Most days, we need to be “on” — to give big presentations, optimize workflow, or just feel less drowsy and lethargic. Sometimes, coffee simply doesn’t cut it, and we look to actual meals to give us energy or buy the newest drink that promises to perk us up. Feel like you’ve tried every energy-boosting solution in America? Here are nine foods and drinks from around the world that make you alert, active, and ready for whatever the universe throws your way.
To find the items on this list, we referred to our list of what athletes from around the world eat when they need to get ready for a game, and looked at what foreign publications, like The Telegraph in London, recommend for the perennially tired and stressed. We also combed through the websites and catalogs of health food stores to find ingredients that are sourced from countries outside of the United States.
Some of these energy-boosting foods, like muesli, will sound familiar, while others, like callaloo, you may have never heard of. There are certainly a few surprises in here. For example, did you know that popcorn can give you a quick perk-up? Not buttered popcorn or strangely-flavored popcorn (pinot noir popcorn, anyone?), but the regular ol’ air-popped goodness.
Most of these foods can be easily made at home. In fact, that’s what we’d recommend, as the commercial versions of many products that claim to boost energy involve ungodly amounts of sugar and/or chemicals that should have no place in your body. We recommend packing the homemade versions in your bag as you leave for work in the morning.
We hope you are alert enough to read about these nine foods that will keep your stamina up throughout the day.
Callaloo (The Caribbean)
Callaloo is a leafy green stew of amaranth, taro, water spinach, or other similar leaves — vegetables that actually becomes more nutritious when cooked. The stew has four times as much calcium as broccoli, and is rich in iron, antioxidants, and energy-boosting carbohydrates that exist as a result of the water in the dish turning some of the fiber in the leaves to starch.
Chia Fresca (Mexico)
A darling seed of health food fanatics, chia seeds pack in a lot of nutrients in a few small pinches. They are rich in fiber as well as protein, which helps sustain energy after the initial jolt. Instead of spending money on a sugar-heavy chia juice at the supermarket, just add a few chia seeds to water and squeeze some lime into it; this creates chia fresca, or iskiate. The Aztecs believed that chia seeds could sustain warriors for up to 24 hours.