Top 10 Foods That Boost Energy AND Weight Loss
Healthy Foods – Amp up your grocery list with these overachievers.
Energy and weight loss go hand-in-hand for a reason: When your battery’s charged, you’re more likely to crush it at the gym and have the mental stamina to avoid overindulging. As the pounds come off, your motivation to keep going will skyrocket your energy (the get-it-done oomph that comes with dropping a few is a nice perk, too). We asked Amanda Bontempo, M.S., R.D., an ambulatory oncology dietitian at New York University Langone Medical Center, to explain which foods boost your mojo while helping you drop pounds. Read on to get a little taste of this double-duty heaven.
Legumes like black beans and lentils are packed with resistant starches. “They’re a special kind of fiber that act as prebiotics to promote healthy gut bacteria and boost energy,” says Bontempo. They slowly release protein and energy, keeping you full to promote weight loss. “When cooking legumes, include some kind of high vitamin C food item such as citrus or tomato to increase iron absorption,” recommends Bontempo.
As a whole grain, oats are free of the refining process that can tank the health benefits of other grains. “Oats have soluble fiber, which means they absorb water, cholesterol, and help you avoid a sluggish immune system,” says Bontempo. Besides filling you up, that soluble fiber helps regulate your blood glucose levels, delivering a steady stream of energy, rather than spikes and crashes. “Seek out steel-cut and rolled oats over instant varieties to avoid craving-inducing added sugars,” says Bontempo. “Pair them with a topping of chopped nuts or Greek yogurt for added protein and longer-lasting satiety.”
3. SWEET POTATOES, YAMS, AND WINTER SQUASH
Bring on the delicious seasonal options! Rather than shedding their skin, use it to your benefit. “Other than butternut, kabocha, and spaghetti squash, you can eat the skin,” says Bontempo. “It provides added nutrients. Plus, the fiber in these starchy vegetables will give you a slow and steady increase in energy.” Complex carbohydrates work to keep you full and promote portion control.
4. CHIA AND FLAX SEEDS
These are popular for a reason—rich in fiber and heart-healthy fats, they help keep your digestive tract moving smoothly, which is key for optimal metabolism. “Chia seeds are unique in their ability to absorb liquids, creating a gel that helps you feel fuller longer,” says Bontempo. “They’re trendy now, but they’re an ancient secret for sustained energy and metabolism.”
5. VEGGIES IN THE CABBAGE FAMILY
“Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, and kale promote weight loss and help the body get rid of potential carcinogens,” says Bontempo. They’re super low-cal but have high fiber and water contents, which will work their special magic to keep you feeling satisfied. “Selenium and sulfur-rich, cruciferous vegetables help promote liver detoxification and optimal organ function for sustained energy,” says Bontempo. Bonus: They boost collagen production for healthy skin and hair.
“They’re full of heart-smart monounsaturated fats to promote vitamin and mineral absorption,” says Bontempo. Getting the maximum effect from your nutrients means additional energy to carry you through the day. As for the weight loss part? “We digest fat more slowly than any other nutrient, which keeps you satiated,” says Bontempo. “They’re also unexpectedly high in fiber.”
7. FERMENTED FOODS
“Items like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut can alter your intestinal microbiome to promote healthy metabolism and weight loss,” says Bontempo. This comes as no surprise since gut health is emerging as a key factor in weight loss. “An unhealthy microbiome from a diet high in processed foods and refined sugar is associated with overweight, obesity, and metabolic syndrome,” says Bontempo. “Fermented dairy products like yogurt and kefir are also high in protein to keep you full and give you energy.” Go for products without added sugars to reap the most benefits possible.
Ready for a fun food fact? Quinoa is actually a seed. This naturally gluten-free option is a cinch to whip up, making it a good snack when you need a jolt of energy fast. Plus, it happens to provide twice the protein of grains, which makes it extra-filling. “Quinoa is also one of the few plant sources of complete protein, providing all essential amino acids for optimal energy,” says Bontempo.
“White, green, oolong, pu-erh tea are the best because they are minimally processed,” says Bontempo. “They contain hundreds of compounds that are beneficial to your metabolism.” While they offer a substantial amount of caffeine, they pack less than coffee—so you get some stimulation with none of the jitters.
It’s a well-known fact that staying hydrated can prevent you from mistaking thirst for hunger, but it’s also crucial to your energy supply. “When water is almost 70 percent of our body’s makeup, proper hydration is essential for optimal organ function,” says Bontempo. It aids kidney and liver function, which encourages gastrointestinal regularity. “If water’s not your thing, try flavoring your water yourself with sliced cucumber, raspberries, or fresh citrus juice,” says Bontempo.