Eat to Energize
Get tips and advice on popular health topics.
Eat to Energize
Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD
We all need a break from our daily routine, but summer vacations, celebrations, and weekend barbecues can ruin your best attempts at healthy eating and sap your get-up-and-go.
Food gives you the energy to keep going, but vitamins and minerals assist the body in converting the carbohydrate, fat, and protein in food into the forms it needs to function. Energy levels can lag when you’re low on vitamins and minerals. If you don’t eat a balanced diet on a daily basis, you may need a multivitamin, especially if you’re over 50.
Here’s what you need to know to power up for summertime fun.
Many of the B vitamins, such as thiamin, riboflavin, and vitamin B6, play a prominent role in energy production and metabolizing carbohydrate, fat, and protein. B vitamins are found in a wide range of foods, including meat, dairy, and legumes.
Vitamin B12 is found naturally only in animal foods, so vegans and people who don’t eat enough animal products, such as milk, meat, and fish, will be short on vitamin B12. Getting enough vitamin B12 is particularly important for older adults. After 50, many people have trouble absorbing the vitamin B12 found naturally in foods, which could result in a deficiency. Experts recommend satisfying most of your vitamin B12 needs with the synthetic form of the vitamin found in dietary supplements and fortified foods.
Iron is an essential component of compounds involved in energy production, and for making DNA, the cells’ blueprint for reproduction. Almost two-thirds of iron in your body is found in red blood cells that carry oxygen to cells and help you feel alert and energetic. Meat, poultry, and seafood are excellent iron sources.
Chromium is a mineral that supports the action of insulin, a hormone that helps cells absorb a steady supply of energy as glucose from the blood. Chromium is widely distributed in a variety of healthier foods, including whole-grains, fruits, and vegetables. High-sugar summer treats such as cotton candy, ice cream, and frozen Piña Coladas, are low in chromium.
Magnesium is involved in making proteins, and is crucial for carbohydrate metabolism. Magnesium influences the release and activity of insulin. Nuts, legumes, and green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, are good sources of magnesium.
As part of insulin, zinc plays a prominent part in regulating blood glucose levels. Oysters contain the most zinc of any food (eat them cooked to avoid foodborne illness). Other summertime foods rich in zinc include lobster and crab. Zinc is also found in meat, poultry, and fortified breakfast cereals.
Every chemical reaction that keeps you alive and energized takes place in a watery environment. Staying hydrated helps you to better regulate your internal temperature and avoid heat injury that can leave you with no zip.
Most adults need 9 to 13 cups of fluid daily, and even more when active outside. Stick with alcohol-free drinks, such as water and low-fat milk, to satisfy most of your fluid needs. Alcoholic beverages can be high in calories, and they can make you sleepy and less energetic.