Between family, work, and community responsibilities, you pack a lot into your busy days.
But always being on the go can take a toll on your health. You need a steady supply of good nutrition so you don’t burn out.
While eating whole, unprocessed foods is ideal, it’s no surprise that “functional foods and beverages”—products that marry nutrition and convenience—are becoming more popular worldwide.
If you’re looking for more energy, you can choose between hundreds of beverages, snacks, powders, and supplements designed to help.
Popular beverage ingredients include green tea, yerba mate, vitamin C, acai, cranberry extracts, the herbs schizandra, ginger, and ginkgo biloba, and caffeine from coffee, tea, guarana, and kola nuts.
Bottled water comes enhanced with vitamins and other nutrients. Even sports drink makers are updating formulas with vitamins and natural sweeteners, including no-calorie stevia.
Snack foods and beverages designed to promote endurance, fitness, energy, and mental focus may contain B-complex vitamins, minerals, polyphenols from green tea, fiber, whey or soy proteins, as well as inositol, taurine, and other amino acids.
Ginseng, another popular ingredient, has been shown to boost stamina and improve responses to stress.
Green powders, which can be added to juices, smoothies, or other foods, can be important sources of chlorophyll, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants. Wheat grass, barley grass, spirulina, alfalfa, and other green ingredients help those who lead hectic lives obtain food-source nutrients otherwise missing from their diets.
A Friendly Revolution
Probiotics’ healthy bacteria have many health benefits. Strains of good bacteria in yogurt and kefir can help cure recurring Clostridium difficile infections (the diarrhea-causing bacteria that plagues hospital patients), reduce the duration of respiratory infections in the elderly, relieve cold and flu symptoms in children, and fight yeast infections.
Probiotics are recommended for anyone taking antibiotics, which destroy beneficial as well as harmful bacteria.
In addition to strengthening immunity, probiotics improve digestion and can help you lose weight.
According to Andrew Weil, MD, kefir may be a better choice than yogurt for some lactose-intolerant individuals.
Go Natural for Energy
The downside of many energy products is their reliance on caffeine and sugar. Some energy drinks contain as much caffeine as almost five cans of Coke (or 11/2 cups of brewed coffee), not to mention more calories and carbohydrates than cola.
This combination concerns health experts who note that young consumers may not realize how much caffeine they’re ingesting or how easy it is to become dependent on the stimulant.
As a report from the American Dietetic Association notes, functional drinks seldom contain the minerals calcium and potassium or vitamin D or folate—all of which are often lacking in our diets.
A noteworthy exception is Teeccino, an herbal coffee. This hot drink is not only caffeine free, it provides a natural energy boost and contains potassium as well as soluble fiber, which helps improve digestion and elimination.
Small, single-serving “shots” are also growing in popularity. These bestselling drinks claim to enhance concentration and endurance without causing jitters (their caffeine content is that of a small cup of coffee). They’re sugar-free and contain “energy blends” of B-complex vitamins, amino acids that help with fat breakdown, and other nutrients.
For best results, health experts recommend reading labels and comparing energy product ingredients with the supplements you already take, so you can choose functional foods that best fit your individual needs.