Feel-good foods

What to eat for quick energy and good digestion, and easy recipes to try right now
Stephanie Dean

How you feel depends in no small part on what you eat, and some foods are great at helping produce the result you're looking for. Our choices below are among the most effective in their categories.

They work best in moderation, so we've included portion-size reminders based on the USDA's recommendations for an average adult. Here's to a healthy new you.

QUICK ENERGY

Top choice: Pineapple (½ cup)

Easy recipe: Combine yogurt, pineapple, dates, honey, and a splash of milk in a blender for a quick energy-boosting smoothie.

Why it works: It's composed of easily digestible carbs, which break down fast into rapidly absorbable sugars (glucose), giving you a surge of energy shortly after eating.

Other great sources:

• Apricots (2 medium)
• Bagels (1 mini bagel or ½ large bagel)
• Crackers (7 crackers; about 1 oz.)
• Dates (5)
• Pasta (½ cup cooked)
• Potatoes (½ cup)
• Pretzels (1 oz.)
• Raisins (¼ cup)
• White rice (½ cup cooked)

ENDURANCE

Top choice: Lentils (½ cup cooked)

Easy recipe: Cook lentils gently in an equal amount of chicken stock, along with sautéed diced onion, celery, and carrots.

Why it works: The carbs here take longer to digest, providing a sustained release of energy.

Other great sources:

• Apples (1 medium)
• Bananas (1 medium)
• Beans (½ cup cooked)
• Bran (1 small muffin)
• Oatmeal (½ cup cooked)
• Whole-wheat pasta (½ cup cooked)
• Yogurt (1 cup)

 

 

STRONG IMMUNE SYSTEM

Top choice: Broccoli (½ cup)

Easy recipe: Stir-fry broccoli florets in canola oil with ginger, garlic, and red chile flakes.

Why it works: Vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant abundant in broccoli, protects cells and body tissues from oxidative stress, thus warding off disease and illness.

Other great sources:

• Brussels sprouts (½ cup)
• Cantaloupe (½ cup cubed)
• Cauliflower (½ cup)
• Green and red bell peppers (½ cup)
• Kale (½ cup)
• Kiwi (1 large)
• Mangoes (½ cup or one-third of a mango)
• Oranges and other citrus fruits (1 medium)
• Papayas (½ cup)
• Pineapple (½ cup)
• Strawberries (½ cup)
• Sweet potatoes (½ cup)
• Tomatoes (1 medium)

 

 

SMOOTH DIGESTION

Top choice: Oats (½ cup cooked)

Easy recipe: Try savory oatmeal instead of sweet: Simmer oats with salt, a spoonful of walnut or hazelnut oil, a pinch of thyme, and chopped walnuts.

Why it works: The soluble fiber in oats slows passage of food through the body, allowing more time for nutrients to be absorbed. Oats' insoluble fiber helps move all solids along efficiently (don't overdo it; consuming more than 50 g of fiber per day inhibits absorption of vital minerals).

Other great sources:

+ Soluble fiber +
• Apples (1 medium)
• Barley (½ cup cooked)
• Citrus fruits (1 medium)
• Legumes (½ cup cooked)
• Soy (½ cup soybeans)

+ Insoluble fiber +
• Bran (1 small muffin)
• Brussels sprouts (½ cup)
• Cabbage (1 cup chopped)
• Carrots (1 medium or ½ cup chopped or sliced)
• Whole-grain breads (1 slice) and cereals (1 cup)

IMPROVED HEART HEALTH

Top choice: Salmon (3 oz.)

Easy recipe: Marinate salmon in a blend of mustard, brown sugar, cider vinegar, and olive oil, then grill it skin side down.

Why it works: Omega-3 fatty acids, plentiful in salmon, limit clot formation and may prevent irregular heartbeat (reducing the likelihood of heart attack).

Other great sources:

• Anchovies, herring, mackerel, sardines, tuna (3 to 4 oz. per fish)
• Canola oil and other vegetable oils (1 tsp.)
• Flaxseed (½ oz.)
• Soybeans (½ cup)
• Walnuts (7 halves)