What to Eat (or Avoid!) for Each Part of Your Day
Whether you're feeling sleepy, hangry, or even stressed, there are particular foods that can actually help you feel better! But knowing what to eat and when can open the door to a whole new world. From kale to chocolate milk, we've got the best food suggestions for every moment of the day.
Foods to perk you up
The smell of citrus fruits—like grapefruit—make the body more alert, according to The National Sleep Foundation. Not only will it help wake you up, but the smell of the citrus fruit can also cause your body to produce the happiness hormone, serotonin. Did we mention it's full of immunity-boosting vitamin c and waist-whittling effects? In fact, a study printed in the journal Metabolism found that eating half a grapefruit before meals may help reduce visceral (belly) fat and lower cholesterol levels. We couldn't think of a better way to start the day!
Kale is packed with vitamins and minerals, making it the perfect addition to omelets or smoothies. It's a hearty source of iron, which plays no small role in perking you up. Low iron levels can cause anemia that often results in fatigue and sluggishness.
Incorporate more kale in your diet with these 15+ Best Healthy Kale Recipes.
Aside from being packed with choline, eggs have a B-vitamin that boosts brain and energy function and unsaturated fats, which keep you sharp and alert. Plus, eggs are full of protein! And unlike many carbohydrates, protein is metabolized slowly, giving you energy that lasts throughout the day without weighing you down.
Eat more eggs with our 71+ Best Healthy Egg Recipes.
Foods to help the stress
Does stress have you in a daze? There is a growing number of research findings that suggest grape juice just might be the cure. In fact, a University of Leeds study found that consuming 12 daily ounces of grape juice can have long-lasting positive effects on memory and overall performance for stressed-out individuals.
When we're stressed, we often look for comfort in the wrong places (like a bag of potato chips), which is why avocados are the best kept anti-stress secret. According to research published in the Nutrition Journal, eating just one-half of avocado may prevent unnecessary snacking. The super-fruit is satiating and helps regulate blood sugar—a combo that'll keep you out of the vending machine, even in times of stress!
According to a study published by Pennsylvania State University, pistachios can reduce the body's response to stress. Unlike most foods, you can't just mindlessly shove handful after handful of pistachios into your mouth (unless you want a mouthful of shells). This continuous act of shelling forces you to slow down and work for each bite, which can be therapeutic within itself.
Foods for when you're really hungry
When 11:45 A.M. hits and ghrelin (the hunger-inducing hormone) takes over, you don't need to completely sabotage your diet or your mood. One 6 ounce container of nonfat Greek yogurt is just 100 calories and contains 17 grams of hunger-busting protein. Not to mention is packed to the brim with probiotics, which create a healthy gut and boost your immune system.
Apples contain energy-rich carbohydrates, slow-digesting fiber, and fructose, which is a natural sugar that gives you that boost you need to make it through your morning meeting because it digests slowly through the body.
Whether you reach for raw almonds or almond butter, the mighty nuts boast heart-healthy fats, flat belly fiber, and satiating protein. Better yet, they're packed with magnesium, which helps convert sugar into energy. This killer combo provides sustained energy without the post-meal crash.
Foods that make you feel sleepy
Although cow's milk can be a part of a balanced diet, it can have negative effects on your energy levels. When we digest food, gut hormones called enterogastrones are released, which influence blood flow. Because dairy is not always digested easily (especially when large amounts are ingested), a lot of blood is needed to aid in the process, leaving less blood for the rest of the body. This loss of blood can cause lethargy.
Ever wonder why you get a little sleepy after you consume a peanut butter sandwich? The satiating spread contains the amino acid tryptophan, which makes us tired. But that doesn't mean you have to forgo the stuff altogether. Just make sure to keep it to one serving and pair it with energy-boosting superfoods to beat the food coma.
While a serving of carbs is good every once in a while, having too many of them—like an excessive amount of french fries—can cause blood sugar spikes and dips that result in sluggishness and brain fog.
Foods to beat the afternoon slump
Believe it or not, a bite of dark chocolate can do wonders for your body and mind. A study out of the Nestlé Research Center (of course) found that those who deemed themselves "highly stressed" had lower levels of the stress hormones cortisol and catecholamines in their system after two weeks of eating chocolate every day. Just stick to one serving and make sure to choose the real stuff. Anything that's labeled "made with chocolate," "chocolaty," or "chocolate-coated" isn't it.
Our bodies are made up of 50-65 percent water, which is why it's no wonder energy and alertness are compromised when we don't have enough fluid in our bodies. Feeling the 3 p.m. slump? You might be dehydrated. Try drinking bringing a water bottle with you and refilling it at set times. This ensures your body stays hydrated and you stay on your A-Game.
According to studies, peppermint decreases fatigue and increases alertness, allowing you to perform better when you need sustained attention. Try sipping on a cup of peppermint tea or chewing on peppermint gum.
Foods that fuel your body after a workout
Whether you chug this stuff pre or post-workout, chocolate milk is an athlete's wet dream. In a study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, subjects given chocolate milk before riding stationary bikes were able to ride 49 percent longer and pedal harder than subjects given a generic carbohydrate-replacement beverage. Another study from the University of Connecticut found that drinking the chocolatey stuff post-workout increased muscle protein synthesis, which in return increased muscle repair.
Believe it or not, watermelon is among one of the best post-workout superfoods. A study among athletes by the Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena in Spain found that watermelon juice helps reduce the level of muscle soreness. Cut up a cup or two to munch on after an intense sweat sesh. It's 92 percent water content will also help rehydrate you.
If you've ever experienced a muscle cramp after an intense workout, you know potassium is essential for muscle recovery. However, that's not all bananas provide an athlete. They also increase lean muscle mass because they contain magnesium, which helps with muscle contraction and relaxation as well as protein synthesis.
Foods that make you feel full
With its rich omega-3 and protein content, salmon is one of the best fish for weight management and cardiovascular health. Just make sure to opt for wild salmon over farm-raised, which is higher in mercury, calories, and fat.
Beans are rich in "resistant starch," a type of fiber that takes longer to digest than others, keeping you out of the pantry longer. Although all beans dish up a hefty serving of the satiating stuff, kidney beans take the cake with 14 grams per half-cup.
Quinoa is packed with satiating protein and gut-friendly fiber. Plus, it contains all nine essential amino acids, making it the only grain to be considered a complete protein. When it comes to dinner, it's an amazingly versatile wholesome ingredient. Try substituting it as a side for rice, incorporating it in a salad, or making quinoa bowls.
Foods that put you to sleep
According to researchers, steeping a cup of chamomile tea before bedtime ensures more shuteye. The tea promotes the release of glycine, a chemical that acts as a mild sedative, relaxing your nerves and muscles. Don't like chamomile? Green tea contains theanine, which helps you fall asleep.
Believe it or not, the cure for insomnia just might be a spoonful of honey. The sweet stuff contains glucose, which tells your brain to shut off orexin—the chemical that triggers alertness.
Cherries are a natural source of melatonin and when eaten regularly can regulate sleep. According to researchers from the Universities of Pennsylvania and Rochester, subjects who drank cherry juice experienced reduced insomnia symptoms compared to those who drank a placebo beverage.