Author: Canadian Living

With the demanding pace of today's lifestyle, it seems that everyone is constantly on the lookout for ways to increase energy and improve well-being. Energy, the force that gets you through your day, often seems in short supply -- especially after a long winter. But there's good news: the foods you eat can supply energy to power your performance at home, at work and at the gym. Here are five simple steps that you can take to help fuel your body and keep your engine revving all day long.

1. Eat breakfast
Forget about the wrong or right side of the bed -- it's breakfast that really matters at the outset of the day. Breakfast replenishes your body's energy supply after a nightlong fast and provides fuel for your brain and muscles, which you need to stay physically and mentally alert. And smart eggs know that breakfast enhances learning and physical performance. Studies have shown that kids who eat breakfast concentrate better, are more creative and behave better -- and the same is true of adults. Skipping breakfast puts you at a nutritional disadvantage that you generally don't make up for later in the day. So rev up in the morning!

Recipes:
Two-Grain Cranberry Bread
French Toast Sandwiches

Oatmeal toppers
Jazz up your favourite bowl of oatmeal with a tempting topping. To make one serving of oatmeal: In 2 cup (500 mL) microwaveable bowl, combine 3/4 cup (175 mL) hot water, 1/3 cup (75 mL) quick-cooking rolled oats (not instant) and pinch salt; microwave at High, stirring once, for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes or until desired doneness. Add one of the following:

• Dried fruits, such as raisins, cranberries, blueberries, cherries, chopped apricots, dates or figs
• Fresh or thawed frozen fruits, such as sliced strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, chopped apple s or pears (leave on skins for added fibre), bananas, pineapple tidbits, sliced peaches or plums
• Chopped toasted nuts or coconut
• Sautéed apple or pear slices
• Maple syrup, honey, corn syrup, molasses or fruit syrup

2. Choose complex carbohydrates
Some carbohydrate-rich foods are digested and absorbed into your bloodstream quickly, while others are broken down more slowly. Carbohydrates in breads, grains, cereals, sweets, fruits and vegetables are digested and end up as the simple sugar glucose. It's this glucose that provides high-octane fuel for your brain, muscles and other body tissues. Complex carbohydrates in whole-grain breads and cereals, lentils, legumes and other starchy vegetables are the fuel of choice because they are digested gradually and serve as a steady energy supply for body and brain. In addition, they provide many important vitamins, minerals and plant chemicals that keep your body well nourished.

The glycemic index (GI) is a tool developed to measure how different carbohydrates affect your blood sugar after they are eaten and digested. Foods with a low GI – such as pumpernickel bread, rye bread, brown rice, bulgur, oatmeal, lentils, yams, apples, pears and yogurt – cause a slow, gradual rise in blood sugar, take longer to digest and so release energy slowly, leading to consistent energy levels. Low GI foods are a good choice for blood sugar control in people with diabetes and may help with weight loss.

High GI foods, such as white bread, white rice, mashed potatoes, cornflakes and watermelon, are more quickly absorbed and so provide a quicker source of energy.

For athletes or other active people, higher GI foods can be a source of energy for short-duration sports performance and recovery, while lower GI foods are better for
endurance events.

It's a myth that carbohydrates make you gain weight. A high-carb diet can be a problem for people who are insulin resistant, but for most people, this is not the case. Of course, if you eat too many carbs or load your bread, potatoes or pasta with fatty sauces or toppings, you will gain weight, but when chosen well and eaten moderately, carbohydrates are key to a high-energy lifestyle.

Recipe:
Lentil Salad with Asiago Cheese

Page 1 of 2 -- Are you getting enough iron in your meals? Find out how much you need and why iron is important on page 2.

3. Include iron rich foods
Are you chronically fatigued? Feeling as if you're dragging your body around? Having trouble concentrating? There's a chance that you could be anemic. Iron-deficiency anemia is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in North America. Iron is essential for producing hemoglobin, the main component of red blood cells. Hemoglobin carries oxygen to your body's cells, where it is used to produce energy and perform essential metabolic functions. If your iron stores are low, your red blood cells can't supply as much oxygen to the cells. The consequence is flagging energy.

The best food sources of iron are red meats, organ meats, iron-fortified cereal products, whole-grain or enriched breads, dried fruits, leafy green vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and blackstrap molasses.

There are two kinds of iron in our food: heme and nonheme. Heme iron -- found in red meat, liver and eggs -- is better absorbed than nonheme iron, which is found in enriched cereals, some dark green vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and certain dried fruits, such as raisins.

Enhance your body's ability to absorb nonheme iron by eating these foods with something that contains vitamin C; for example, if you eat a bowl of iron-enriched cereal (such as cornflakes) with some strawberries or a glass of orange juice, the iron in the cereal will be better absorbed.

Recipes:
Chicken Livers and Onions in Tomato Sauce
Stir-Fried Broccoli with Orange and Almonds

4. Refuel throughout the day
Eating a midday meal will recharge you for the afternoon. And eating small meals and/or snacks throughout the day keeps your blood sugar steady, maintains a constant flow of nutritional energy and helps stave off those irksome hunger pangs. Snacks can be the same as small meals, so a sandwich, a bowl of hearty vegetable soup, cheese and crackers, mini-pizzas, yogurt with fruit, a bean dip with crackers or vegetables, and a low-fat muffin all make the nutritional grade.

Recipes:
Carrot Apricot Bran Muffin Bars
Yellow Split Pea Dip

5. Stay hydrated
Fluids are critical to well-being because water regulates body temperature, transports nutrients to your cells and carries waste away. Everyone needs at least two litres of fluid per day to stay properly hydrated. If you exercise, you need even more. Fatigue is one of the symptoms of mild dehydration. Unfortunately, you cannot depend on thirst as an indicator of your fluid needs, so you could be mildly dehydrated without knowing it. Get in the habit of consuming fluids regularly -- even if you are not active. Besides drinking water, you can get fluids from juices, sports drinks, lemonade, milk, soups or watery foods, such as lettuce, cucumbers and fruits.

Recipes:
Tropical Smoothie
Beef Pho



Page 2 of 2 -- Explore complex carbs and nutritious oatmeal toppings for breakfast on page 1.

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