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11 High-Protein Vegetables That May Surprise You!

Vegetables Rich In Protein

Vegetables may not be the obvious choice when it comes to protein. But veggies like edamame, green leafy vegetables, potatoes, hubbard squash, and sweet corn have over 5 gm of protein per cup. Artichokes, asparagus, mushrooms, beets, and cruciferous vegetables have between 2.9 and 5 gm to the cup.

Protein is something any meat eater doesn’t have to give too much thought to, given the vast variety of animal proteins, from meats and poultry to seafood and exotic game meats, at their disposal. If you’re vegetarian, though, it can be more of a challenge – especially if you’re looking for high protein vegetables. But prepare to be surprised because we have a lineup of just what you need!

Protein Is The Building Block Of Your Tissues And Muscles

The case for protein is an easy one. After all, you need it for the very existence of your body. The protein you supply your body with is used to build tissue as well as muscle and maintain and preserve them, repairing worn or damaged tissue and muscle.1So, how much protein do you need? A rule of thumb that you could go by is to have 0.36 gm of protein per pound of your body weight. Which means if you weigh 140 pounds, you should have around 53 gm of protein every day.2 If you lead a very active lifestyle and lift weights or do a lot of resistance/strength training, you may need to take that number even higher. Your medical history and physical health may also influence just how much protein you need, but this is a broad guideline to keep in mind.3

Even if you are someone who eats meat, it doesn’t hurt to pay attention to your options across the aisle in the beans, legumes, or vegetable section in lieu of the more fatty, calorific meat alternatives. So here’s a look at fresh vegetables that you could consider having

1. Edamame

Edamame contains 18.46 gm of protein per cup.

For a vegetarian protein source that packs in a whopping 18.46 grams of protein per cup, turn to edamame. The tender green beans are not just delicious, they’re nutritious too! Get calcium, zinc, magnesium, and more from this popular Asian food.4 Serve them up simply steamed or roasted with seasoning to your liking. Or snap them open and use the beans inside in your pilafs or rice recipes, or even in dumplings, soups, and dips.

2. Green Peas

A cup of green peas has 8.24 gm of protein.

Green peas are another protein winner. A cup of cooked (from frozen) green peas has 8.24 grams of the nutrient so you can stock up on them for a reliable plant protein source.5By comparison, fresh green peas that have been boiled contain 8.58 gm of protein to the cup.6 Make yourself a delicious soup, serve them on the side of a meaty main, or make them the hero of a meal in a dish like pasta primavera or an Indian style peas curry.

3. Potato And Sweet Potato

A large russet potato baked with skin has 7.86 gm of protein.

Who doesn’t love a baked potato? If they haven’t been on your radar as a protein source, here’s some news. A large russet potato baked and eaten skin and all gives you an impressive 7.86 grams of protein.7 And though a large baked white potato contains a little less protein, the flesh and skin from one potato still give you a not-too-shabby 6.28 gm of protein.8

Boiled potatoes have about the same protein content if you prefer to cook them that way. Just remember to keep the skin on to avoid losing protein as well as vitamins and minerals from the skin.

If you’re looking for other spuds, baked sweet potatoes can be a wonderful nutrient-rich source of both carbs and protein. A cup of the flesh of a baked sweet potato, baked in skin, contains 4.02 grams of protein.9

Have your potatoes plain with pepper and salt cracked freshly over them or indulge in a guilty treat with some cheese, sour cream, or a pat of butter on top. Make a meal of the potato by dunking it in a bean and vegetable chili. Or use the flesh to make a lip-smackingly good side to a meat main.

4. Green Leafy Vegetables

A cup of spinach has 5.35 gm of protein.

As if you needed more reasons for reaching for those greens! That’s right, they’re also a great source of protein besides being loaded with nutrients like calcium, vitamin K, folate, iron, and carotenoids. So how do the various greens stack up? Leading the pack with 5.35 gm of protein to a cup-full is spinach.10 You can start your day off with spinach in your frittata or a healthy poached egg with wilted spinach. Or make it a part of a salad at lunch or a smoothie or soup for in-between hunger pangs. Spinach also works great as a healthy addition to any meal, tossed with some garlic or even livened up with some tomatoes.

What if spinach isn’t quite your favorite green? Well, you have plenty others to choose from. Collard greens have 5.15 grams of protein in a cup of boiled greens, beet greens have 3.7 gm to the cup, and kale has about 3.47 gm per cup.11 1213 All strong choices. It really just comes down to taste and the kind of cooking you like to do. For instance, collard greens may work well with traditional Southern style cooking, while there’s an abundance of new-age recipes from salads to smoothies that incorporate kale. That said, you can experiment with these greens and might be surprised at how you can refresh an old recipe simply by swapping one green for another!

5. Sweet Corn

A cup of boiled yellow corn has 5.08 gm of protein.

This is one vegetable that’s a breeze to cook and hard to go wrong with. A real crowd pleaser, corn is heavenly just simply roasted till it develops a light char and eaten with some spice, butter, or lemon squeezed over. You could also just enjoy the sweet pops from the kernels that have been boiled ever so lightly. Or use them in recipes like salsas or Mexican taco fillings, or summery salads. In colder weather, a delicious corn chowder, with or without seafood, is deeply satisfying. So how much protein does corn really have? You can expect to get 5.08 gm from a cup of boiled yellow sweet corn.14

6. Hubbard Squash

A cup of the cooked Hubbard squash has 5.08 gm of protein.

While other squashes like the popular butternut squash contain a couple of grams of protein, the kind you need to look for is the Hubbard squash. A cup of the cooked squash has 5.08 gm of protein.15 Bake it till it is beautifully caramelized. Experiment with flavors like garlic and parsley or parmesan and brown butter. Saute it off with onions and garlic and some herbs for a scrumptious hash to go with your mains. Or make a squash soup, add squash to couscous, or even turn it into a spicy mash with some nutmeg or fennel powder.

7. Artichokes

There's 4.86 gm of protein in a cup of artichoke hearts.

Preparing artichokes is hard work, but it is well worth it! You’ll get 4.86 gm of protein from a cup of artichoke hearts (globe or french).16 Use the artichokes in a decadent cheesy dip or be good and pair it with kale and yogurt for a healthier spin. Artichokes are a delight in Italian antipasti like crostini or char-grilled and served with lemon. They also hold up well in risotto or on a pizza.

8. Asparagus

Asparagus has 4.32 gm per cup.

For a diminutive looking vegetable, the asparagus packs in a healthy dose of protein – 4.32 gm to the cup.17 Have your asparagus stripped down and just lightly roasted, grilled, or sauteed with some salt and pepper and oil. Or make a savory tart just because you love asparagus so much! An asparagus lemon risotto or asparagus and wild rice salad can be delicious too.

9. Cruciferous Vegetables

Cooked Brussels sprouts have 3.98 gm protein per cup.

Another smart choice for anyone looking for plant protein sources is cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage. Cooked Brussels sprouts have 3.98 gm per cup, broccoli has 3.72 gm per cup, cauliflower has 2.28 gm per cup, and cabbage has 1.9 gm per cup.18 192021 While they’re all great to grill or use in a stir-fry, you could also use cabbage in refreshing Asian slaw or traditional coleslaw, cauliflower to make cauliflower rice or in baked in cheese sauce, broccoli in soups and salads – the options are limitless!

10. Mushrooms

Most popular varieties of mushrooms contain 3–4 gm of protein per cup.

With the meatiness of mushrooms in your plate, you won’t even miss your animal protein. Most popular varieties contain between 3 and 4 gm of protein per cup of the cooked mushrooms. Because they have such distinct flavors, your recipe choices with mushrooms will depend on what kind of mushroom you have handy. Go Asian with broths and wok tossed recipes when you use Shiitake mushrooms. A cup of sliced Shiitake mushrooms that have been stir-fried contains 3.35 grams of protein.22 Regular white mushrooms contain 3.87 grams of the nutrient and work well sauteed with herbs, as stuffed mushrooms, or in pasta.23 If you enjoy portabella (portobello) mushrooms, grill or bake them for a hearty meal. You’ll get 3.97 gm of protein per cup.24

11. Beetroot

A cup of boiled sliced beetroot has 2.86 gm of protein.

A cup of boiled sliced beetroot has 2.86 gm of protein.25 Use it in beetroot hummus, put your spin on tzatziki by adding some beet to it, or whizz some beetroot up into a delicious earthy puree to go with your meals. Beetroot can even make muffins taste more moist and decadent than ever, so go ahead and try cooking with it – you may be pleasantly surprised!

If you’re looking for other non-animal, non-dairy sources of protein, there are other great vegetarian protein sources like legumes, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, and soy protein like tofu. But the next time you think vegetables are only good for carbs, sugar, vitamins and minerals, think again!

References   [ + ]

1. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010. U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
2, 3. How much protein do you need every day?. Harvard Health Publications.
4. Edamame, frozen, prepared. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.
5. Peas, green, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.
6. Peas, green, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.
7. Potatoes, Russet, flesh and skin, baked. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.
8. Potatoes, white, flesh and skin, baked. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.
9. Sweet potato, cooked, baked in skin, flesh, without salt. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.
10. Spinach, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.
11. Collards, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt.United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.
12. Beet greens, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.
13. Kale, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.
14. Corn, sweet, yellow, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt.United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.
15. Squash, winter, hubbard, baked, without salt. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.
16. Artichokes, (globe or french), cooked, boiled, drained, without salt. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.
17. Asparagus, cooked, boiled, drained.United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.
18. Brussels sprouts, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.
19. Broccoli, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.
20. Cauliflower, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.
21. Cabbage, cooked, boiled, drained, without salt. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.
22. Mushrooms, shiitake, stir-fried. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.
23. Mushrooms, white, stir-fried. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.
24. Mushrooms, portabella, grilled. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.
25. Beets, cooked, boiled, drained. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.