Supermarket shelves are full of products claiming to give you energy: Energy drinks, energy bars, energy shots, energy bites.
As a dietitian, this drives me a little crazy.
Beyond all the marketing hype, these products usually rely on ingredients like caffeine, sugar, and vague concoctions of herbs for their energy boost—with very little actual nutrition. Even worse, they usually don’t taste good either.
The reality is, you don’t need expensive supplements or drinks for energy. There are much more natural (and less expensive!) sources of fuel in your refrigerator. If you’re perpetually dragging, get more sleep–and eat healthy, fresh food.
Apples are a perfect example. They’re rich in carbohydrates, which many people mistakenly think are only found in bread and pasta (and something to be shunned). But they’re actually found in fruit too and are the main source of fuel for the body and the brain. (P.S.: That’s why your friend on the low-carb diet has been feeling fuzzy-headed!)
Here’s what happens when you eat an apple: The carbohydrate breaks down into a sugar called glucose and enters your bloodstream (where it’s termed “blood sugar”). That sugar travels to your cells, where it’s turned into energy for your body.
But here’s the key: Some kinds of carbs (like white bread and candy) break down fast, moving quickly from your bloodstream to your cells. That’s called a blood sugar “crash”, and it feels lousy, leaving you drained and even hungry. The key is to eat carbs that break down more slowly, so you’ll have a more stable blood sugar and won’t feel those spikes and dips that can wreak havoc on your energy levels and your appetite.
Apples fit that bill. They rank low on what’s called the Glycemic Index (GI), which is a measure of how quickly foods raise your blood sugar. Eating low-GI foods like apples may cut your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease and even help with weight loss.
Even better, apples also rank well on another list called the Satiety Index, which rates how well foods satisfy your hunger. Apples, which are rich in both water and fiber, outscore grapes and bananas, not to mention other snacks like cereal, yogurt, and crackers. If you combine apples with a source of protein (like nut butter or a slice of cheese) you’ll slow that absorption down even more–and feel even more satisfied.
Bottom line: When you need a lift, skip the pricey packaged stuff and reach for an apple. Your health (and your wallet) will be much better off!