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10 Healthy Foods That Increase Your Energy

Food
10 Healthy Foods That Increase Your Energy

Like most people who struggle to stay awake during the day, I absolutely need a cup of coffee to get me going—and stay going.

You don’t need that afternoon latte to perk you up—just work in one of these healthy snacks. Photo credit: Thrive Market

Caffeine is fine in moderation and an addict probably shouldn’t eliminate it cold turkey, but nobody should be relying on coffee alone to keep their energy up.

Luckily, there are other foods that provide that same, lasting jolt. You don’t need that afternoon latte to perk you up—just work in one of these healthy snacks.

1. Almonds (or really any kind of nuts)

No matter how many times we hear about their numerous health benefits, we always manage to forget about those crunchy little gems. Skipping the coffee and substituting it with a handful of raw, unsalted almonds (or cashews, walnuts, or pistachios) will make you feel just as energetic as you would with a cup of coffee, but without the shakiness and eventual sugar crash. Nuts are an amazing source of healthy fats and proteins that balance blood sugar levels, which tend to drop if you don’t eat for a while. Eating nuts as a snack will keep you going throughout the day without wanting to curl up in a ball under your desk.

2. Oranges

If you tend to start feeling sleepy before dinner time, cut up an orange. If you’re feeling daring, sprinkle some chili on top for a spicy-sweet flavor. The vitamin C in the orange helps circulate oxygen throughout your body and into your brain, giving you a surge of energy those yawns are hinting that you need.

3. Fish

Fish is a magical food source—it contains omega-3 fats that protect brain cells and help your brain function better. If you’re feeling particularly sluggish, prepare some baked salmon for yourself. Not only does it make you feel more awake, but fish is also a lighter meal (with plenty of protein nonetheless).

4. Blueberries

Blueberries were the original superfood, way back before acai berries and chia seeds took over. Blueberries are still super and they’re still delicious, so don’t forget about them. Since they are filled to the brim with antioxidants, they help our neural pathways function much more smoothly. In effect, blueberries makes us feel way more alert and awake.

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5. Avocados

Avocados are wonderful and not just because they’re tasty. They’re also energy boosters rich in monosaturated fats used for energy instead of being stored as unhealthy fats. Avocados also contain B-vitamins—you know, those vitamins trainers recommend taking before you hit the gym? B-vitamins naturally increase your energy levels, so add some avocado to your omelet in the morning, or your salad during lunch.

6. Dates

Bacon-wrapped dates, anyone? Dates have a naturally high abundance of sugar, so the next time you want to add brown sugar or maple syrup to your oatmeal, just slice up some dates instead. The sugar in dates is actually way different than the processed sugar that you can find in soda or candy. You won’t feel that spike in glucose levels, nor will you crash and burn later on. Dates are awesome because they’re filled with fiber, so it’s energy that is effective and long-lasting.

7. Watermelon

Watermelon: the perfect picnic fruit bursting with B-vitamins. Watermelon is also peppered with the electrolyte potassium (sports drinks are fortified with electrolytes) so you don’t feel tired after an exhausting day. To get the most out of watermelon, eat it with your salad, or enjoy it as a juice (watermelon + basil = heaven).

8. Broccoli

These tiny tree-like veggies are super high in vitamin C, fiber, iron, beta-carotene, antioxidants and chromium. Chromium is the key word here, since it helps regulate your blood sugar so you feel like a normal, high-functioning human being. Avoid overcooking broccoli, since that can deplete some of its powerful properties.

9. Quinoa

You definitely need some carbs in your diet and the complex ones can do wonders for your body. Smartly eating carbs can boost your serotonin levels, which will make you feel happier and more energized. Quinoa is a seed, so not only is it full of protein, it also contains all nine essential amino acids and provides hundreds of milligrams of magnesium per serving.

10. Beans

Beans are a great substitute for meat whether you’re going vegetarian or you simply want to cut back on meat. Beans have high levels of protein and they contain fat as well, but the “good” kind of fat. Best of all, they have a low glycemic index, which stabilizes your energy levels. Add some kidney or black beans in your salad at lunch to keep from falling asleep on your keyboard or enjoy a bean and cheese burrito for dinner. Eating just one serving per day can make you feel much less sluggish.

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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