I'm A Functional Medicine Expert & These Are The 8 Foods I Reach For When I Need Energy
If you're like most people, when that afternoon slump hits you, it hits hard and it hits fast. Our society runs on sugar, caffeine, and carbohydrates that might give us a quick burst of energy but leave us crashing and in search of our next fix.
Instead of succumbing to this blood sugar roller coaster, why not use food to your advantage? After years of consulting patients in my telehealth functional clinic, I've seen firsthand how you can balance your blood sugar and achieve long-term, sustainable energy by adding more proven superfoods to your diet.
While so many ingredients can fall into the "sustained energy" category, the following eight are the ones I reach for when I need to beat the afternoon slump. Each of them is low in sugar and high in nutrients that work together to support healthy inflammation levels, blood sugar balance, and a strong immune system.
When all systems of your body are working optimally, you'll feel better and have the energy to live the life you deserve. So without further ado, these are my top eight foods for restoring your energy:
In my book Ketotarian, I talk a lot about the importance of using fat, instead of carbs and sugar, for fuel. Unlike eating sugar, which leads to an eventual crash, eating fat is like adding a log to a fire—it's slow-burning and long-lasting.
Avocados are one of my favorite sources of healthy fats that also contain protein and fiber to sustain your energy levels even more throughout the day. These are also a versatile choice for breakfast or lunch to mitigate the need for snacking between meals. And after all, who doesn't love a good avo toast or guacamole?
Bonus tip: Sprinkle on some Himalayan pink sea salt
Sometimes you just need something sweet. Instead of reaching for that sugary cookie or snack, opt for low-glycemic berries that are filled with beneficial antioxidants that won't leave you crashing later.
Turmeric or golden milk
Bonus tip: Add a dash of cinnamon
If you eat animal protein, wild-caught fish like salmon and sardines are an excellent choice to add to your grocery list since they are high in omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids have been shown to help balance mood3, maintain stable blood sugar4, and even improve your brain function5 so you aren't battling brain fog.
Ever heard of methylation? Let me explain why it's so important: This biochemical process happens close to 1 billion times every second and controls everything from your inflammation levels, neurotransmitter production, and energy levels with studies showing that poor methylation is associated with fatigue6.
Methylation is fueled by key B vitamins that are abundant in sulfuric vegetables like Brussels sprouts and broccoli. Add these to your daily vegetable rotation for more energized methylation pathways.
We know that healthy fats are a great source of long-term, sustainable energy. However, if you do more physical activity or just feel like your body needs more carbohydrates, sweet potatoes are a super-energizing option too. Sweet potatoes also contain fiber that can help slow the body's absorption of carbohydrates to alleviate an extreme blood sugar spike.
Whether you eat a mostly plant-based diet or just want a quick and easy snack, seeds like pumpkin, flax, chia, and hemp are the perfect choice. Filled with fatty acids and fiber that will fill you up and boost your energy without the dreaded blood sugar crash, seeds can be incorporated into smoothies, added to salads, or enjoyed by the handful.
You may be thinking, "Of course green tea will give me energy…it has caffeine!" But there's more to green tea's energy-boosting benefits than meets the eye. Green tea also contains powerful antioxidants like EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) that have been shown to reduce the inflammation7 that can play a role in stress and chronic fatigue.
Plus, unlike coffee, green tea also contains L-theanine, which slows the absorption of caffeine in your brain to provide a steadier energy boost without the jitters.
So many of us struggle with low energy on a daily basis that it's easy to write it off as "normal." But I always say that just because something is common doesn't make it normal. It is possible to restore your energy levels, and the first step can be tweaking what you eat. By fueling your body with nutrient-dense, energy-boosting foods like those on this list, you'll be powering through your days in no time.
Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C., is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian,The Inflammation Spectrum, and the brand new book Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.