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Nuts and seeds

Energy Foods: Page 5

By , Caring.com contributing editor
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Nuts and seeds are nutrient-dense foods packed with high-quality protein and healthy omega-3 fats. Depending on the type you choose, you'll also get decent amounts of manganese; magnesium; phosphorus; iron; copper; riboflavin; vitamins B1, B2, B5, and B6; and tryptophan -- all of which are involved in the production of energy.

Why they work: Pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, and hazelnuts are all good sources of magnesium, which can help fight muscle fatigue. The tryptophan found in sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, cashews, walnuts, and almonds battles emotional fatigue and promotes sleep, which can ease physical weariness. And all nuts and seeds are excellent sources of high-quality protein that our bodies can convert into lasting energy.

But what makes nuts and seeds such potent weapons in the war against fatigue is that they're a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are known as essential fats because they're the only fats our bodies actually require. These healthy fats not only lower the glycemic index of foods but are also a superior energy source. Fats stay in the stomach longer than carbohydrates and proteins; the result is a slow-burning fuel that provides long-lasting energy. Omega-3s help maintain healthy cells and are found naturally in almost all nuts and seeds. Flaxseeds and walnuts are particularly rich in these healthy fats. Omega-3s (and frequent consumption of nuts in particular) have been found to reduce the risk of becoming obese and aid in weight loss by slowing digestion, which results in a prolonged feeling of fullness, preventing extra snacking that can lead to weight gain, a common contributor to fatigue.

When to eat them: A daily dose of nuts is the way to go. Regular, moderate consumption is the key to reaping the health benefits of nuts and seeds. Prepack single servings to take with you during the day, and stash servings in the car as well as your desk, purse, or briefcase so you always have a healthy snack on hand. A serving is one ounce (about a small palmful).

How to enjoy them: Nutrition experts agree that combining protein and carbohydrates is one of the basic equations for immediate yet lasting energy. Carbohydrates are converted into energy right away, and protein provides a gradual boost. Some good protein-carbohydrate combinations include almond or peanut butter on whole grain toast, or a piece of fruit and some nuts.

Extra credit: Buy and eat nuts and seeds raw whenever possible for the best nutrition. Raw almonds are so sweet you'll never go back to the roasted variety.