Foods That Give You Lasting Energy

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Add beans to your daily diet not only for energy, but for nutrition, too.
Add beans to your daily diet not only for energy, but for nutrition, too. (Image: margouillatphotos/iStock/Getty Images)

Despite the hype, energy does not come from a can. If you're looking for ways to feel energized all day, you may want to start with what you're eating. For long-lasting energy, you need to fill your diet with healthy carbohydrates that supply a steady stream of energy.

Carbs and Energy

All foods, whether they are carbs, protein or fat, supply your body with some amount of energy. But carbs, which are easily digested and converted into fuel, are your body's preferred source of energy.

Carbs are found in a variety of different foods, including grains, starches, fruits, vegetables, milk, beans and, of course, sweets and treats. For long-lasting energy, you need to eat carbs that take longer to digest and provide a consistent and steady source of energy.

The Glycemic Index

Use the glycemic index to help you find carbs that provide long-lasting energy. The glycemic index is a system that ranks how quickly carbs are digested and turned into sugar. Foods with a low glycemic index digest slowly and provide a nice, steady stream of energy, while foods with a high glycemic index digest rapidly and cause a spike in energy followed by a rapid drop. A low-glycemic food has a glycemic index measure of 55 or less.

The Right Whole Grains

A variety of whole grains provide long-lasting energy. Good choices include 100 percent whole-wheat bread, pumpernickel bread, wheat or corn tortillas, oatmeal, bran cereal, pasta, quinoa and barley. Include a low-GI grain at each meal to keep energy levels consistent and steady.

Cooking affects the GI of certain foods. For example, the longer you cook your pasta, the higher the GI, so prepare it al dente for longer-lasting energy.

Powerful Beans and Legumes

Not only do beans and legumes provide a steady source of energy, but they are also rich in fiber, protein and essential vitamins and minerals. Add them to your salad at lunch or puree them and use them as a dip with veggies for an afternoon pick-me-up. Good choices for more energy include chickpeas, black beans, soy beans, lentils and black-eyed peas.

Fruits and Fiber

Fruits are classified as simple carbohydrates, but that doesn't mean they're a quick source of energy. A number of fruits digest slowly to provide you with a steady stream, including apples, pears, grapefruits, oranges and peaches. Dates and prunes also rank low on the glycemic index and make a good choice when trying to even out energy levels.

Milk Does You Good

Both milk and yogurt are also good sources of long-lasting energy. Add them to your breakfast or lunch for balance and energy. Choose low-fat or nonfat varieties to lower your intake of saturated fat.

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