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Food For Energy: 16 Foods That Will Wake You Up

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Kale or cupcakes?

It's probably not the health question we have to ask ourselves every day, but it is one that could present us with a tough decision. One is green and packed with nutrients -- and we know it's good for us -- and the other is sugary and generally delicious, providing a temporary energy rush.

Kim Stinson-Burt, dietitian at Nutritionally Your Best, based in Newfoundland and Labrador, says finding energy in foods is not about trying to get one-off superfoods or sugar fixes, but eating and drinking healthy options throughout the day.

"Eating breakfast regularly and snacking regularly throughout the day, as well as drinking lots of water, can keep energy levels high," she says.

As far as populations go, North Americans are some of the most stressed-out people in the world. At least 76 per cent of Canadians experience some type of stress in their daily lives (finances, health and family life for example) and at least 75 per cent of Americans also deal with some type of day-to-day stress, according to the CBC.

But with all that fatigue, picking up caffeine-filled drinks or a sprinkle doughnut won't do our bodies any good in the long run. Sure, sugar can raise our blood sugar levels and give us much-needed energy in the moment, but they can also slow your body down and leave you feeling more tired and hungry, according to USA Today.

Our weekly challenge: Try to replace at least one cup of your day's coffee or one sugary treat with one of these energy boosting foods from Stinson-Burt :

16 Foods That Boost Energy
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Water:
Water is a integral part of keeping all the cells in your body hydrated and working at optimum levels, says dietitian Kim Stinson-Burt. Start the day with a tall (at least 500 ml) glass of water as soon as you wake up. "Imagine going an entire work day without drinking. Your body does the equivalent of this every night when you sleep. Many Canadians are starting the day dehydrated, which leads to fatigue very early on in the day.," she says.

Almonds:
When eaten raw and unsalted, almonds are a good source of healthy fats and protein to balance blood sugar levels, Stinson-Burt says. One ounce of almonds (that's about 23) can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Quinoa:
"Rich in complex carbohydrates and protein, quinoa is a highly nutritious grain that keeps you full and energized well into your next meal," she says. For meal options, try warm quinoa with raisins, almonds and cinnamon as a cereal or mix it into your favourite salad for lunch.

Dark Chocolate:
Forget caffeine and grab a bar of chocolate. "Dark chocolate energizes by providing an excellent source of iron and magnesium. Make sure it's at least 70 per cent," Stinson-Burt says.

Bananas:
Rich in potassium and B vitamins, bananas help slow down digestion and can keep blood sugar levels stable, Stinson-Burt says.

Bran Flakes:
Replace your cereals with bran. "Bran flakes are full of energy producing B-vitamins, iron, and magnesium. The fibre will also keep you full for longer and stabilize blood sugar levels," Stinson-Burt says.

Salmon:
Salmon is high in essential omega-3 fatty acids that are needed for energy production, brain activity, and circulation as well as maintaining heart health, Stinson-Burt says.

Curry:
Often as traditional dishes in Asia and the Caribbean, spicy curries made with turmeric, cinnamon, cumin and other spices can boost energy levels with antioxidants, normalize blood sugar levels, and promoting good circulation, Stinson-Burt says.

Coconut:
"Oils that are found in coconuts consists primarily of medium chain triglycerides, which are types of fat that is turned into energy quickly and efficiently," she says. These oils can prevent you from feeling sluggish throughout your day.

Lentils:
Lentils and other legumes -- like chickpeas or kidney beans -- stabilize blood glucose levels and can help prevent a mid afternoon crash, Stinson-Burt says.

Eggs:
Eggs are high in iron and protein to give you sustainable energy throughout the day. "Choline is a type of B-vitamin that is found in eggs that is required for brain function and energy production," she says.

Whole Grains:
Wheat, kamut, spelt, oats or even brown rice. "No matter which whole grain you go for, the complex carbohydrates, fibre, B-vitamins and iron will keep you energized until your next meal," Stinson-Burt says.

Citrus Fruits:
Citrus fruits, like lemons and limes, are rich in Vitamin C which can boost our body's immune system.

Greek Yogurt:
Yogurt of all sorts contains probiotics, which are well known for being a key part of healthy digestion, Stinson-Burt says. These probiotics can also help fight a weak immune system and boost your energy levels.

Kale:
Kale really is a superfood. High in vitamins and minerals, kale is a great energy booster and key source of calcium. "If you want to cook it, make sure to cook it well in oil and balsamic vinegar in order to ensure that all the energy producing vitamins and minerals are easily digestible and absorbed for use in the body," Stinson-Burt says.

Ginger Tea:
Forget coffee and grab a tea. Ginger infused tea is filled with antioxidants and nutrients that can give you an afternoon boost.