The shorter days and longer nights that characterize late fall and winter may have you reaching for an extra cup of coffee or yawning more often than you’d like. The U.K.’s National Health Service says this is because the difference in daylight causes disruption to our normal sleeping patterns. Our brains produce more melatonin because there is less sunlight, and we fall victim to feeling fatigued.
But before your reach for that third cup of coffee to combat your energy slump, consider this: Could changing your eating habits provide you with some of that desperately needed vitality? Caffeine can be a great energy source, but a cup of coffee will have effects lasting about two hours — great for immediate help, less so for a sustainable productivity spark. Mary Ellen Camire says ”you get a little bit of a slump” after the coffee wears off.
When consumed in the late afternoon, coffee may also keep people awake, contributing to less sleep and more fatigue. It is unlikely that coffee will be replaced in the daily routine of Americans, more than half of whom report they drink a cup each day. However, if you’re looking for another way to energize, here are five foods to keep your energy elevated all winter long.
Oranges are in season in the winter and have long been heralded for their immune system-boosting vitamin C. That vitamin C is working overtime, combatting sickness and adding vigor to your daily routine. Carol Johnston, an assistant professor of food and nutrition in the Family Resources Department at Arizona State University, says that vitamin C produces carnitine, which helps the body burn fat and create energy. Potassium and folate are in oranges, as well, and the energy released is measured out over time, meaning there is less chance of a post-orange slump.
A lack of protein in a diet is the main source of fatigue, according to registered dietitian Tiffany Barrett. Omega-3 fatty acids can prevent depression and improve your mood. Salmon contains both, making it a great choice for upping the ante on energy levels. The body breaks protein down more slowly than it does carbohydrates, so salmon — like oranges — will keep you going longer than a simple jolt of caffeine. In addition to putting you in a better mood, omega-3s will also reduce inflammation and may improve memory, as well.
Looking for a protein-packed snack? Edamame might just be your answer. One cup has 16 grams of protein and less than 200 calories. In addition to an energizing protein punch, the magnesium and B vitamins found in edamame convert carbohydrates into energy, according to registered dietitian Karen Ansel. As a complex carb and containing healthy fat, edamame won’t send blood sugar crashing, either. It is great for in between meals, and if purchased frozen, needs to be refrigerated after thawing and before enjoying.
4. Pumpkin seeds
Magnesium, Dr. Oz says, is a “miracle mineral.” Useful for maintaining energy levels, bone and heart health, and calcium, magnesium has multiple benefits for everyday health but especially in energy maintenance. Depleted magnesium levels can contribute to weakness, fatigue, and irritability.
With pumpkins all the rage lately, it is time to give a nod to one of the pumpkin’s components, its seeds. One cup of roasted pumpkin seeds will provide 42 percent of your daily magnesium needs. It also contains 12 grams of protein and 12 grams of fiber at just under 300 calories.
The easiest swap for coffee is water, particularly for those who are addicted to their morning cup of joe. Water is essential for preventing dehydration, and coffee aids in causing dehydration. When the body does not have enough water, it can cause feelings of fatigue. To keep energy at peak levels, even while enjoying caffeine, make sure you are regularly drinking water. Energy isn’t the only body benefit from drinking a little more H2O. More water means your body will be less likely to confuse thirst with hunger, helping to keep you from needlessly snacking throughout the day.