A nutritionist shares the 'most underrated' food she eats every day to boost her energy
So many of us are constantly trying to keep up with our jam-packed schedules, and when noon comes around, we're already exhausted and unfocused.
That's when we'll reach for a second cup of coffee.
But as a nutritionist, I don't turn to caffeine for an energy boost. Too much of it can have negative side effects, including headaches, trouble sleeping and anxiousness.
Instead, I eat an unlikely food that has been ignored for too long: Prunes.
Prunes: The most underrated energy-boosting food
Prunes are best known as a remedy for people who need help with their digestive health.
But they're also a good source of energy in the form of natural sugars. What's great is that they don't result in a rapid rise of blood sugar concentration.
In some cases, a blood sugar spike can be followed by a blood sugar crash, leaving you feeling sluggish. Low-glycemic foods like prunes can help give you sustained energy without the crash afterward.
While it depends on the size of the prunes themselves, I have about 30 grams a day, which is roughly three to four prunes.
Another bonus: Eating prunes every day may help keep bones strong as we age. A 2022 study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a daily 50-gram dose of prunes (five to six prunes) can prevent hip bone mineral density loss among postmenopausal women.
How to add more prunes to your diet
Prunes are great on their own — just make sure the brand you choose has no added sugars. Prune juice is another option, but I recommend keeping daily portion sizes to about one cup or less.
Here are some of my favorite ways to incorporate prunes into my diet:
1. Add prunes to your smoothie.
Add prunes to your smoothies if you need a boost of natural sweetness.
For an energizing morning smoothie, I'll add four pitted prunes with one frozen banana, a 1/2 tablespoon of lime zest, one cup of frozen peaches, a 3/4 cup of frozen pitted cherries, and a 1/2 cup of oat milk.
2. Swap sugar with prune purée in baked goods.
Combine 16 ounces of prunes with a 1/2 cup of warm water in a blender, then blend until a purée forms. You can use the purée to replace anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of the sugar in a recipe.
Prune purée can also be used as a substitute for eggs or fat. To replace one large egg, use 1/4 a cup of purée. To cut down on fat, replace up to half of the butter or oil in a recipe with an equal amount of purée.
3. Dip prunes in dark chocolate.
For an antioxidant-rich, fiber-filled dessert, dip five pitted prunes into melted dark chocolate and let it set for a few hours.
4. Add chopped prunes to chicken salad.
The surprising sweetness that prunes add to chicken salad is an easy way to dress up the classic poultry dish. Simply add chopped pitted prunes to your favorite chicken salad recipe and mix well.
Lauren Manaker is an award-winning dietitian and author of "The First-Time Mom's Pregnancy Cookbook: A Nutrition Guide, Recipes, and Meal Plans for a Healthy Pregnancy." She's held leadership roles at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and has written for publications, including HealthDay and Livestrong. Follow her on Instagram.
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