Summer is the time to load up on energy-boosting foods

The other day while shuffling through my house I noticed a large, slimy slug suctioned to my patio windowpane. It was an omen as I am moving kind of slow myself these days, at a snail’s pace.

Fatigue can stem from many sources — perhaps the change of seasons bringing along allergies, viruses and spring fever; maybe a sluggish thyroid, low blood sugar or slight anemia; sleep deprivation or just everyday stress.

I’ve scouted out some foods to hoist energy levels to fortify us for the outdoor activities of spring and summer that require well-tuned physical and emotional stamina.

Before I go take a nap, here are my top energy-boosting picks:

Breakfast of champions

My mom always told me to eat breakfast like a queen, lunch like a princess, and dinner like a pauper. Whole grains in breads, muffins and cereals are loaded with zinc, a healing agent for an overtaxed body. Have a breakfast sandwich combining protein, carbs and some fat that will sustain you till midday, such as multigrain toast with nut butter and fruit preserves. Fresh oranges are packed with vitamin C to increase iron absorption and energy levels.

Popeye’s secret weapon

Low levels of magnesium and iron can cause fatigue. Spinach is loaded with both. Have a spinach salad with a double dose of magnesium by tossing in some pumpkin seeds or pine nuts, dress up a sandwich with spinach, or eat spinach steamed and straight up with some garlic and olive oil. Other good sources of magnesium are Swiss chard, salmon and black and navy beans.

Almond joy — ayurvedic energy

Just a handful of almonds provide a heart-healthy dose of mono and polyunsaturated fats and antioxidant vitamin E that supports the immune system. Use almond butter as a substitute for peanut butter and almond milk in cereals and smoothies.

Complex carbs

These, particularly whole grains, are absorbed slowly by the body to prevent erratic blood sugar levels and keep energy levels stable. Complex carbs are also packed with energy-enlivening vitamin B and fiber-complex carbs, which put the skids on digestion and provide a steady energy stream throughout the day. Good sources include whole-grain pastas, brown rice, root veggies, peas, beans, buckwheat and oatmeal.

Power of protein

Protein has been attributed to igniting certain chemicals in the brain to boost energy levels and tweak mental focus. Better choices include organic turkey or chicken breasts, grass-fed lamb, organic and low-fat dairy, eggs, legumes and tofu.

Wild-caught salmon is also an energy-boosting, heart-healthy protein full of omega-3 fatty acids that repair damaged muscles and help extinguish inflammation.

Dangle a carrot

Bugs Bunny was bursting with energy from eating all those beta-carotene rich roots, which are converted to vitamin A by the body. This vitamin regulates the immune system by helping white blood cells fight infection.

Carrots are also chock full of antioxidant vitamins B1, B2, C, D and E, potassium and magnesium, which also combat fatigue. So chug down some fresh squeezed carrot juice, shred them in salads, toss them in soups and stews or munch them raw. That was no silly rabbit.

Perks of coffee

After decades of debate, coffee is now attributed to endowing health benefits when consumed in moderate amounts. For more than 56 percent of Americans, coffee provides the jump-start needed to begin their days with mental clarity, focus and motivation. Green tea is my beverage of bliss — it’s a powerhouse of antioxidants that rids the body of toxins and enlivens the soul.

Dehydration can also be an energy drain, so drink plenty of water, roughly six glasses a day to fight fatigue.

Here’s a delicious spring salad featuring almonds and baby spinach wilted in a warm amaretto dressing to give you a triple buzz from the mineral-rich leaves, nuts and liqueur.

Warm Wilted Spinach Salad

  • 1 pound (2 bunches) of baby spinach, stems removed
  • 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dry mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon of agave syrup or brown sugar
  • 1/2 red onion, diced
  • 2 ounces of sliced almonds
  • 3 tablespoons of amaretto liqueur
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste

In a skillet, saute the onion and garlic in the oil until tender. Add the vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, liqueur, agave, salt and pepper and warm through. Toss the spinach with the warm dressing, and top with almonds. Enjoy immediately.
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