7 Superfoods That Can Help You Feel Less Tired, From An Energy Specialist
Between sleep quality, exercise frequency, stress levels, and beyond, there's a variety of factors that can affect your energy levels. Of these, it's hard to overstate the powerful role that nutrition can play. If you're looking for some quick staples to support your vitality, well, you're in luck: When we spoke with Ari Whitten, energy specialist and author of Eat for Energy, on the mindbodygreen podcast, he shared seven go-to superfoods for enhanced energy (which include options for vegans and carnivores alike):
"Spirulina is No. 1 on the list," says Whitten. This powerful plant boasts high levels of nutrients like protein, vitamins, and iron–in fact, just 1 tablespoon1 contains 11% of the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin B1 (thiamin), 15% of the RDA of vitamin B2 (riboflavin), 21% of the RDA of copper, and 11% of the RDA of iron.
Plus: "There is incredible research on spirulina," Whitten adds, specifically "on performance2, in terms of physical activity and energy levels. Of course, that's not all the blue-green algae can do: See here for all of spirulina's impressive health benefits.*
Whitten stands by liver's impressive nutrient profile: "It's like nature's multivitamin," he says. "I mean, it's just packed with vitamins that your body needs, as well as some important minerals."
Organ meats—and especially liver—are a powerful source of B vitamins; vitamins A, D, E, and K; iron; zinc; choline; magnesium; and selenium. An extra bonus is their protein content, which provides the building blocks for peptide neurotransmitters like serotonin (aka, one of the "happy hormones").
Next up are oysters3, which provide DHA and EPA omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, selenium, and iron. They also happen to be one of the highest food sources of zinc, with 3 ounces of cooked or breaded and fried oysters containing 673% of the recommended daily value of zinc.
Interestingly, Whitten considers oysters a beneficial addition to a plant-based diet (or, well, if you consider yourself a sentiocentrist): "Based on the fact that they don't have a nervous system and don't respond to any sort of painful input, many vegans [say] that it's actually OK to eat oysters...I would argue that oysters would be a great addition for most people on a plant-based diet." That's not to say you have to add oysters to your plate—just some food for thought.
Another seafood option Whitten recommends is salmon roe, or fish eggs with a salty flavor. "[They're] extremely rich in omega-3s in the phospholipid form4, and it turns out those can actually help [enhance] phospholipids in our cellular and mitochondrial membranes," he shares. Plus, research shows that omega-3s can promote blood flow to the heart and brain, which has mood and cognitive health5 benefits.
Broccoli sprouts are another great plant-based energy booster: "Broccoli sprouts are incredible," Whitten says. "They act as a hormetic stressor for mitochondria, boosting mitochondrial health, stimulating mitochondrial biogenesis, stimulating detoxification processes." Remember: Mitochondria supply energy to every cell in the body, and hormetic stressors challenge them in a healthy way, just like lifting weights challenges our muscles.
Next up, we have a popular root vegetable: beets. They contain anti-inflammatory properties and organic nitrate and "have been shown in studies to enhance endurance performance6 and energy levels, largely as a result of helping the circulatory system7, helping blood flow easier, and delivering oxygen to the tissues," notes Whitten.
Last but not least on Whitten's list is pomegranate. "It also has some of those benefits that beets have," he explains. "Pomegranates are uniquely rich in a compound called ellagic acid that is turned by your gut microbiome into a compound called urolithin A," which is associated with improved mitochondrial function8.*
If you're looking to reap the benefits of pomegranate, you can always snack on the ruby-red seeds, toss them in a salad, add the juice to smoothies, etc. But if you want to optimally take advantage of the fruit's properties each day, we think targeted supplements are the way to go. That way, you can consume a concentrated dosage with substantial full-body benefits. You can find whole fruit pomegranate extract in our cellular beauty+ supplement—as well as astaxanthin, phytoceramides, and ubiquinol CoQ10, to promote cellular rejuvenation and deliver key antioxidants for skin health.*
Whitten's seven superfoods are excellent go-to's if you're interested in enhancing your energy levels. If you're looking for even more practices to support vitality, check out Whitten's three tips to feel less tired on a daily basis, or consider taking a supplement (like mbg's focus+) that supports sustained energy, without the crash.*