The last time Ladders sat down with nutritionist and dietician Allison Stowell, we inquired after the key nutrients that governed quality sleep. Surprisingly, there are several everyday foods that directly contribute to a good night’s rest, and Stowell was decent enough to oblige our curiosity in detail, indexing recipes and underreported snacks that effectively oil the gears of our circadian clocks.
On the back of this, it occurred to us to unpick Stowell’s years of research in regards to foods that might help us wax the candle at both ends, given how often our readership deals with the ill-famed afternoon crash. As it turns out, seeking methods to combat a post-lunch-dip is the wrong way to go about it. It’s all about adopting the kind of nutrition policies that ensure you don’t get them often enough to preclude your productivity in the first place, Stowell adds, “While some foods may suggest that they will boost your energy (generally through a combination of caffeine and sugar), the best way to maintain good energy and boost productivity is to eat balanced meals and snacks.”
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A general contempt for shortcuts permeates Stowell’s work, namely as it pertains to public health goals. A nourished mind and body are authored by lifestyle choices, not two-cent balms and power-bars. “While we all may wish there was a quick fix for weight loss, it takes time and effort to properly lose and
maintain a healthy weight,” Stowell told Ladders.
She, this time joined by fellow Guiding Stars scientific advisor, Kitty Broihier, went on to explain a burgeoning trend amongst young professionals beset by hectic schedules and limited time, called mini-meals. “Bigger than snacks, these “mini meals” nourish us throughout the day and have the potential to work together to satisfy our nutrient needs,” Guiding Stars writes.
Crashes are typically the result of abnormal blood sugar levels, so simply reserving time for small meals throughout your day will do very little if these meals are not comprised of the right foods; think carbohydrates, healthy fat, and protein. Together these food groups are defined as macronutrients, nutrients that are integral to an organism’s ability to survive, sustain energy and reproduce.
Very few diets call for the abstaining of protein, though carbs and fat can use a little help in the PR department.
The underappreciated role of carbs
Carbohydrates, named such because at a chemical level they are composed of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, can be found most abundantly as sugars, starches, and fibers residing in grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products.
Ladders recently published a polemic against trendy diets that label carbs the resolute enemy of quick and easy weight loss. Of course, being thin and being healthy are only tangentially related. Our bodies are very picky when it comes to energy sources, with glucose reigning king; so if you adopt some ludicrous regimen that sees you load up on protein and steer clear of carbs your liver will actually make amino acids that turn into glucose, while you succumb to what’s known as the carb-flu: fatigue, weakness, dizziness, headaches, irritability, and nausea.
If you’re a panicky Pete about your waistline, remember there are a wealth of healthy and varied ways to obtain carbs that will not diminish your sex appeal -strawberries, apples, legumes, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, kidney beans, chia seeds, and whole grains, just to name a few. The Carbohydrates found in these foods break down into simple sugars which surge our energy levels and decrease our risk factors for developing several chronic illnesses.
The skinny on fats
An apposite admonishment applies to fats. In addition to boosting energy levels, dietary fat is needed to absorb vitamins and protect our brains and hearts. Fat just like cholesterol is essential for our bodies to function properly, it’s all about demarcating good and bad fats, and the best sources to acquire the former. Bad fats most often refer to trans fats and saturated fats. Though trans fats pose a significantly greater threat to our bodies than saturated fats, both spell bad news if not imbibed in moderation.
Conversely, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats (good fats) lower our risks for heart disease and stroke and help lower our blood pressure. Both breeds of fats make us feel fuller for longer after a meal, so it’s important to include both in the service of a balanced diet. Avocados, olives, peanut butter, and canola oil are all good sources of monounsaturated fats, while tofu, sunflower seeds, fatty fish, soybeans and soy milk are all choice ways of incorporating polyunsaturated fats into your diet.
“Eat small meals throughout the day: Mini-meals allow you to maintain your energy and not feel sluggish. This way of eating may be new for some. The key is to break your day’s intake down into small meals and slightly larger snacks. Snacks and meals composed of some carbohydrate along with some protein and/or healthy fat will help control blood sugar and maintain energy levels. Banana and nut butter, plain Greek yogurt topped with berries, and avocado toast are just some examples of balanced snacks,” Broihier and Stowell explained to Ladders.