When you think of protein, you probably think of meat, fish, beans, and tofu. While these foods do boast the most protein per calories, vegetables do contain protein as well, some more than you may realize.
Finding an adequate amount of protein while following a vegetarian or vegan diet is important to overall health, or even for those just seeking to eat less meat. While beans, legumes, and nuts will be your best bet, adding more of these veggies in your diet can also help.
It is important to note that cooking can change the nutritional content, but that can vary by cooking method and the nutrient itself.
1. Romaine Lettuce
Protein per 100 g: 1.2 g
Romaine is high in antioxidants like vitamin A and C, which play a key role in helping to maintain many systems in the body. While traditionally used in salads, elevate the flavor by charring the leaves with a little bit of olive oil.
2. Sweet Potatoes
Protein per 100 g: 1.6 g
Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A, C, and B6, as well as manganese. In fact, the level of vitamin A in sweet potatoes compared to white potatoes due to the presence of beta-carotene is quite significant, making it a better choice for those with a vitamin A deficiency.
Protein per 100 g: 1.9 g (raw)
Raw cauliflower has a high content of vitamin C, and moderate levels of several B vitamins. Due to it being both low calorie and gluten-free, cauliflower has become a popular replacement for pizza crusts and mashed potatoes, in particular.
Protein per 100 g: 2.2 g
Like other green vegetables, asparagus is a good source of antioxidants, including vitamin E and C. These fibrous stalks are also an excellent source of vitamin K, which is important for bone health.
Protein per 100 g: 2.5 g (brown, Italian or Crimini, raw)
Mushrooms are a rich source of B vitamins, such as riboflavin, niacin, and zinc. Large portabella caps are a popular replacement for meat in sandwiches, and adding chopped mushrooms to meatballs and meatloafs can help up the flavor and nutritional value.
Protein per 100 g: 2.82 g (raw)
Raw broccoli contains high levels of vitamin C and K, as well as moderate levels of several B vitamins. While tasty cooked, try tossing broccoli with red onions, raisins, and sunflower seeds in a sauce of greek yogurt, sugar, and vinegar for a tasty salad.
Protein per 100 g: 2.81 g (boiled)
Health benefits of artichokes include a high level of folate and a moderate level of vitamin K, magnesium, and phosphorus. Most people are familiar with artichoke hearts that have been marinated and used in salads and dips, but the whole vegetable can be cooked and consumed.
Protein per 100 g: 2.9 g (raw)
Often considered a superfood, this leafy green is a rich source of vitamin A, C, and K, as well as magnesium, iron, and folate. In fact, a cooked serving of spinach contains more iron than a ground hamburger patty, yet it also contains high levels of oxalate, which can block the absorption of iron.
9. Brussel Sprouts
Protein per 100 g: 3.48 g
These nutritional powerhouses contain high levels of vitamin C and K, as well as moderate levels of B vitamins such as folate and vitamin B6. Brussel sprouts can be prepared a number of ways, but the flavors best shine when oven-roasted.
10. Mung Bean Sprouts
Protein per 100 g: 4 g
This veggie is typically found within Eastern and Southeastern Asian cuisine as that is where it is extensively cultivated. It’s abundant in vitamins A, B, C, and E. Similar in flavor to fresh green peas, mung bean sprouts are an excellent addition to stir frys or shine as a side dish all on its own.
Protein per 100 g: 4.3 g (raw); 1.9 g (cooked)
While still healthy when cooked, you’re going to get the most bang for your buck from raw kale. This leafy, slightly bitter green is a rich source of vitamin A, C, and B6, as well as folate and manganese. The thick leaves stand up well to hearty dressings, such as in a Caesar salad.
Protein per 100 g: 5.42 g (raw)
Peas, which are a type of legume, come in three varieties: garden or green peas, snow peas, and snap peas. All three types have a high concentration of vitamins, include vitamin A and C, as well as antioxidants and fiber. Try tossing peas in a fresh garden salad or mixing into casseroles or pasta for a burst of flavor and nutrition.