There are times when I’m aware that what I’m eating is adversely affecting my health and energy levels. However, I often chose not to acknowledge this fact right away, because let’s face it, cheese puffs and Oreos are really good. But eventually, after I can no longer use fluctuating hormones as an excuse for my love of bacon double cheeseburgers, I turn to my favorite “power foods” to get me back on the path to better eating and revitalized energy levels.

The following five power foods are my personal favorites because they’re packed full of protein, fiber, and essential vitamins that we all need to look and feel our best. They’re also tasty, although possibly not as tasty as the bacon double cheeseburger.

Quinoa

Quinoa is naturally gluten-free, high in fiber, and is one of only a few plant-based foods that contain all nine essential amino acids, the building blocks for protein. In fact, quinoa is considered a complete protein, a rare distinction among plants, seeds and grains. Quinoa also contains lots of magnesium, iron, B vitamins, potassium, calcium, vitamin E, and zinc. Power foods that are high in fiber, vitamins and protein, like quinoa, are great for sustaining energy throughout the day. I tend to favor convenience, so I purchase frozen quinoa from the supermarket. But if you would rather prepare your quinoa at home, here are some great recipes and cooking tips from a total quinoa fan.

Squash

Summer, winter, acorn, or butternut…no matter which is your favorite, squash is a power food with the perfect combination of fast-acting and slow-acting carbohydrates to give you a quick energy pick-me-up, as well as sustained energy for several hours. Squash also supplies a huge amount of vitamin A, which acts as an energy-enhancing immune booster—bonus! I like baking my squash, then adding a little butter and cinnamon; it almost makes me think I’m enjoying a fresh piece of pumpkin pie.

Eggs

Whether you start your day with an omelet, take a hard-boiled egg for on-the-go, or prepare a spinach quiche for dinner, eggs are one of the best (and most affordable) power foods for sustained energy. In addition to high-quality protein, eggs supply plenty of mono and polyunsaturated fats, which can help increase energy by making you feel full and satisfied for hours. Such “good fats” can also lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Additionally, eggs are relatively low in calories. One large egg has around 70 calories, which makes eggs an excellent choice for increased energy on a calorie-controlled eating plan.

Black Beans

I will never again eat salsa that does not contain black beans—they’re that awesome. When it comes to all-day energy, black beans are one of the best power foods. Rich in fiber for sustained energy, black beans are also loaded with high-quality vegan protein and B vitamin folate, which helps supply energizing oxygen to your cells, muscles, and other tissues. The high number of phytonutrients and lack of cholesterol in black beans also means they can help strengthen and protect your cardiovascular system.

Full-Fat Dairy

After years of demonizing full-fat milk products, nutritionists are discovering that dairy products with all the fat included may actually be super healthy power foods. The high level of fat in full-fat dairy products can help sustain blood sugar levels and keep you feeling alert and energized for several hours. If you’re worried about all that extra fat causing weight gain, rest assured; scientific studies say full-fat dairy products may actually aid in weight loss. Full-fat cheese, butter, and yogurt top my list of favorite dairy power foods. Full-fat ice cream, while not the most responsible choice, is also acceptable in moderation, as it tends to contain less sugar than low-fat varieties.

While improving your food choices is always recommended, it’s important to discuss any changes in your diet or energy levels with a trusted healthcare provider.

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