11 Energy-Boosting Foods to Eat When Feeling Lethargic

Many people experience depression, and it can be life-altering. During bouts of depression, lifestyle remedies like eating healthy and exercising regularly may significantly boost mood and well-being.

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Depressed and Lethargic? Try These Energy-Boosting Foods
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The Benefit of Energy-Boosting Foods

Your food habits may contribute to the way you handle depression, including its accompanying lethargy, because they determine the nutrients available to you. Healthy eating is key to both physical and mental health. Research shows that eating fresh, nutrient-dense whole foods and limiting fried and processed foods, like sweets and junk food, can improve symptoms of depression. Eating small, well-balanced meals and snacks throughout the day will help minimize mood swings and provide a steady source of energy.

Some key nutrients are required to combat depression. Taking a daily supplement is an option for some of them, but many can come directly from your food intake. Here, 11 energy-boosting foods to incorporate into your diet now.

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Energy-Boosting Foods | Antioxidants, Berries
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Vitamins A, C, and E are antioxidants and they are required for removing free radicals, which is key to preventing oxidative stress. Anxiety and depression may result from oxidative stress, and research suggests that antioxidants may help. You can find them in fresh, plant-based foods, such  as fresh fruits, especially berries, and vegetables. Our favourite way to eat them? In this Raspberry-Pomegranate Smoothie.

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Energy-Boosting Foods | B Vitamins, Eggs
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B Vitamins

Essential to mental and emotional well-being, B vitamins play a role in the production of chemicals in the brain that affect mood and other functions. Vitamins B3, B6 and B9 (folate or folic acid) and B12 may help reduce symptoms  of depression. Try dairy products, eggs, fortified foods (such as breakfast cereals), leafy greens, legumes, meats, nutritional yeast, poultry, seafood and seeds. A vita-min B100 complex supplement is also recommended. (Psst: See all the reasons you should be eating more eggs.)

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Energy-Boosting Foods | Iron, Cereal
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An iron deficiency can result in fatigue and weakness and increase your risk of depression, but boosting your iron intake can combat this. Try baked potatoes, beans, beet greens, beetroot juice, cashews, fortified breakfast cereals, legumes, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, red meats, shellfish, spinach, turkey, and whole grain and enriched breads.(Here’s a list of all the foods that are high in iron.) A supplement may be recommended.

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Energy-Boosting Foods | L-Theanine, Black Tea
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This nonessential amino acid helps promote relaxation and calmness, improve sleep, boost mood and cognitive function and ease symptoms of anxiety and depression. Try matcha green tea (one gram equals 20 milligrams L-theanine) or black, green, oolong or white tea (three to five cups a day). A supplement may be recommended (50 milligrams to start, but consult your doctor if you’re taking medications).

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Energy-Boosting Foods | Magnesium, Avocado
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This mineral plays a role in reducing anxiety and stress, inducing relaxation and regulating mood. Try avocado, black beans, dark chocolate, hemp hearts, nuts (such as almonds and cashews), oats, quinoa, spinach, whole wheat, or one of these foods.

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Energy-Boosting Foods | Omega-3 Fatty Acids
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Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids (especially a combination of EPA and DHA, which are found in fish oil) may improve symptoms of depression. Try cold-water fish (such as mack-erel, salmon and sardines), seeds (such as chia, ground flaxseed and hemp hearts) and walnuts. Get your omega-3 fatty acids on the go with the seeds and walnuts in these energy bites, bars, and balls.

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Energy-Boosting Foods | Probiotics, Kombucha
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A healthy gut microbiome may reduce the risk and symptoms of depression. Boost your levels of beneficial bacteria, particularly Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, in the gut. Try kefir, kimchi (like in our delicious coleslaw), kombucha, miso, sauerkraut,  tempeh and yogurt.

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Energy-Boosting Foods | Selenium, Brazil Nuts
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Increasing your intake of selenium, which is another powerful antioxidant, may help manage depression by improving mood and reducing anxiety. Try Brazil nuts, certain types of seafood and whole grains.

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Energy-Boosting Foods | Tryptophan, Chicken and Chickpeas
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Serotonin,  the“feel good” hormone, is created in the body from a protein called tryptophan. Eating foods that boost serotonin levels may be beneficial in fighting symptoms of depression. Try chickpeas, eggs, fish (such as salmon and tuna), milk, meats (such as beef, lamb and pork), nuts (such as almonds, cashews and pistachios), oats, poultry and seeds (such as chia, sesame and sun-flower seeds). Try our Chickpea Salad, Coconut Chicken Curry, or Healthy Brown Rice Beef Burritos.

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Energy-Boosting Foods | Vitamin D, Sardines
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Vitamin D

Vitamin D may help improve symptoms of depression. We get most of our vitamin D through sun exposure, but supplementing is key in areas where sun exposure is limited. Try eggs, fortified dairy products and oily fish.

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Energy-Boosting Foods | Zinc, Beans
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Zinc levels may be lower in people with depression, and studies suggest that antidepressants may work more effectively with zinc supplementation. (It may also help fight off a cold.) Try beans, beef, chicken, nuts, oysters, pork, pump-kin seeds and whole grains.

Always talk with your doctor before taking supplements as some vitamin supplements may interact with medications.

Rebecca and Reisha Harper are twin sisters and registered dietitians with a special focus on nutrition for health, beauty and aging well. Follow them on Instagram @harpernutrition_twins.

Now that you’ve learned about the best energy-boosting foods, check out the Harper twins’ advice for being healthy without dieting.

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