Energy? Naturally!

Energy foods demoWake up early. Make breakfast for the kids and get them off to school. Work all day. Take the kids to soccer practice/dance/baseball games/karate. Get some type of dinner together. Make sure the homework is done. Get kids to bed. Iron clothes for work the next day. Etc., etc., etc. No wonder energy has become such a valued commodity! Also it is why we see so many ads for energy drinks, and why we now find caffeine in everything from coffee to potato chips!

More than half of Americans drink coffee on a daily basis to get a dose of quick energy to meet the demands of the day. Using artificial means by way of coffee and other delivery products to summon that quick burst of energy can take its toll. It is temporary in duration and needs to be replenished (more caffeine). It also uses up nutrients the body needs for other purposes.

Hectic, on-the-go, multitasking lives require that we are even more vigilant about lifestyle habits that impact both our energy and our health. These include:

  • Sufficient shuteye. We should strive to get 7-8 hours a night to adequately recharge our bodies. Another benefit that we can derive from enough sleep is weight management. Studies show that not getting enough sleep is associated with weight gain.
  • Regular eating patterns. Our cars get their fuel to function from gas, whereas we human-types need food. To maintain a steady supply of blood sugar to fuel our cells we need to eat regularly. Moderate-sized meals and healthy snacks will provide a consistent source of energy.
  • Consume enough of the right foods and beverages in a balanced diet.
    • Nutrients such as B vitamins and magnesium are needed to generate energy from the foods/beverages we consume.
    • Iron is important to carry oxygen to cells for energy.
    • B12 and folic acid are required to build the cells that manufacture energy.
    • Complex carbohydrates found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables are required as a steady source of energy.
    • Protein helps slow absorption so that the energy from food consumed will be released more slowly.
    • Fiber from whole grains, fruits and vegetables slows digestion and absorption for gradual, long-lasting energy.
    • Concentrated sweets (e.g. candy bars, regular soda) consumed by themselves will be released quickly, causing an immediate energy spike followed by a letdown.
  • Drink enough fluids. Dehydration can drain energy; fluid is necessary for body processes such as energy production.
  • Control stress. Stress depletes the body of nutrients and energy.
  • Check your thyroid. Have regular checkups, including your thyroid. A malfunctioning thyroid can cause fatigue.
  • Low T? Older men are at higher risk of low testosterone that can cause fatigue. Only about 2% of men between the ages of 40 and 69 have inadequate levels, however. Have it checked by your doctor and get a prescription if necessary. Do not succumb to advertising that makes you think you need it, and then encourages you to purchase over-the-counter supplements.

Finally, watch out for various herbs and other substances added to energy drinks, powders and pills. For example, many products have ginseng as an added ingredient to “boost energy.” The Commission E (Germany’s regulatory agency for herbs) recommends no more than 1 to 2 grams (1,000 to 2,000 milligrams) daily of the root for no more than 3 months, because long-term use could be harmful, due to its hormone-like effect. Ginseng in babies has been linked to poisoning that can be fatal, and the safety in use by older children is not known. Pregnant women should not take ginseng because of animal studies that resulted in birth defects. Little is known about its effects on breastfeeding, so it should be avoided. Check with your health professional before taking any herbal products, as many can interfere with certain medications and disease treatments.

Bottom line: There’s nothing wrong with moderate caffeine intake from coffee, colas, chocolate, etc. But when it comes to fueling the body, the best bet health-wise is to do it “naturally!”

Grape Smoothiefruit and vegetable relay

½ cup skim milk

6 ounces vanilla Greek yogurt

½ cup grapes

4 ounces 100% grape juice

½ cup ice (optional)

Preparation instructions: Blend ingredients until smooth.

Nutrition composition:

Calories – 288

Carbohydrate – 51 g

Protein – 21 g

Fat – 0 g

Fiber – 1 gram

Sodium – 134 mg

(Picture at top is presentation and demo of energy foods put on at the Laman Library, North Little Rock, AR by the North Little Rock Fit2Live Program and David Rath Nutrition, Inc.)

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