Ten years ago, eating enough protein was the purported key to optimal energy. Now the focus has shifted to the microbiome—that hidden but vital community of bacteria in your gut that has huge effects throughout your body. (And yes, protein still matters, but we’ll get to that later.) Good bacteria aid in digestion—essentially helping you retrieve energy from your food in the most efficient way, explains Samantha Heller, a nutritionist at NYU Langone Medical Center and author of The Only Cleanse.
“They also manufacture about 95% of the body’s supply of serotonin, a key hormone for boosting energy—and much of which is, counterintuitively, produced in your gut, not your brain—as well as hundreds of neurochemicals that get sent to the brain to help with learning, memory, and mood,” she says.Look below for the best ways to eat for energy, plus delicious recipes to get you started.
Blueberry Chia Oat Smoothie
Blend 1 cup unsweetened soy milk; ½ cup soft tofu, rinsed and drained; ½ cup blueberries; ½ banana; ¼ cup old-fashioned rolled oats; and 2 tsp chia seeds until smooth.
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Fruit and Wheat
Combine ½ cup shredded wheat, ½ cup strawberries, ½ banana, 2 Tbsp ground flaxseed, and 1 Tbsp walnuts in bowl. Top with ¾ cupunsweetened soy milk.
Toss 4 cups cooked quinoa with 1 can (10 oz) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped; 1 cup cooked corn kernels; 1 cup grape tomatoes, halved; ¾ cup cooked edamame; 1 bell pepper, diced; and 1 jalapeño, sliced (optional). Whisk 4 Tbsp olive oil; 2 Tbsp lime juice; 1 clove garlic, minced; ¼ tsp ground cumin; ¼ tsp coriander; and ¼ tsp salt. Toss dressing with quinoa mixture and top with fresh basil. Serves 6.
Top 1 slice whole grain bread with ¼ cup hummus; 2 slicestomato; and ½ avocado, sliced. Drizzle with olive oil and season withsalt and pepper to taste.
– 2 crackers with 2 Tbsp almond butter, ¼ cup sliced strawberries, and a drizzle of honey
– ¼ cup trail mix
– 3 apricots and ¼ cup pistachios
Spinach Tofu Stir-Fry
Cook 2 cups brown rice per package directions. Heat 1 Tbsp canola oil in large skillet over medium heat and cook 14 oz block extra firm tofu, cut into squares, 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden. Stir in 2 cloves garlic, minced, and 1 tsp grated ginger and cook 1 minute longer. Stir in 10 oz baby spinach and 1 Tbsp soy sauce and cook about 2 minutes. Combine with cooked rice and top with 2 Tbspsesame seeds, 2 tsp sesame oil, and soy sauce to taste. Serves 4.
Sesame Peanutty Noodles
Prepare 1 lb whole wheat spaghetti per package directions. Toss with 1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips; 2 Tbsp thinly sliced water chestnuts; and 1 carrot, cut into matchsticks. Whisk ½ cup smooth natural peanut butter, ¼ cup rice vinegar, ¼ cup reduced-sodiumsoy sauce, 2 Tbsp lime juice, 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 Tbsphoney, 2 tsp dark sesame oil, 2 tsp grated ginger, and 1 tsp salt and toss with pasta mixture. Top with 1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds. Serves 8.