Top 10 Energy Foods: Carbs Athletes Should Love

Not since the public outcry against fat has there been such uproar about popular nutrition—the message in the mainstream media seems clear: It's protein you want not carbs! With all the hype, no wonder so many of us are second-guessing our eating habits. In truth, the message about carbohydrates has been so over-simplified that many people are skimping on the most critical energy source the body has.

Restricting carbohydrates can zap energy levels, compromising the quality of workouts and negating the benefits of a fitness program.

Here's the simple truth: There are many high-carbohydrate foods beneficial to both your health and athletic performance. The key is choosing the right carbs.

The following is a breakdown of 10 of the best energy-sustaining foods, all loaded with powerful nutrients to keep your body running on premium fuel.

1. Rolled Oats

Heart disease still tops the charts as the No. 1 cause of death among women, so it's no surprise that the Food and Drug Administration recommends women on a 2,000-calorie daily diet eat about 30 grams of fiber a day.

With a mere half cup of cooked oats providing four grams of dietary fiber, adding rolled oats to your diet will help you meet this recommendation.

Fiber not only helps reduce risk for heart disease, it slows glucose absorption into the bloodstream, helping maintain peak energy levels and curb appetite. Rolled oats are also an excellent source of B vitamins (great for stress management and energy production) and contain a significant amount of zinc for immune function.

2. Lentil Soup

Lentils produce a low-glycemic response, meaning you won't experience a spike in blood sugar followed by an energy-sapping crash. Also loaded with dietary fiber (eight grams per half-cup serving), lentils provide the feeling of satiety, helping mute those intense cravings for sweets. Lentils also are packed full of folic acid, a nutrient essential for keeping cardiovascular risk low and guarding against birth defects.

3. Fresh Figs

Just three figs provide a whopping 30 grams of good carbohydrates along with a multitude of B vitamins, calcium and potassium to help ensure peak muscle function and optimal bone health. Figs also are an excellent source of soluble pectin fiber, shown to lower cholesterol and ultimately reduce cardiovascular risk. For a tasty snack, try serving quartered fresh figs with a dollop of reduced-fat ricotta cheese or flavored yogurt.
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