Eating For Energy on a Vegetarian Diet

It’s not unusual for newbie vegetarians and seasoned vegetarians alike to experience low energy levels. The good news is, you can significantly increase your energy by doing three things: (1) reduce stress, including emotional, mental, physical, and food related; (2) eat the right foods; and (3) exercise. For now we’ll focus on foods; those you should add, and those you should decrease or eliminate entirely.

Foods to Decrease or Eliminate:

Which one of the following foods do you depend on? It would be helpful to reduce or eliminate several.

  • Caffeine
  • Coffee
  • Soft drinks
  • Alcohol
  • Processed, chemicalized foods
  • Milk
  • Sugar and refined carbohydrates
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Foods that contain trans fats

Stimulants, like caffeine and sugar, may give you a quick energy boost, but they actually deplete our bodies by drawing out minerals and nutrients. Sugar enters your bloodstream quickly, pushes your blood sugar level up high, and then drops it extremely low. As a result, you experience fatigue, depression and exhaustion. Both sugar and caffeine, as you may already know, are also highly addictive.

Foods that increase energy:

There are three key components for energy producing foods. They’re highly nutritious, anti-inflammatory, and/or a complete source of protein. Foods that increase energy are:

Whole foods: grains, vegetables and beans. Foods that have not been processed keep all the components of their original, natural state: fiber, vitamins and minerals. Processing removes these elements.

Anti-inflammatory Foods: A recent study from Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that people suffering from fatigue often have elevated inflammation levels1. The best anti-inflammatory, highly nutritious foods include:

Broccoli: Contains a compound called glucosinolates, a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. It’s also high in vitamin C, lutein, beta-carotene and fiber.

Spinach: Spinach is an excellent source of folate. According to a study published in the journal Neurology, 50% of people with chronic fatigue syndrome were deficient in folate2.

Low levels of folate are also associated with increased inflammation. Less inflammation means less stress, and that means less fatigue.

Dark leafy greens: In addition to spinach and broccoli, other leafy green vegetables, like kale and collard greens, protect the body from pro-inflammatory molecules. This protection comes from their high levels of vitamin E.

Fruit: For a quick burst of energy, try some fruit. Fruit contains glucose, which is easily and quickly metabolized into energy.

Eggs: Eggs are extremely healthy, especially for vegetarians. One large boiled egg has 6.29 grams of protein, they have all the essential amino acids, and are one of the few foods that have natural vitamin D.

Egg yolks are high in choline. It reduces homocystein levels and increases folate levels, which results in reduced inflammation.

Super Seeds: Both Hemp Seeds and Chia Seeds are high in protein and nutrients, and have all the essential amino acids.

Chia Seeds can be traced back to the Pre-Columbian Mayans, Aztecs, and Aztec warriors who ate Chia Seeds because it gave them energy and strength.

Many athletes consume Hemp Seeds after their workout for a quicker recovery. Their anti- inflammatory properties speed the repair of soft-tissue damage caused by physical activity.

Quinoa: Quinoa is a gluten-free grain that’s high in protein (12–18 percent), and is one of the only plant foods that is a complete protein.

It’s an excellent source of fiber, B vitamins, iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, and vitamin E. It’s also a good source of manganese, magnesium, tryptophan, copper and phosphorus.


Eating a well-balanced diet that includes the foods listed above can make a big difference in your energy levels. If most of these foods are new to you, start slow. Add one or two new foods to your diet at a time, and learn how to prepare them in a way that is delicious and health giving.


1 “Study Shows Inflammation from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome May be Risk Factor for Other Illnesses,” Emory,

2 “Serum folate and chronic fatigue syndrome,” Neurology. 1993 Dec;43(12):2645-7. Jacobson W1, Saich T, Borysiewicz LK, Behan WM, Behan PO, Wreghitt TG, http://

Other Sources

Paul Pitchford, Healing with Whole foods; Asian traditions and modern nutrition.

Institute of Integrative Nutrition®

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