We all, at times, have some trouble kicking ourselves into gear in the morning. Although it might be tempting to reach for a cup of tea or coffee to give yourself a temporary boost, caffeine is a stimulant, so it won’t provide the sustainable energy you need.
Instead of heading straight for that cuppa when your alarm goes off in the morning, try starting your day with some of these energy-packed foods.
There is a reason why people have been eating porridge for their breakfast for centuries – oats are the perfect breakfast for long-lasting energy!
They are high in a protein called avenalin, only found in oats, with protein content ranging from 12 to 24 per cent!
What’s more, oats contain both soluble and insoluble fibre – essential for a healthy digestive system and important for effective sugar and fat metabolism. Because soluble fibre slows down the speed of digestion, oats can give you sustainable energy to last through the day and keep you feeling fuller for longer.
Breakfast inspiration: A traditional porridge (made with plant milk) topped with bananas, berries or seeds, homemade muesli, or Overnight Oats.
Top tip: The more the grain is chopped, the faster it’s digested – so whole rolled (jumbo) oats are the best option for long-lasting energy and overall health.
Quinoa has earned its reputation as a superfood mainly due to being low in fat and very high in protein. In fact, it actually contains all the essential amino acids (protein building blocks) and a whopping eight grams of protein per cup – more than any other grain!
Alongside being a good source of B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, copper and manganese, it is a healthy carbohydrate to give you long-lasting energy throughout the day.
Breakfast inspiration: Although you may be used to seeing quinoa served as a savoury dish, it also makes delicious breakfasts. Try this Quinoa & Apple Porridge to get your day off to a good start.
Bananas are a perfect accompaniment to a breakfast such as porridge or muesli, and also ideal for when you’re in a rush and just need a snack to tide you over.
Bananas contain a soluble fibre called pectin which slows down sugar digestion and helps to stabilise blood sugar levels, contributing to a slow- release of healthy energy.
A medium-sized banana delivers about 12 per cent of your daily potassium needs, which is great if you’re going to the gym or going for a run, as having sufficient potassium can help prevent cramps, alongside giving you an energy boost.
Cacao (as opposed to cocoa) powder or nibs are made from fermented and dried, but unroasted or only lightly roasted, beans to preserve more nutrients. Like cocoa, cacao contains caffeine – an antioxidant and powerful stimulant. Caffeine energises the central nervous system, stimulates blood flow in the brain and increases the production of serotonin – a neurochemical that makes you feel and sleep better. Cacao also contains theobromine and L-tryptophan, both of which contribute to the production of serotonin and good mood.
A little bit of caffeine is a good thing, but too much can play havoc with your brain chemistry and cause energy crashes. Whilst a cup of coffee contains up to 200 milligrams of caffeine, a small amount of cacao contains far less than this. Adding some cacao powder to your smoothie, or some cacao nibs to your porridge can give you an energy boost without the negative side effects.
5. Whole grains
We all know that we should be eating mostly whole grains rather than refined white grain foods like white bread and pasta, but do you know why?
Refined grains have had the bran and germ removed so only the starchy endosperm remains – the layer that contains the least nutrients. They are then finely ground into white flour, which means your body digests them super-fast and turns them into sugar.
Whole grains have only had the husk removed but the grain itself remains intact. This means they contain fibre and protein which slow down the absorption of carbohydrates, ensuring a slow and gradual release of energy. Whole grains include oats, quinoa, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, buckwheat, millet, corn and some breakfast cereals.
Make these a regular choice for your breakfast and you should find that your body has all the energy it needs (and some) to get you through your day!