink, which will lead to jitteriness and a caffeine crash, recharge your batteries the healthy way with naturally energizing foods. The next time you hit a dreaded mid-day slump, nosh on these eight foods, which are packed with revitalizing ingredients like complex carbs, healthy fats, protein, iron, and fiber. That warm Snuggie will be waiting for you when you get home, we promise.
Okay, so it’s not technically a “food,” but water should be your first line of defense against mid-day fatigue. Even mild dehydration can sap energy levels, alter mood, and hinder ability to think clearly, suggests a 2012 study published in the Journal of Nutrition. If you find yourself lagging, chug a big ol’ glass of H20—it will give you an instant pick-me-up.
Feel like you’re dragging? Munch on a small handful of almonds to keep energy levels stable throughout the day. Not only are they rich in protein and Vitamin E, two energy-boosting nutrients, almonds contain magnesium, which is crucial for converting sugar into energy. Not crazy about almonds? Other heart-healthy nuts, like cashews or walnuts, will do the trick, too.
Any popcorn fiend knows the sheer joy that comes with prying open a steaming-hot bag of popcorn and inhaling those buttery fumes. Well, good news, popcorn people: Your favorite crunchy snack is a surprising energy booster! Whole-grain popcorn is a good source of fiber, which keeps you satisfied and turbo-charged for hours. Just be sure to buy organic, low-fat popcorn (i.e., not doused in salt and artificial butter) and stick to recommended portion sizes. Sorry, a whole tub of movie theater popcorn doesn't count.
Packed with 10 to 14 grams of slow-digesting protein, Greek yogurt will rev up your metabolism all afternoon long. For an even more potent energy punch, stir in some chopped nuts and fruit.
Perk up with a piece of raw fruit—a pear, apple, whatever floats your boat. Loaded with vitamin C, fiber, antioxidants and healthy carbs, fruit gives you an instant energy boost. Bonus: fluid-filled fruits have the added benefit of being super hydrating.
Although regarded as a waistline foe, dark chocolate—well, the right kind of dark chocolate—can deliver a healthy burst of energy. Dark chocolate is rich in flavonoids, a type of antioxidant that has been shown to improve cognitive function. Confirming what you probably also knew, other studies have found that chocolate can ease emotional stress. Nix the sugary chocolates and opt for dark chocolate with a cacao content of at least 70 percent, and stick to a small square or two.
Feeling sluggish? Order an iron-rich spinach salad at lunch. Iron is crucial for delivering oxygen to cells, and iron deficiencies—which strike 10 percent of women—are associated with fatigue and impaired mental and physical endurance. Spinach also contains B-vitamins, another known energy booster.
Call it an energy trifecta: Quinoa is fiber-rich, packed with healthy fats, and is a complete protein. Quinoa is also high in vitamin B2, which improves helps create proper energy production in cells.
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