Let’s face it — we all love to eat! But what we eat can influence how we feel. We often choose what we eat based on what looks or sounds good in the moment without paying much attention to how a certain food may affect us. Many foods make us happy while we’re eating — think ice cream, cookies, candy, French fries and fried chicken — but these foods can leave us feeling tired and lethargic within an hour of consuming them. It’s common to feel bloated, tired, foggy or just plain sick after eating greasy, fatty foods or to experience a rush of energy followed by an energy crash when consuming sugary foods. Want to feel great, not only while you’re eating, but an hour or more later? Try adding these 11 clean and healthy foods into your diet. They’re sure to keep you feeling good and energized long after you’ve enjoyed them.
1. SpinachRich in magnesium, a natural muscle relaxant and stress-reducer, spinach can help calm you, lessening the symptoms of stress. When your body is under stress or anxiety, you can deplete your magnesium levels. Spinach can help reverse this. Additionally, spinach is rich in vitamins A and C. Get your dose of vitamins by using it in salads, as a healthy pizza topping, or add it to soups, stews, pasta sauce or smoothies.
2. BerriesBlueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries are antioxidant-rich and high in vitamin C, which has been shown to fight stress while strengthening the immune system. My favorites are blueberries and blackberries. Although I love cooking with berries — cobblers, crumbles, etc. — I find it easy to simply add berries to cereal, oatmeal and salads.
3. YogurtYogurt is an excellent source of calcium. A 6-ounce serving size can provide 20% of the daily recommendation. Strained yogurt is also high in protein and can be a perfect way to start your day and can keep you full until lunch. With yogurt, remember to check the labels — some flavored yogurts can contain a lot of sugar and long ingredients lists. I love using yogurts with simple ingredients and no artificial preservatives, thickeners, sweeteners, flavors or colors.
4. QuinoaThis tiny, protein-packed seed cooks up into fluffy, tender grains and can be added to salads and soups or served as an accompaniment to seafood, poultry or meat. Quinoa provides all of the essential eight amino acids (most plants have only seven, missing lysine), making it especially useful in health-conscious, plant-based cooking.
5. FishFish that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like tuna and salmon, can boost serotonin (the feel-good hormone) and keep the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, under control. I love topping grilled fish with chutney or relish made with fresh fruit and vegetables.
6. OatsA bowl of warm oats can help boost serotonin levels, which helps combat symptoms of stress and anxiety. High in fiber, oats will also keep you full longer, helping to ward off the emotional eating that often accompanies stress.
7. CherriesWith 17 different antioxidant compounds, cherries have been found to help slow down the skin’s aging process. Try adding a small amount of dried cherries to your salads or keep frozen cherries on hand for a quick and healthy smoothie.
8. Nuts & seedsHealthy fats, such as nuts, help repair damage caused by inflammation. Nuts offer a beneficial dose of fiber, calcium, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Sprinkle over salad, cereal or yogurt for a healthy and satisfying crunch.
9. TeaTea is loaded with antioxidants and phytochemicals that are known to help fight free radicals, which may reduce the risk of certain cancers. Tea is not only good for your bones — green tea has been shown to improve bone mineral density — but it may also help strengthen your immune system. Tea may help promote weight loss and it may also ward off cravings and help you make better food choices.
10. AvocadosAvocados are the definition of “healthy fats.” Packed full of essential amino acids, monounsaturated fats, fiber, vitamins and minerals, avocados help keep inflammation down and metabolism up.
11. Beans & legumesLow on the glycemic index, beans are full of folic acid, magnesium, potassium and fiber, and are high in protein and iron. Incorporate different types of beans into your diet to help keep inflammation at bay.