5 Superfoods for Energy (Part I)

You wake up in the morning and instead of feeling refreshed, you feel exhausted. Again and again. Perhaps you’re not getting enough rest, or you’re fighting off a cold or other medical condition. But maybe, you’re just not getting enough nutrients from your diet, and your body is saying “Please, feed me some nutritious food!” Here at Seaworthy Functional Medicine, we say enough of the doughnuts and fast-food meals and let’s start eating some superfoods to  

  • Improve our health
  • Lower our stress
  • Increase our energy

Superfoods are foods that are much richer in nutrients and/or antioxidants than other foods and nourish your body with less bulk and fewer calories. In other words, they have more nutritional punch per ounce and calorie than other foods and provide both immediate and long-term energy increases.  

So, instead of grabbing another cup of coffee, which gives only a temporary boost, or an energy drink, with a high followed by a crash, the best approach to combating fatigue is changing your diet to incorporate high quality foods that give you sustainable energy and incredible health benefits to boot! 

1.Spinach and Other Green Vegetables 

SpinachOur first superfood selection is also the easiest to get and cheapest. Spinach, kale, broccoli, and other green veggies might seem boring and not the first superfood that comes to mind, but they are nutrition powerhouses. Loaded with vitamins A and C (among others), and minerals such as potassium (like your Gatorade), calcium, and iron, spinach rightly deserves its place among the highly nutritious and potent superfoods. 

Most leafy greens also feature magnesium. This element has been extensively studied and proven to contribute to over 300 metabolic functions, including production and storage of cellular energy. Spinach provides magnesium in an easily digestible form for both short-term and long-term benefits. Lastly, the fiber in these super vegetables helps stabilize blood sugar and insulin, preventing energy levels from rising rapidly only to crash down. Like your mother said “eat your veggies!” 

2. Chia Seeds 

Chia SeedsChia seeds, now being hailed as a superfood, offer everything from weight loss benefits, to huge boosts in energy. They are a heart-healthy addition to any diet, thanks to their high levels of fiber and omega 3’s. They were once a staple of the Aztecs, and recent studies of their descendant tribes in Mexico, like the Tarahumara tribe, have shown the remarkable ability to run distances of 100 miles or more, with little else but chia seeds for fuel.

Other research trials have offered up exciting prospects that chia seeds can provide an energy boost for runners and non-runners alike. It may be that, in addition to the other nutritional benefits such as being a complete protein, and loads of potassium, calcium, iron, and antioxidants, chia seeds also contain a lot of healthy fat.  As an oilseed, chia seeds can carry a substantial number of calories in a small volume.  Being fairly neutral in taste, you can add chia seeds to your breakfast smoothie, or sprinkle on yogurt and salads anytime. They also are easy to add to puddings and other desserts. 

 3. Spirulina 

SpirulinaSpirulina is a blue-green algae, which naturally thrives in lakes all over the world, and is currently farmed in many countries. Remarkably, it contains over 65% of complete protein (that’s 300% more than fish, chicken, or red meat- with no cholesterol). Spirulina is also very rich in chlorophyll, antioxidants like vitamins C and E, and iron (about 58 times more than spinach).  

This superfood is also high in energizing B vitamins, beta-carotene, and essential fatty acids Omega 3 and 6. In 2010, a study was done and men who took 6 grams of spirulina a day for four weeks were able to run longer with less fatigue, burned more fat, and recovered faster. You can add powdered spirulina to juices and smoothies, or you can take it in tablet form.  However you incorporate this super-superfood in your diet, by all means do so. And a final bonus: spirulina is also great for people who have digestive issues as it helps the absorption of nutrients by your body. 

-Dr. Rob Downey

PS:  Tune on to the Seaworthy Functional Medicine Field Notes: An Exploration of Functional Medicine Podcast

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Deb Matthew

Rob Downey, MD, IFMCP

Dr. Rob Downey is a family practice MD and IFM Certified Practitioner. He grew up in Montana and has practiced medicine in Montana and Alaska for twenty-plus years. He loves living in Alaska. He takes joy in family time, whole food, mindfulness, running, skiing, cycling, fishing, rafting, reading, poetry, road trips and listening to music (with an everlasting soft spot for loud alternative/rock-and-roll). He finds functional medicine endlessly fascinating for its ability to transform lives into radiant vitality. If you don’t find him at his clinic, or by a window at home, with a hot beverage and a book, you will find him out-of-doors.