Instead of reaching for a fleeting pick-me-up next time you are craving energy, try using these functional plant foods for optimal fuel and nourishment.
While it is true that each calorie contains the same amount of energy in kilojoules, not all calories are created equally. Different calorie sources can have vastly different metabolic effects on our bodies. This includes how we retrieve and utilize energy from our food. As Dr. Mark Hyman notes, “Food doesn’t just contain calories, it contains information.” The calorie sources that we choose have the opportunity to give us abundant energy or leave us feeling tired and depleted.
Eating a whole-foods plant-based diet gives us clean, easily assimilated energy that requires much less digestive energy to convert to functional fuel than the typical highly processed, chemical-laden North American diet. Plant-based foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains are highly energizing because of their nutrient density and alkalinity. Further, plants offer our digestive tract prebiotic foods which contribute to a healthy gut microbiome, furthering enhancing our digestion and energy.
Plant Food Powerhouses
The following plant foods are powerhouse sources of nutrient-rich energy. They offer sustained, nourishing fuel that won’t leave you with a blood sugar crash. They are great when consumed pre-workout or simply for a boost of energy in your day. TDF Sports expert Dr. Aaron Nardella and his wife Daniella both follow a plant-based diet. Through their own eating habits and research, they’ve come up with this list of energy-packed whole foods.
A long-sustaining energy source containing all ten essential amino acids, as well as healthy Omega 3 fatty acids. Contain 11 g. protein per 3 Tbsps. Hemp seeds are especially beneficial if you are active, because their high-quality protein is easily digestible, and is instrumental in muscle and tissue regeneration. Great addition to salads, veggie burgers, breakfast parfaits and smoothies.
A highly nutrient-dense fruit, rich in fibre, vitamin C, vitamin K. Blueberries contain high levels of antioxidant compounds called anthocyanin which contribute to brain health, reduce DNA damage and minimize oxidative stress in muscles post-exercise.
LEAFY GREENS and MICROGREENS
A rich source of chlorophyll which cleanses and oxygenates the blood. Chlorophyll in greens is linked to the body’s production of red blood cells, thereby improving oxygen transportation in the body, and contributing to peak energy and athletic performance. Use leafy greens in salads, soups and stews and green smoothies.
Very nutrient dense legume high in protein (18 g per cup), iron (7 g. per cup) and fibre (16 g. per cup). Keep cooked lentils in the fridge/ freezer to throw into soups and salads for a super healthy energy addition. It is interesting to note that Canada is the largest producer and exporter of lentils in the world!
COCONUT WATER and COCONUT OIL
Coconut water is a great source of hydration for workouts because it replenishes the body with electrolytes like potassium, magnesium, sodium and calcium. It also contains antioxidants which reduce free radical damage. Coconut oil is rich in medium-chain triglycerides, a form of saturated fat with many health benefits. Coconut oil is a great source of energy because MCTs are highly digestible and are converted to energy in the liver soon after consumption.
These tiny seeds pack a powerful nutritional punch with an excellent balance of amino acids, and high amounts of fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. They bulk up when soaked and make a versatile addition to porridge, pudding, jam, baked goods and smoothies.
If you are craving a sweet pick-me up or a pre-workout energy snack, medjool dates are a great option, with their soft, chewy texture and caramel-like flavour. They are a healthy substitute for sugar in recipes due to their impressive profile of phytonutrients, fibre and antioxidants. For a sustained energy snack, line a pitted date with almond butter and sprinkle with coconut. Also wonderful in homemade energy balls, bars, and smoothies.
And Many More
The above are just a few of the many plant-based whole foods that provide excellent sources of nutrition and energy, particularly to active individuals. Other favourites include almonds, cacao, banana, avocado, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, goji berries, and quinoa. All of these choices require little digestive energy to transfer their caloric energy to us and will not over-stimulate our adrenal glands like many sugary and caffeine-laden snacks. So instead of reaching for a fleeting pick-me-up next time you are craving energy, try using these functional foods for optimal fuel and nourishment.
Try this plant-based energy-packed recipe!
Vanilla Chia Energy Pudding
This pudding is similar in texture to a creamy tapioca pudding but is packed with healthy energy foods, fibre and protein. It makes a great breakfast or pre-workout snack.
1 cup almond or cashew milk
1 cup full fat coconut milk
2 Tablespoons Plant Strong Protein (Vanilla Flavour)
2-3 medjool dates, pitted
Pinch of sea salt
Pinch of cinnamon
½ tsp pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup chia seeds
Blueberries (fresh or frozen)
Blend together all ingredients except chia seeds and blueberries in a high-speed blender until all the ingredients are super smooth.
Pour into a large bowl and stir very well to evenly distribute the chia seeds. (Or shake in a large glass jar or container with a lid to thoroughly combine). Chill at least 2 hours or overnight, until thickened and cold. Top or layer with blueberries. If you store your pudding in small mason jars or jam jars, you can have a portable and portioned energy snack to bring on the go! It will keep well in the fridge for up to a week.