- March 10, 2023
- by Amy Gorin, MS, RDN
- 0 Comments
10 Vegan Foods to Boost Your Energy Levels
Feeling run down or tired during the day? With these vegan foods for energy, you can help give your body the boost it needs!
It’s a myth that a healthy vegan diet will leave you feeling run down or tired. In fact, many vegan foods can give you an energy boost, plus deliver essential nutrients for a healthy, disease-fighting diet.
If you’re looking for vegan foods for energy, I have the ultimate list of the top 10 foods to add to your vegan diet.
How can diet affect energy levels?
At its most basic level, food provides calories, aka energy. Food is also a source of essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and water, which play a vital role in our health.
Your food choices can have a significant effect on your day-to-day energy, as well as your long-term health.
When it comes to boosting your energy throughout the day, there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing which food to eat––especially vegan foods for energy.
When choosing vegan foods for energy, first consider the food’s nutrient density. Nutrient density is a term used to describe the nutrients in a food compared to the total amount of energy (calories).
Some foods are more nutrient dense than others and contribute to total nutrient intake throughout the day.
Examples include minimally processed foods such as produce, beans, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. All these foods provide a source of essential nutrients that contribute to a healthy diet.
On the other hand, if you’re filling up on less nutrient dense foods—highly processed fare like chips, fast food, commercial baked goods, frozen pizzas—there’s a risk that you’ll miss out on essential nutrients, which could result in a nutritional deficiency.
Symptoms of a nutrient deficiency may include lower energy levels. In that case, it’s essential to work with a health professional to identify the deficiency and take corrective action via supplementation or diet changes.
Another consideration when choosing foods to boost energy has to do with digestion. Some foods are rapidly digested after they’re eaten, which results in a quick rise in blood sugar.
This quick blood sugar rise provides a short-term energy boost, but it may lead to a crash of energy soon after.
Foods with simple sugars and refined carbohydrates like sweets, candy, sugar-sweetened beverages, as well as refined breads and bread products, are all more likely to result in a rapid rise in blood sugar versus those that are more slowly digested.
Foods with fiber, protein, and fat are digested slowly resulting in more sustained energy levels. Examples include whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Further, when choosing foods to boost energy levels, pairing nutrient-dense foods together (tofu and quinoa or avocado and whole grain toast) can help with slowing digestion and preventing a blood sugar spike.
10 vegan foods that can boost energy
Check out these 10 foods to help you boost your energy levels throughout the day. I bet you will love these vegan foods for energy!
1. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are rich in complex carbohydrates, providing energy for the body and one of the top vegan foods for energy.
Interestingly, the cooking method can affect the glycemic index of sweet potatoes. Glycemic index is the impact a food has on blood sugar levels.
Studies on potatoes have shown that mashed and boiled potatoes have a higher glycemic index than microwaved or baked potatoes.
In other words, if you’re looking for more sustained energy throughout the day, microwave or bake your spuds.
If you’re an athlete looking to recover after a workout, though, a mashed sweet potato could be a great choice since it would be rapidly absorbed, helping replenish energy stores in your muscles.
As a bonus, when you eat sweet potatoes, you’ll also get fiber and vitamin A. Plus, they’re super versatile and easy to prepare.
Dates are another wonderful vegan food for energy. They’re a versatile fruit that provide a natural source of sweetness.
Despite being known for adding a sweet flavor to most any recipe, they’re a low glycemic index food, meaning they won’t cause a blood sugar spike.
Dates are rich in antioxidants, making them a nutrient-dense choice to add to your diet. Dates can be eaten by themselves or as part of your favorite baked recipe, trail mix, or sprinkled over a bowl of warm oats.
Eating dates also provides essential nutrients like potassium, fiber, and magnesium.
3. Nuts and nut butters
The nutrient-density of nuts and nut butters is hard to overlook when it comes to energy-boosting vegan foods. Nuts are a source of antioxidants, fiber, healthy fats, and protein, making them a great addition to a snack or meal.
There are a variety of nuts and nut butters to choose from, and each will offer a unique nutrient profile. Some nuts will be slightly higher in protein whereas others will be higher in fat.
For example, per one-ounce serving, macadamia nuts are higher in fat than almonds whereas almonds are higher in protein. The differences are often minor, so it’s best to opt for the type you enjoy the most.
Thanks to their fiber and protein, research shows that nuts can help to slow digestion and prevent a blood sugar spike, resulting in a more sustained energy boost.
Nuts are great on their own or as part of a trail mix, hot cereal, or granola bar. Many nut butters can be used in baked recipes or spread on crackers or whole grain toast.
Oats are a versatile whole grain that can be used in more ways than you’d expect––just some of the reasons that they’re a great vegan food for energy.
This whole grain is rich in energy-boosting carbohydrates while also providing an excellent source of fiber. Much of their fiber is soluble fiber, a type that contributes to satiety.
To prevent a blood sugar spike, it’s best to choose oats that are minimally processed. Research shows that oat groats and whole oats decrease blood glucose levels after a meal, but quick or instant oats don’t offer any blood sugar-lowering benefits.
As an added bonus, eating oats may offer other health perks related to the prevention of certain chronic diseases.
Avocado is the “it” fruit for good reason. (And yes, it is a fruit!) Not only are avocados delicious, but they’re also packed with nutrients like antioxidants, healthy fats, and fiber.
It’s the fat and fiber found in avocados that make them a great choice for boosting energy––and a top vegan food for energy.
In one study, when avocados were eaten instead of a carbohydrate-containing food, peoples’ overall diet improved, and they had better glucose control.
Because of their fat content, avocados make for a delicious fat substitute in baking or a creamy addition to a sandwich.
Beans are one of the stars of the vegan diet thanks to their fiber and protein. Like many other foods on this list, the digestion-slowing effects of fiber and protein provides a sustained energy boost from beans versus a glucose spike and crash.
Beans are a low glycemic index food and are extremely versatile, making them easy to fit into most any vegan diet.
Eating beans as part of a healthy diet may also offer heart-health benefits, says research. They also help you feel full, which can play a role in weight management.
Choose beans as a substitute for meat in recipes or add as a protein source to your favorite vegan recipe.
The antioxidants and fiber in berries make them an excellent choice when looking for a nutrient-dense snack to boost your energy. Berries are also naturally sweet making them a good choice in place of snacks or desserts with added sugar.
Some berries are higher in fiber than others, but all offer the benefit of preventing a blood sugar spike when eaten, especially in combination with other high-fiber or fat-containing foods like nuts and seeds.
As an added bonus, berries may help support a healthy immune system and gut microbiome, so eat up!
Quinoa is a whole grain that’s both an excellent source of fiber and protein––and a wonderful vegan food for energy. In fact, quinoa is one of the best sources of protein when compared to other whole grains and cereals.
This grain is a good choice if you’re sensitive to gluten or have Celiac disease since it’s naturally gluten free.
Quinoa has also been linked to a potentially lower risk of cardiovascular disease; one study found eating the whole grain helped healthy older adults lose a small amount of weight and decrease their cholesterol levels.
Because quinoa is considered a low-glycemic index food, it’s unlikely to contribute to a blood sugar spike after eating, which may help with maintaining sustained energy levels.
When it comes to leafy greens, spinach tops the list as one of the most nutrient-dense choices. It’s very low in calories, but the veggie is rich in other nutrients like vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, and iron.
Eating a vegan diet may put you at risk for certain nutrient deficiencies if you’re not making sure you’re getting in all the nutrients you need through a well-planned diet.
One of those nutrients, iron, plays an essential role in energy production. Iron deficiency anemia can contribute to serious health consequences, including low energy levels.
While spinach shouldn’t be the primary source of iron in the diet, it is one iron-rich food that can contribute to total iron intake.
Other vegan sources of iron include beans, fortified foods like cereals, and dried fruits. Be sure to pair iron-rich foods with foods high in vitamin C—such as tomatoes or citrus—to boost iron absorption.
10. Dried apricots
When it comes to dried fruits, apricots are one of the top choices on the list of top vegan foods for energy because they’re an unexpected source of iron. Additionally, apricots are a good source of fiber and potassium.
Dried apricots are also a low-glycemic food meaning they’re unlikely to result in a blood sugar spike. Apricots are also a source of carotenoids, which are compounds with antioxidant properties that keep your eyes healthy.
Try diced apricots as part of a muffin or quick bread recipe or simply enjoy them on their own as a nutrient-dense snack.
Simple vegan recipes for boosting energy
If you want to add energy-boosting foods to your diet, it helps to have simple recipes that you can come back to time and again. Try one of these quick and easy recipes the next time you’re looking for an energy boost.
- Vegan Avocado Chocolate Mousse
- Blueberry Banana Smoothie Bowl (Swap the kefir for a plant-based yogurt to make it vegan)
- White Bean Pizza on Naan Bread
- Vegan Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies
- Banana Mango Overnight Oats
- Roasted Chickpea Snack Mix
The bottom line
Eating a vegan diet can have many health benefits, especially when it comes to your energy levels. Be sure to choose foods with plenty of fiber, protein, and fat to help you stay full while also preventing a blood sugar spike.
It’s especially important to choose a combination of foods to not only up your nutrient intake, but also give you the energy-boosting nutrient combinations you’re looking for in your diet.
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- A 2020 study in Nutrients
- A 2020 study in the Science of the Total Environment
- A 2018 study in Oncotarget
- A 2021 study in the Journal of Nutrition
- A 2021 study in Foods
- A 2022 study in the Journal of Nutrition
- A 2021 study in Nutrients
- A 2018 study in Nutrition Reviews
- A 2020 study in Foods
- A 2020 study in European Journal of Nutrition
- A 2020 study in Foods
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