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10 Highest Protein Vegetables (From a Nutritionist)

Michael Garrico
Published by Michael Garrico
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: February 17, 2022

Vegans can obtain adequate amounts of protein by consuming various plant-based sources of complete and incomplete proteins.

As a fitness instructor, I worked with many vegan bodybuilders and researched which vegetables they should consume to maintain a vegan diet while meeting protein requirements.

Suppose you're a vegan looking to increase your protein intake. In that case, this article will tell you what vegetables contain protein and which vegetables you should consider eating to get the most protein.

Quick Summary

  • Some vegetables have as much as 18 grams of protein per cup.
  • The best plant-based proteins for muscle building are high in protein content, low in calories, and contain vitamins, minerals, and all of the amino acids required by the body.
  • Vegans who want to build muscle can combine complementary protein-rich vegetables like legumes, soybeans, and green leafy vegetables.

10 High-Protein Vegetables to Include in Your Diet

vegetables in a bag

Not all plant-based protein sources contain nine essential amino acids. Knowing which vegetables contain complete proteins allows you to make good choices about which vegetables to include in your diet.

The following list contains complete and incomplete plant-based protein sources and their protein and calorie content.

1. Edamame

Protein per 100 grams (cooked): 11 grams

Edamame, or cooked soybeans, is a tasty, nutritious snack high in fiber, vitamin K, and antioxidant compounds, which help reduce high blood lipid levels [1].

It has a high-calorie count of 122 and has a more significant amount of protein compared to most vegetables on the list.

Edamame is excellent in soups, stir-fried vegetable dishes, and pureed to create a dip.

2. Lima Beans

Protein per 100 grams (boiled): 8 grams

Lima beans are high in iron and potassium and are a good source of protein fibers.

Despite being incomplete proteins like pinto beans, both are popular with athletes for their branched-chain amino acids valine, leucine, and isoleucine, which promote muscle growth [2].

Lima beans have 115 calories and can be used as a side dish or season to soups.

3. Soybean Sprouts

close up image of soybean sprouts

Protein per 100 grams: 3.04 grams

Soybean sprouts are high in vitamins A, C, and K, which help increase the body's antioxidant defense.

Additionally, they are high in fiber, which can help you lose weight, and their complete protein content can help you build and repair muscle tissue [3].

Soybean sprouts are very low in calories at 30 and make a great addition to Korean dishes and stir-fries, soups, and vegetables to add crunch.

4. Green Peas

Protein per 100 grams: 5 grams

Green peas contain minerals beneficial for the heart, such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium [4].

In either fresh or frozen form, this incomplete protein can help reduce inflammation and blood pressure, reducing the risk of chronic diseases.

With only 81 calories per 100-gram serving, you can serve them alongside seafood or other high-protein foods like cheeses and poultry or as a grain dish.

5. Quinoa

quinoa seeds in a bowl

Protein per 100 grams (cooked):  4.4 grams

Quinoa is one of the most nutritious plant-based foods that offer many health benefits, such as improving blood sugar and cholesterol levels [5].

Unlike most vegetables, quinoa is a complete protein rich in dietary fiber, zinc, magnesium, and antioxidants.

Quinoa contains 120 calories and is ideal for breakfast porridges and salads. It also makes an excellent side dish for almost any meal.

6. Spinach

Protein per 100 grams (cooked): 2.88 grams

Spinach is considered a complete plant-based protein that can help maintain bone health [6]. Calorie-wise, it is low at 40, high in calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium.

"Eating spinach is beneficial for maintaining healthy skin, hair, and strong bones, as well as helping with digestion, lowering the risk for heart disease and improving blood glucose control in diabetics." - Megan Ware, a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Orlando, Florida

Consuming cooked spinach rather than raw spinach will help you better absorb its calcium and iron content [7].

7. Asparagus

stack of asparagus in a container

Protein per 100 grams (cooked): 2.33 grams

Asparagus is considered an incomplete protein, but it is still a good, low-calorie protein source that can help you keep a healthy weight since it only contains 39 calories.

It contains a significant amount of inulin, a prebiotic fiber that contributes to the growth of friendly intestinal bacteria [8].

When combined with a large amount of stone fruit, it makes a delicious fruit salad.

8. Mustard Greens

Protein per 100 grams (boiled): 2.6 grams

Mustard greens only have 26 calories and are considered an incomplete protein source. However, they have high levels of vitamin E, C, K, and B and phenolic compounds, which give them antioxidant properties.

A test-tube study demonstrated that steaming mustard greens increase their ability to bind to bile acids, thereby lowering cholesterol levels [9].

Chopped mustard greens can be steamed, boiled, sautéed, or eat them raw to enjoy the distinct mustard flavor.

9. Brussels Sprouts

brussel sprouts

Protein per 100 grams (cooked): 2.47 grams

Eating one cup of cooked Brussels sprouts provides more than the daily recommended vitamin C and K requirements.

They are an incomplete protein source high in phenolic compounds [10], which have anti-inflammatory properties and treat liver cancer.

With only 55 calories, brussels sprouts can be delicious when topped with shaved lettuce or mayonnaise.

10. Broccoli

Protein per 100 grams (cooked): 2.8 grams

Broccoli is a low-calorie protein source (34 calories) and an incomplete protein, but it is high in essential nutrients such as iron, calcium, selenium, and B vitamins.

Research suggests that people who eat cruciferous vegetables, such as steamed broccoli may reduce their risk of developing prostate cancer, breast cancer, and lung cancer [11].

When it comes to cooking and preparing it, the possibilities are nearly endless.

What Are the Best High-Protein Vegetables for Bodybuilding?

The best vegan high-protein vegetables contain all nine amino acids that the body cannot produce [12].

Bean sprouts, spinach, and quinoa are some of the complete plant-based protein sources on the list.

Overall, I recommend that vegan athletes and bodybuilders consume various vegetables such as leafy greens, sprouts, and whole grains to ensure an adequate balance of all amino acids required for muscle growth.

These plant-based foods are high in nutritional value and low in caloric density, making them an excellent addition to any athlete's diet, regardless of their energy needs.


References:

  1. https://www.healthline.com/
  2. https://fitaudit.com/food/
  3. https://integrisok.com/resources/
  4. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/
  5. https://www.healthline.com/health
  6. https://www.spineuniverse.com/
  7. https://www.consumerreports.org/
  8. https://www.healthline.com/
  9. https://www.sciencedirect.com/
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/
  11. https://www.webmd.com/cancer/
  12. https://www.healthline.com/

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