Surprise – there’s protein in vegetables! From peas to kale, broccoli to artichokes, and spinach to Brussels sprouts, all of these green veggies pack a decent amount of protein in them. Mix and match these veggies to your heart’s content add them to your dishes for that much-appreciated boost of nutrients and flavor.
We’ve given a lot of thought as to what high protein vegetables are top of the crop and the additional benefits you’ll enjoy when you start eating them regularly. As a little bonus, we’ve also thrown in some tips on how to sneak even more into your diet.
The challenge when it comes to high-protein vegetable is that most veggies don’t contain more than five grams of protein per cup and aren’t absorbed as well as other protein sources. In addition to this, plant-based proteins are “incomplete” proteins, which means that they aren’t made up of all of the nine essential amino acids your body needs. That means that you’ll need to combine different sources of protein, to make sure to eat the rainbow when it comes to fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods for a balanced and varied diet!
If you’re curious about vegetarian and vegan sources of protein, be sure to check out our other articles. We delve deep into what beans and legumes are highest in protein, as well as grains and nuts that pack a protein punch.
High-protein vegetable list
Kale (1g per cup, raw)
We’re pretty sure you’ve heard about kale and its reputation as a superfood, and this is for good reasons. Aside from the pretty decent amount of protein it provides, kale is also high in fiber, and the incredibly powerful the antioxidant vitamin A. Vitamin A protects your eyes from age-related deterioration, can lower your risk of certain cancers and reduce acne breakouts. Aside from that, it plays a vital part in the maintenance of teeth, bone, and soft tissue.
Get more in: Swap kale into any dish where you would normally use spinach or roast it to make kale chips. If you want to enjoy it raw, try massaging your kale with a little lemon juice first. It may sound strange, but working the greens with your hands tenderizes the kale enough for you to eat without cooking.
Spinach (1g per cup, raw)
Spinach contains a copious amount of protein compared to other veggies. It was Popeye the Sailor Man’s favorite for a reason. Bursting with nutrients like zinc, phosphorus, vitamin B1 and choline, spinach is full of the good stuff. Zinc is especially important for the immune system to fight off viruses and bacteria, and choline which helps process fat and cholesterol. Plus, it’s well-known for being one of the best plant-based sources of iron.
Get more in: Spinach complements pretty much any meal, be it in an egg dish like omelettes or quiches. Top any pizza with it, add it to a lasagne, or blend it into smoothies, soups and even pancakes. Use it as a fresh salad green, or wilt it into a warm bowl of pasta.
Beets (3g per cup, cooked)
Like most other vegetables on this list, beet provides a good amount of fiber, on top of the protein it contains. Although they may not be at the top of our high-protein vegetables list, beets are a great fall and winter veg to add to your diet, as they carry large amounts of magnesium, iron and lots of other vitamins. Magnesium is vital in bone health, helps relieve anxiety, and relaxes muscles too, especially useful if you experience premenstrual syndrome.
Get more in: Beets are so beautiful and tasty that they make a great addition to most meals. Slice them finely and roast them into chips, or top your homemade tarts with them. You can also roast them alongside pumpkin and sprinkle with feta cheese and walnuts or seeds.
Asparagus (3g per cup, raw)
On top of asparagus’ protein content, it boasts other nutritional qualities as well as a subtle flavor that pairs well with almost any main protein or vegetable. Best eaten in the spring or summer months, asparagus is teeming with minerals like folate and chromium. We require folate in trace amounts, which improves insulin function and is directly involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
Get more in: Add a knob of butter and squeeze of lemon lift the asparagus’ flavor profile. You can also pair it with fresh fish, or try the traditional German approach and eat it with some boiled potatoes. Asparagus is a brilliant as part of a traybake, pasta dish and even chopped up in an omelette.
Brussels sprouts (4g per cup, cooked)
Brussels sprouts land a pretty good spot on our list as they add a pop of protein to any meal. But that’s not all the vegetable is capable of. A member of the cruciferous family, Brussels sprouts are praised for their preventive properties when it comes to heart disease and even cancer. This is due to sulfur-rich compounds which activate cancer-fighting enzymes in our bodies. Sprouts also help maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
Get more in: You may not have appreciated this veg in your childhood, but sprouts can be really yummy when prepared in the right way. Try roasting them with shallots, chestnuts or Balsamic vinegar until tender and golden. Or chop them up and add them to stir-fries or any mash. High protein vegetable or not, we’re sold!
Artichokes (4g per cup, cooked)
Artichoke is a veg that you probably wouldn’t think of just picking up on your weekly grocery shop. Though the veggie does require a bit of know-how when you prep it, your effort will pay of nutritionally. Not only does it holds a notable amount of protein, but this vegetable is also an excellent source of dietary fiber, folate and vitamins K and C. Yet the most surprising of its asset are its prebiotic properties. Artichokes contain a unique form of fiber called inulin, which is one of the most available types of prebiotics, the food that fuels healthy gut bacteria.
Get more in: Grill artichokes and eat them on their own or with a healthy homemade dip, or throw in some artichoke to a simple pasta dish with sun-dried tomatoes. You can also roast them with lemon and Italian herbs – make a big batch and refrigerate for the week ahead. Another delicious option is to top a homemade pizza with them.
Broccoli (4g per cup, chopped and cooked)
Broccoli is one of those high-protein vegetables that goes above and beyond the call of nutritional duty, delivering a good dose of protein while it’s at it. Though you’ll have to supplement it with other substantial sources of protein, broccoli has a lot more to offer — one of them being a full day’s supply of vitamin C, along with a good amount of vitamin K, fiber, and a whole lot of calcium and potassium. Calcium is key in bone health, while potassium plays an important role in balancing electrolytes and blood pressure.
Get more in: Roast broccoli in the oven with a bit of oil, garlic, chili and lemon juice for a foolproof addition to your meal. Otherwise, boil it and blend it into a soup with the same ingredients. It also tastes great combined with cauliflower and lightly sprinkled with a cheesy topping.
Peas (9g per cup, cooked)
Peas bring with them a significant amount of protein, offering 10% of your recommended daily value (based on a 2,o00-calorie diet). The high-protein vegetable also contains essential minerals like potassium and magnesium, which are both needed to carry out basic biological functions. On top of that, the vitamin C found in peas is quite impressive, filling your body’s daily requirement. Flavanols, powerful antioxidants in green peas, lend your system additional support with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Get more in: Traditionally peas are served up as a classic side vegetable to any meat or fish dish, but why not switch it up a bit and fill salads out with it, make a yummy green soup, or throw them into any type of rice dish or Indian-style curry. Peas are so versatile and go well with feta, mint, prosciutto and potatoes.
Seasonality keeps you healthy
Like we mentioned earlier, it’s important to get in as many different types of fruit and veg as you can, but more importantly, try to buy according to seasonal availability. Buying locally grown produce can help you discover what’s in season. It’s no coincidence that seasonal veg provides you with the right nutrients for that specific time of year. Fruit and veg are more nutrient-dense in season, and they act as natural remedies for the seasonal conditions. So, if you’ve bought a whole load of veg at your farmer’s market and are looking for high-protein vegetable recipe ideas, be sure to download the 8fit app for our extensive recipe library and curated meal plans!