It’s the question that every new vegetarian hears from friends, family and coworkers: How will you get enough protein? Although vegetables are often written off as “rabbit food,” the truth is that a vegetarian diet doesn’t have to equal protein deficiency. Just ask the 6 million to 8 million Americans who eat no meat whatsoever, or the American Dietic Association, which says that “appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.”
With that being said, if you’re a vegetarian who regularly works out or is constantly on the go, you’re going to need to plan ahead to ensure you get enough quality protein in your daily diet. These 10 vegetables offer a host of health benefits, but for the purpose of this article, we’re going to focus on their ability to deliver plenty of protein.
Vegetables Protein- Soybeans
One cup of soybeans can deliver 28 grams of protein; that’s as much protein as a full 150 grams of chicken. Soybeans are also one of the few vegetables that are a complete protein, meaning they contain all 20 amino acids that comprise a protein. All animal-based proteins contain these amino acids, but soybeans are a valuable ally for those seeking to keep meat off their plates. These beans are everywhere, whether in tofu, tempeh or as immature, boiled beans in edamame. Cooked edamame might seem like a cheap appetizer, but the dish actually offer 16.9 grams of protein. Keep your eye out for organic versions of the soybean in all its forms; in the United States, soybeans are often genetically modified and treated with pesticides.
With only half a cup serving, lentils will leave you feeling full with 9 grams of protein. They’re also low in calories, high in fiber and incredibly versatile. Shape them into patties or eat them as the replacement for rice in a main dish. And try to mix them with these sides to ensure you’re getting all the essential amino acids.
There’s a reason why you’ve been seeing more pea protein on grocery shelves lately. Green peas are small but mighty, with one cup containing 8 grams of protein. Peas are delicious thrown into a stir fry or sprinkled on a salad. They’re also a common ingredient in homemade (and some store-bought) veggie patties.
While corn packs more than its fair share of protein (about 5.08 grams per cup of boiled yellow corn), this longtime barbeque staple is a noted incomplete protein. You can make up for the amino acids corn lacks by pairing it with a variety of other foods.
Potatoes often get labeled as the junk food of vegetables, but spuds actually contain 4 grams of protein per potato. As long as the toppings are in moderation and also healthy, your favorite baked potato can remain an easy, nutritious weeknight dinner. And if you’re worried about the carb count in potatoes, fear not: the veggie’s carbs are fast-digesting, making a baked potato an ideal post-workout meal.
If cooked properly, there’s no reason for Brussels sprouts to be the last vegetable left on anyone’s plate. Nothing tops Brussels sprouts roasted with a little olive oil or balsamic vinegar and salt. These delicious cruciferous vegetables contain 3 grams of protein per cup and are a perfect side to your meal.
The secret to unlocking this leafy green’s protein content lays in cooking it; while both a cup of raw spinach and cooked spinach contain 3 grams of protein, the cooked spinach has higher levels of vitamins A and E, fiber, zinc, thiamin, calcium and iron. While you can enjoy most of spinach’s benefits in an easy-to-make salad, you might actually benefit more if you enjoy a hot spinach dish.
A cup of broccoli will pack more than your day’s requirement of Vitamin C and K, as well as 2.6 grams of protein. This delicious source of protein is also fat free, meaning it’s a great base for your entree.
Mung bean sprouts
Few crunchy toppings can claim to contain the benefits mung bean sprouts do. One cup of cooked, unsalted mung bean sprouts holds 2.5 grams of protein, plus cholesterol-lowering lecithin and zinc. That’s a lot healthier than any crouton or salad topper.
Technically a fruit, avocados taste like Mother Nature’s butter. They’re ridiculously high in healthy fats, and half an avocado contains 2 grams of protein. An avocado can make for a filling smoothie that tastes more like a milkshake than anything healthy, or everyone’s favorite party dip: guacamole.
If you’re looking for more meat-free protein sources, check out our top protein powders list. Whey protein, for example, is meat-free and can help vegetarians supplement any protein gaps in their daily diet. It’s also one of the most effective protein types if you’re hitting the weights to build muscle.