The Top Power Foods for You

What to eat (and not to eat) to feel peppier, sharper, more svelte, and simply better all over.

Serge Bloch
If youre wondering why youre tired after a full nights sleep, or jittery even without a venti latte, the answer might be on your plate. "Marginal nutritional deficiencies may make you feel ‘under the weather," says Elizabeth Somer, RD, author of Eat Your Way to Happiness. And eating too much of the wrong things can have the same effect, she says. So if you havent been functioning at 100%, try these foods to give your well-being a big boost.

Eat this to boost energy
Feel like every day is a slog? You may not be getting enough iron. Add in the fact that you lose the mineral when you menstruate, and you may feel groggy and fuzzy-headed even if you dont have a full-blown deficiency.

The remedy: Eat more red meats, fish, and poultry—the best animal-based sources of iron. (Liver contains one of the highest amounts, too, but steer clear if youre pregnant, since its high vitamin A content may be dangerous to a developing baby.) Dont eat meat? Go for soybeans, lentils, spinach, and fortified cereals. Iron isnt as easily absorbed by your body in those forms, but adding vitamin C will help, so enjoy a glass of OJ with those cornflakes. If you tend to have heavy periods, youre probably losing more iron than the average woman, so be extra sure youre eating plenty of iron-rich foods, adds Carol Haggans, RD, scientific and health communications consultant with the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Eat this to feel calm
You know that caffeine can put you on edge. But heres another source of jitters: too many refined carbs—foods high in white flour (cookies, sugary cereals, white bread, etc.) and stripped of nutrients and fiber that normally keep your blood sugar stable. "A big dose of refined carbs causes your blood sugar level to soar and an excessive amount of insulin to be secreted by the pancreas," says Alyse Levine, RD, nutrition advisor for You may be antsy as a result: think toe-tapping and/or an inability to focus. Then, the extra insulin will make your blood sugar plummet, Levine explains, leaving you feeling sluggish.

To help prevent those drastic spikes and drops in blood sugar, Levine says, your meals and snacks should be based around lean protein, healthy fats, and unrefined carbohydrates. That means loading up on brown rice, whole-grain bread and pasta, whole oats, and, of course, fruits, veggies, and legumes.

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Leslie Barrie
Last Updated: February 11, 2011

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