Whenever I talk with my friends about weight loss, healthy eating and muscle gain, the subject of protein comes to the table. And, as in every good company, especially one featuring females, there are people that simply do not like meat, and cannot eat meat. And they always ask, tell me a veggie that can give me protein, stop with the poultry, beef, and fish talk.
So, with that in mind, I owe it them, and to people around to tell you that there is a way to get enough protein without consuming a pound of meat. Behold, the vegetables high in protein.
As you know, soy and soy products are the vegetarian alternative for meat and meat products. Before you ask how can soybeans replace meat, let’s go to the facts. One cup of soybeans, cooked, contains roughly 28 grams of protein, which is almost the same amount you get from one serving of chicken breasts. Soybeans are a plant protein, and one of the only two complete plant rich in proteins. The other? Quinoa seeds but we will get to them later.
The benefit of consuming soybeans goes beyond protein, as they are low in calories (just 17 grams of carbs per cup and 15 grams of fat). Another benefit is soybeans contain fatty acids, all of which are essential to our overall health and wellbeing. So, don’t be afraid from the fat in the soybeans, as you will need them.
Now, let’s get something straight. I know quinoa seeds are considered grains, but they are technically a seed, and they come from a plant. So, they can constitute as vegetable source for protein. Quinoa seeds might not be as potent as other vegetables high in protein, but they do come packed with all the amino acids that our body needs for overall health, growth of muscles and rejuvenation.
One cup of quinoa seeds contain roughly 8 grams of protein, fewer than soybeans, but they are more versatile. Quinoa can be added to salads, oatmeal breakfast, cereals, soup, stew, vegetarian chili and much more. My personal favorite is salad, as they can be mixed with some vinegar and olive oil for perfect dressing on the top of a leafy green salad.
Well, spinach might not be your best protein source, as the plant contains 1 gram of protein per 30 grams of spinach. However, as with some other vegetables high in protein, spinach can be added to almost anything. Protein is just the side bonus of consuming spinach, the main being getting tons of iron, potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C.
For years, spinach has been considered “super food”, and you can cook it on several ways. For example, one way is to add fresh spinach to a smoothie. Another way is to combine fresh and raw spinach with some arugula and lettuce for fresh leafy green salad. And last, but not least, cooked and steamed spinach is a great side dish.
The poster child for healthy food, broccoli is one of the vegetables that can be main dish, or side dish to your meal. It is up to you, but broccoli can be consumed with some other veggies, and serve as the source for protein. One cup of broccoli contains roughly 3 grams of protein, but you also get the full amount of vitamin C and vitamin K that your body needs to function properly.
My suggestion: steam some broccoli with carrots, potatoes, and zucchini for a great dish. Just a word of notice, carrots need the most time for steaming, so do not put all the veggies at once. If you want broccoli on itself, steam it, and then squeeze some lemon juice on top of it.
Arguably one of the best kitchen addition to any meal, peas come packing 9 grams of protein per cup and a healthy dose of vitamin C, vitamin A, iron, and phosphorus. Some small doses of vitamin B and folate acid can also be found in peas. And the best part about peas is because of their richness in fiber (5.5 grams per serving), they are great lunch menu option. Consuming peas for lunch will keep you full, but you can also add them to any veggie salad or pasta dish.
Another “super food” can be found on the list of vegetables high in protein. Kale contains roughly 4 grams of protein per one serving. With little to no calories, kale is a welcome addition to any salad or vegetable casserole. You can even add kale to a soup. But my favorite, and easiest way to add more kale for protein and other vitamins is a green smoothie.
I tend to mix kale, spinach, cucumber (for the water), and then some fruits like apple and kiwi.
Most children are not keen on Brussels sprouts, and they tend to carry that repulsiveness towards adulthood. I was one of those little girls that hated Brussels sprouts. But, luckily, once I got older, I discovered they are superstars in the nutritional value field, packing more than 2 grams of protein per cup, along with healthy doses of vitamin K and potassium.
Best way to consume Brussels sprouts, at least for me is by roasting them with some olive oil and sea salt.
If you want to get protein straight from the source, go nuts on edamame. They come directly from the soybean plant, and can be consumed as snack, or an appetizer before dinner. Take things up a notch, and add them to your pasta or salad dish for a healthy dinner. Packing more than 16 grams per cooked cup, edamame is one of the best vegetable sources for protein.
The green spears are an excellent source for protein, but they are also the No.1 plant when it comes to sourcing vitamin K. A cup of asparagus also comes with some antioxidants and potassium, but most importantly, roughly 3 grams of protein.
Asparagus is commonly used as an addition to the dinner plate, but you can also prepare stews or soups from the plant.
The poster child for protein source for vegetarians and fans of macrobiotic diet, mushrooms contain roughly 4 grams of protein per cup. You can roast, cook, steam, or even fry mushrooms. My recommendation is roasted mushrooms. Just place several mushrooms on a cooking paper (parchment or waxed), sprinkle some olive oil on top of them and enjoy a healthy dinner.