High protein vegetables: These 15 vegetables are high in protein
Protein acts as a building block for almost all types of tissue and builds muscle. Most people don't see vegetables as a good source of protein, but many vegetables have a fairly high protein content – high enough to meet your daily protein needs. Knowing which vegetables are high in protein is especially important if you are vegetarian or vegan. But carnivores on a low-carb diet can also benefit if they add protein-rich vegetables to their diet.
Complete versus incomplete proteins
Protein-rich vegetables contain incomplete protein. Animal proteins are generally considered to be full proteins. Full proteins provide all nine essential amino acids that the body needs. In addition to the essential amino acids, there are 11 more that the body can make itself, making a total of 20. In our list, however, there are also some plant sources for complete protein.
You probably already know that spinach, peanuts and black beans are excellent sources of vegetable protein. But there are many more protein-rich vegetables that you can use to increase your protein intake. Here are 15 healthy vegetables that contain a reasonable amount of protein.
Edamame (immature soybeans) are often served steamed as a side dish in Japanese restaurants. These versatile, easy-to-prepare beans that grow in small green pods are protein bombs. For 100 grams of Edamame without pod, you get a whopping 11 grams of protein. That is about 20% of the total daily protein requirement for an adult. Edamame also contains fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, vitamin A and iron.
There are about 25 grams of protein in 100 grams of red lentils, which makes up a good portion of the daily amount. Lentils are also rich in fiber and micronutrients such as folic acid, iron, thiamine and phosphorus. They also score with a high zinc content (3.6 mg per 100 g). Red lentils taste great in soups and stews or as an ingredient in salads and casseroles.
100 grams of cooked lima beans contain 8 grams of protein. Lima beans contain not only protein, but also the amino acid leucine, which can play a major role in healthy muscle synthesis in older adults.
You might be surprised at how much protein is actually in corn: 3.3 g per 100 grams of corn. That makes up 3 to 9 percent of an adult's daily protein requirement, based on a 1,800 calorie diet. Eating freshly cut corn straight from the cob is always the best option. Canned varieties are often loaded with added salt to keep freshness longer.
Asparagus is one of the first vegetables to appear on the farmers' markets every spring. The popular vegetable contains a lot more protein than you would expect, along with many other nutrients such as riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin K.
Already 10 sticks of asparagus provide almost 4 grams of protein. You may even find it difficult to eat only 10 stalks of asparagus, especially if it comes fresh from the farm – they are so delicious! Asparagus can be cooked in the oven, grilled, boiled, steamed or fried in the pan and is ideal for salads or as a side dish.
Anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties are attributed to asparagus. It also contains fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which offer prebiotic benefits and stimulate the growth of good gut bacteria.
Beetroot can give your dishes a nice color and a great, sweet and sour taste. It is especially delicious when fried in the oven. 100 grams of beetroot contain 1.6 grams of protein. Beetroot is also a good source of folate, manganese, potassium and fiber.
Beetroot tastes delicious in salads and traditional Russian-style borscht. You can also use them for a beautiful red-purple beet hummus (which also contains plenty of protein from the chickpeas). Beetroot also tastes like juice, e.g. mixed with carrot and apple juice.
Many people think that they should avoid potatoes because of their high carbohydrate content. But potatoes also contain a significant amount of protein, which actually helps balance these carbohydrates. Potatoes are also a good source of vitamin C and heart-healthy potassium. Even a medium-sized Russet potato provides over 3 grams of protein. So if you eat a large stuffed potato, a serving of mashed potatoes, or fried potatoes, you'll get plenty of protein. Buy Russet potatoes, red and white potatoes, and even purple potatoes that are beautiful in color and actually contain a lot more protein than normal potatoes – some score with 6 grams of protein.
Peas as a protein-rich vegetable
Peas are tiny, but contain a significant amount of vitamins and nutrients, including vitamin C, thiamine, and folic acid. It is also one of the most versatile vegetables ever. Since green peas are a legume, they also have a fairly high protein content. 100 grams of peas contain about 5 grams of protein and more than 4 grams of fiber.
Although it is possible to find fresh peas at farmers' markets and in the grocery store, frozen peas are also a good option. They are easy to store and can be thawed quickly.
Watercress is a cruciferous plant that grows in water and has a high protein content. 100 g of watercress contains 2.3 grams of protein. It also provides good amounts of B vitamins, calcium, manganese, potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C.
Avoid boiling watercress as this reduces the level of antioxidants. Instead, try eating raw watercress in salads, sandwiches, or smoothies.
Alfalfa sprouts are very low in calories, but rich in nutrients. 100 grams of alfalfa sprouts provides 4 grams of protein. These vegetables also contain decent amounts of folate, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper and vitamins K and C. A number of animal studies have shown that alfalfa sprouts can lower cholesterol levels. This was thought to be due to their high saponin content.
Spinach is one of the most nutritious leafy greens you can eat. Its protein content is 30% of its calories and it contains all essential amino acids. A 100 gram serving provides 3 grams of protein and 181% of the RDI for vitamin K. It also contains high levels of folate, manganese, magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin C. In addition to its high protein content, spinach contains plant substances, that increase the body's antioxidant defenses and reduce inflammation. In one study, 20 athletes who took spinach supplements for 14 days showed reduced oxidative stress and less muscle damage.
Broccoli is a very healthy vegetable that also happens to have a high protein content. 100 grams of raw, chopped broccoli can provide 3 grams of protein including all essential amino acids. It also contains plenty of folate, manganese, potassium, phosphorus and vitamins C and K. For all these nutrients, one serving of broccoli contains only 34 calories. Broccoli can be eaten raw or cooked. Whether steamed, fried, baked or seared, you can use it for delicious side dishes, soups and sauces.
Broccoli also contains large amounts of plant substances and flavonoids, such as kaempferol. These have an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect. Like all other cruciferous vegetables, broccoli is high in glucosinolates, compounds that can help lower the risk of cancer.
Chinese cabbage or bok choy
Chinese cabbage, also called Napa cabbage and Bok Choy, is a good source of vegetable protein: 70 grams of cooked Bok Choy contains over 1 gram of protein. It is also an excellent source of folate, calcium, potassium, manganese, iron and vitamins A, C and K. As with broccoli, Bok Choy cannot cover all of your daily protein needs. But this green leafy vegetable gives every dish a protein boost, with practically no calories and fat. Bok Choy is used in many Asian recipes, e.g. in pan dishes, kimchi, soups and spring rolls. The entire stem is edible, either raw in salads or cooked.
Artichokes contain 3.3 grams of protein per 100 grams and only 22 calories. They are particularly rich in folic acid and vitamins C and K and provide important minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and iron.
A medium-sized artichoke contains a whopping 6 grams of fiber – that's a quarter of the recommended daily amount. As a special feature, the artichoke contains the carbohydrate inulin, which is classified as prebiotic. Inulin stimulates the intestinal flora and has a positive effect on the digestive system.
Brussels sprouts as a protein-rich vegetable
Brussels sprouts can be a great addition to your low carb diet. It is a good source of protein, fiber and vitamins. 100 grams contain 3.4 grams of protein and up to 3.3 grams of fiber. Brussels sprouts are also rich in folate, manganese, magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium and the vitamins K, C, A and B6. An animal study showed that Brussels sprouts can promote the growth and health of intestinal bacteria and stimulate the production of short-chain fatty acids in the intestine. Brussels sprouts are usually boiled, steamed, grilled or fried.
Like broccoli, cauliflower is a protein-rich vegetable. 100 grams of cauliflower contain 2 grams of protein and 25 calories. It is also a great source of vitamins C and K and minerals like potassium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium and iron.
Cauliflower also contains a high percentage of a special glucosinolate compound called sinigrin. It is said to have anti-cancer, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Cauliflower's glucosinolate content can drop significantly when cooking. Therefore, cauliflower is better eaten raw.
However, cauliflower also has a high level of other antioxidants that can be preserved during cooking and can even increase after the cauliflower has been steamed or fried in the microwave. Cauliflower is a versatile vegetable that is part of many recipes. Most often it will be used as a replacement for starchy carbohydrates.
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