3 surprising snacks that boost your energy



Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
@EmmaThornton
Ask Emma


03 March 2020

Which snacks boost your energy?

There are many snacks which you can incorporate into your diet to avoid those mid-afternoon slumps; however, some of these are more well-known than others. Some energy-boosting snacks that you may be unaware of include:

  1. Hummus
  2. Dark chocolate
  3. Popcorn.

Read on to find out why these snacks can be beneficial for energy levels, and get some tips on how to include these in your diet.

1. Hummus

Although it contains only a few simple ingredients, hummus is packed with nutrients and has been associated with numerous health benefits, including boosting energy!1

Traditional hummus, made from chickpeas, ground sesame seeds (tahini), olive oil and lemon juice, is high in protein, fibre, and slow digesting carbohydrates.

Chickpeas are a low GI food. This means they release their energy slowly, which helps to keep blood sugar levels stable. This can keep you feeling fuller and more satisfied for longer periods of time, and helps to avoid peaks and dips in blood sugar levels which could cause energy slumps.

The protein and fibre provided by chickpeas also helps to stabilise blood sugar levels and keep you feeling fuller for longer, both of which can keep your energy levels up.

In addition to this, the sesame seeds and oil in hummus contain healthy fats. These ingredients have also been shown to be helpful in slowing down the absorption of carbohydrates, avoiding blood sugar spikes which can cause your energy levels to crash later.2

Hummus can be a low-calorie snack, as long as you stick to the recommended serving size and enjoy it with healthy accompaniments! When used as a dip for veggies such as red pepper strips, carrot or cucumber sticks, hummus can make a great snack, especially for times of the day when you feel your energy is lacking. You can also add it to salads, sandwiches, or wraps for a yummy, savoury taste.

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2. Dark chocolate

Some of you may be surprised to see chocolate on the list! However, dark chocolate actually possesses many constituents that have potential health benefits, including being beneficial for energy levels.

Chocolate contains a compound called theobromine, a natural stimulant similar to caffeine (also present in chocolate) which can give you an energy boost. Theobromine is found alongside caffeine in cocoa solids, and it is what gives dark chocolate its distinctive, bitter taste.

Theobromine has been shown in research to stimulate the central nervous system, increasing energy levels and feelings of alertness, as well as positively affecting mood.3

Dark chocolate has a higher cocoa content than plain or milk chocolate, and this is often listed on the nutrition label – the higher the percentage of cocoa, the darker the chocolate.

Cocoa contains antioxidants, and these have been shown to have numerous health benefits, including increasing blood flow throughout the body.4 An increased blood flow helps the delivery of oxygen to the brain and muscles, which improves their functions. This is particularly helpful during exercise when you are feeling fatigued.5

Dark chocolate contains a lot less added sugar and less fat than milk chocolate, which makes it a good choice if you like a sweet treat after your dinner. When choosing your dark chocolate, opt for one with a high percentage of cocoa solids, as this will provide the energy-boosting properties from theobromine, caffeine, and antioxidants.

Although dark chocolate is a healthy alternative to milk or white chocolate, it is still relatively high in fat, so sticking to the recommended portion size is important. In addition, as theobromine and caffeine are stimulants, it may be advisable for people who are sensitive to these ingredients to avoid eating dark chocolate close to bedtime.

3. Popcorn

Popcorn can be an excellent healthy, energising snack. In fact, a study published in the Journal Nutrients ranked popcorn as one of the top energy-boosting snacks for children!6

Popcorn is made from wholegrain carbohydrates, and is therefore a good source of fibre. A 100g serving of air-popped popcorn provides up to 15 grams of fibre. As the recommended intake of fibre is 30g per day, this is a whopping 50% of your intake in just one tasty snack!

High fibre foods can keep you feeling satisfied for longer by providing a steady release of energy, making popcorn a great option if you need a snack to keep your energy levels up. Wholegrains can also help to keep blood sugar levels steady, and avoid crashes which can occur after consuming refined or simple carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates provide the body with energy, but not all carbohydrates are the same. Refined carbs do not provide lasting energy, and eating too many may cause health problems. Refined carbs also provide very few vitamins and minerals. The body processes refined carbs quickly, so they do not provide lasting energy, and they can cause a person's blood sugar to spike and then crash.

To reap the benefits of popcorn, try making your own by cooking popping-corn kernels in a microwave or popcorn maker. This is the healthiest cooking method, and allows you to add your own healthy toppings.

Smothering your popcorn in butter, salt or sugar cancels out the health benefits. So, try seasoning your popcorn with herbs and spices such as oregano, garlic or curry powder.

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27916819 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15975169/ 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24145871 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25782129 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26674253 

https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/1/283 

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