5 Energizing Foods In Season Right Now

 Image via: m.cookstr.com

Image via: m.cookstr.com

With shorter, colder days, the winter takes a toll on our energy levels. Now more than ever we’re tempted to stay hunkered down until we can emerge from hibernation in the spring. Unfortunately, our productivity, performance and happiness don’t deserve to decrease just because we’re feeling less energized.

By filling our plates with energizing seasonal foods that nourish our bodies, we’ll be able to feel better throughout the winter months. 

Energy From Stimulation vs. Energy From Nourishment

As North Americans, we’re very familiar with energy from stimulation. From the cup of coffee first thing in the morning to the energy drink and candy bar mid-afternoon, most people treat the symptom, rather than the cause of fatigue. Using stimulants such as caffeine or sugar feels great initially, but results in an energy crash – something I like to call biological debt. Biological debt creates a vicious cycle of fatigue that is detrimental to your health. Fatigue causes stress, which results in elevated cortisol, leading to inflammation, storage of visceral fat, premature aging and more.

On the other hand, energy from nourishment provides sustained, long-term energy. Rather than relying on fleeting pick-me-ups, nutritious foods help address the root cause of fatigue. Adding in high net-gain foods and focusing on whole, minimally processed foods, rather than refined carbohydrates, caffeine and sugar, can help boost our vitality – without incurring biological debt. 

My Favorite Energizing Foods for Winter

Squash. A source of nutrient dense, low-glycemic carbs, squash is a perfect starchy vegetable to choose in the winter. Whether you’re roasting acorn squash or butternut squash as a side dish, or spaghetti squash as an alternative to high-glycemic, processed spaghetti, you’re getting a fiber, vitamins (especially vitamins A and C) and minerals alongside carbohydrates – all of which will energize you. 

Dark, leafy greens. The high levels of chlorophyll in dark leafy greens help oxygenate your blood, and they provide essential vitamins and minerals, as well as live enzymes that promote digestive health. Experiment with seasonal beet greens, Swiss chard, kale, spinach and collards. If making a salad isn’t appealing in the colder weather, simply lightly sauté with a small amount of extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil.

Pears. If you’re craving something sweet mid-afternoon, try reaching for a piece of fruit instead. Not only are pears seasonal in the late fall and early winter, but they’re a nutrient-dense source of sugar. The fiber in whole pears helps balance out the glycemic load, ensuring you’re not starving or sleepy 15 minutes later.

Hemp. A complete source of plant-based protein, hemp can be consumed raw. It has many anti-inflammatory properties, and it’s easy to digest and assimilate in your body – giving you more energy. You can find it in seed or powder form to add to salads and smoothies.

Maca. Maca, a root vegetable native to Peru, is rich in amino acids, phytonutrients and important vitamins and minerals. Maca helps support your adrenal glands (which produce adrenaline and cortisol in response to stress). It is generally recognized as an adaptogen, helping your body cope and heal from the effects of stress by bringing balance. These energizing and stress-reducing effects allow your body to recuperate after training or other forms of stress. 

If you’re lucky enough to live in a warmer part of North America, you’ll have even more plant-based foodsthat are local and seasonal to nourish your body with.

By Brendan Brazier for U.S. News & World Report