When it comes to protein, most of us tend to associate it with animal-based sources like meat, poultry, and dairy. However, the plant world has its fair share of protein-rich superheroes too – vegetables that pack a surprising healthy punch!
Whether you’re a vegetarian, vegan, or a meat-lover simply looking to increase your protein intake, veggies offer a diverse and delicious way to get it done.
“There are so many great options for working protein into your diet,” says Chef Jacqueline Keller, Culinary Operations Manager at Nino Salvaggio International Marketplace. “Plant protein comes with the benefits of being low fat and vitamin rich, plus they can help anyone get enough protein to build muscle. Just look at elephants and bison. They are some of the most powerful animals on the planet, and they’re herbivores – meaning they mostly just eat plants.”
So what are the best options? Here’s the top 10 protein-rich vegetables that are sure to become your new favorites:
Edamame (Young Soybeans): Edamame, commonly found in Asian cuisine, is a fantastic source of plant-based protein. Just half a cup of cooked edamame provides around 8.5 grams of protein. These vibrant green pods are also rich in fiber, iron, and various vitamins.
Spinach: Popeye’s favorite vegetable isn’t just great for boosting strength; it’s also an excellent source of protein. With about 5 grams of protein per cooked cup, spinach offers an array of other nutrients like iron, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin C.
Broccoli: This green cruciferous vegetable not only adds a delightful crunch to your meals but also contributes around 4 grams of protein per cooked cup. Alongside protein, broccoli is a nutritional powerhouse, providing vitamin C, vitamin K, and fiber.
Brussels Sprouts: Often overlooked, Brussels sprouts are packed with nutrition. With roughly 4 grams of protein per cooked cup, these miniature cabbages deliver vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support overall health.
Kale: Kale has gained immense popularity as a superfood, and rightfully so. One cooked cup of kale contains about 2.5 grams of protein, along with generous amounts of vitamins A, C, and K, and various beneficial phytochemicals.
Asparagus: This tasty and versatile veggie offers more than just a unique flavor. With approximately 4 grams of protein per cooked cup, asparagus also boasts essential nutrients like folate, vitamin C, and vitamin K.
Peas: Peas may be small, but they are protein-packed. One cooked cup provides around 9 grams of protein, making them a valuable addition to any meal. Peas are also rich in fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin A.
Artichokes: Artichokes not only make a delicious appetizer but also offer a surprising 4 grams of protein per cooked cup. Additionally, they contain fiber, antioxidants, and various minerals like potassium and magnesium.
Cauliflower: Cauliflower’s versatility makes it a popular choice for low-carb diets, but it’s also a good source of protein. One cooked cup contains about 2 grams of protein, along with vitamin C, vitamin K, and other nutrients.
Corn: Corn is more than just a summertime BBQ staple. One cooked cup provides approximately 5 grams of protein and offers a unique combination of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Nick is stocking up delicious sweet corn in Saint Clair Shores.
Incorporating Veggies into Your Diet:
Now that you’re armed with the knowledge of these protein-packed vegetables, it’s time to get creative in the kitchen. The first hurdle to get past is the common perception that veggies are just a bit boring.
“To those that think that, I would say they don’t know what they are missing,” says Chef Nick Apone, Director of Culinary Development at Nino Salvaggio’s. “They probably haven’t cooked them or seasoned them well enough, Vegetables are full of flavor and texture, depending on the cooking and preparation method they could be the best thing they will ever eat.”
Chef Jacqueline also had a strong opinion on whether or not vegetables are too boring: “Vegetables are only boring if you prepare them in boring ways! When cooked properly and seasoned well they can steal the show. It’s all in figuring out what to mix and match and how to use the vegetable as a vessel for any flavor your looking for.”
Try incorporating them into your daily meals and experiment with various recipes to savor their flavors fully. From colorful salads to hearty stir-fries and nutritious soups, the possibilities are endless. As a matter of fact, here’s some great recipes that Chef Nick recommends, some of which you can combine the best of both worlds – plants and meat:
And you prefer to be 100% vegan, here are some great choices from the BBC, HERE.
Remember, a well-balanced diet is about diversity, so don’t hesitate to mix and match these veggies with other protein sources like legumes, nuts, and seeds to ensure you’re meeting all your nutritional needs. Whether you’re following a plant-based diet or simply looking to boost your vegetable intake, these veggies are here to nourish and energize your body deliciously!