It’s March, the sun is shining, and the grass looks greener if you squint: spring is officially here! For many people, ditching the winter blues in favor of longer days means brighter moods and higher energy, but a little boost never hurt in getting the most out of warmer weather. Here are seven of our favorite heart-healthy, energy-boosting foods to kickstart your spring.
1. Whole Grains
Whole grains are great sources of long-lasting energy that powers you throughout the day. Refined grains, such as white flour and white rice, lose about 25% of the protein contained in the whole grain, and contain significantly smaller amounts of at least 17 key nutrients. Eat hearty whole wheat toast in the morning or a delicious quinoa salad, full of antioxidants, for lunch. The carbs from these whole grains provide your body with a slow-burning energy source that also doesn’t cause your blood sugar to spike, giving you consistent energy all day long.
Fresh, succulent asparagus is a spring favorite, and it’s full of energy- and health-boosting nutrients that your body craves. Asparagus is full of fiber, which may help lower cholesterol, vitamin K for bone strength, and folate, a mood-boosting vitamin to lift your spirits and your energy levels. It’s also incredibly versatile -- grill it, bake it, or saute it, and serve it beside lean proteins or in pasta dishes for a scrumptious and nutritious meal. In the Midwest, fresh-picked asparagus is available from April through June, and the sooner it gets from field to plate, the more delicious it is!
3. Dark Chocolate
Easter is approaching fast, and grocery store aisles are reflecting the date with displays of pastel colors and chocolate. And while that sugar-loaded milk chocolate bunny isn’t going to do your body any favors, indulging in dark chocolate as a snack or dessert can do wonders for your energy and mood. Eating a square or two of dark chocolate is great as a pick-me-up in the afternoon, as the small amounts of caffeine can jump start your body without the crash. Dark chocolate also contains flavanols, heart-healthy flavanoids that reduce blood pressure and increase blood flow to the brain.
4. Cold-Water Fish
Fishing seasons in the Midwest generally open in mid- to late-spring, and fatty, cold-water fish can be extremely beneficial for senior nutrition in general, and energy levels specifically. Not only are cold-water fish full of protein to keep you alert and full, but they’re also packed with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids that lower cholesterol, and riboflavin and niacin, which help you process food more effectively into energy. While fried fish is undeniably delicious, try it grilled or baked for a healthier meal that’s still full of flavor. For added fun, get a fishing license and serve your own catch to family and friends!
Morel hunting is a favorite Michigan pastime, but eating them is even better. Mushrooms, and not just morels, are high in iron and fiber, and have more protein than most vegetables. There are a wide variety of mushrooms that can be used in many different cuisines and dishes, making it easy to add variety while reaping the benefits of these yummy fungi. If you can get your hands on some spring morels, try a hearty mushroom soup. Add mushrooms to your gravies, stir-fries, omelettes, and more to add fantastic savory flavor.
While eggs and mushrooms don’t seem all that similar, eggs are also champions of versatility that are chock-full of protein. They sometimes get a bad rap for being contributors to high cholesterol, but while you should be aware of how much dietary cholesterol you have in your diet, saturated fats are much more likely to impact your risk of heart disease. Hard-boiled eggs are a great snack on their own, or as toppings on sandwiches and salads. Eat them scrambled (with your whole grain toast) in the morning to start your day with protein.
Yes, water’s not really a food, but staying hydrated and getting enough water throughout the day is key to all other aspects of senior nutrition and health. The old 8x8 rule, or eight ounces of water, eight times a day, is a good rule of thumb, but recommended intake varies based on age, gender, and activity level. Plain old water is a great option for everyone (especially if you’re watching your weight) but you can also mix it up with coffee or tea. Just be sure to stay away from sugar-laden drinks, such as fruit juices, sodas, alcoholic beverages, and sweet coffee drinks, as sugar is a fast-burning energy source that can cause you to crash, and they tend to add a huge amount of calories to your diet without also contributing nutrients.
This spring, try incorporating some or all of these foods into your diet for energy that lasts you all day. With higher energy levels and a brighter mood, you’ll be ready for a full of life spring!