Top Ten High-Protein Vegetables

There is a misconception that you must eat animal products to get your protein. While meat and eggs are high in protein, people who do not consume these products — such as vegetarians and vegans — get their high protein from vegetables.

Broccoli is a high protein vegetable. (Image: Patricia Spencer / EyeEm/EyeEm/GettyImages)

Though vegetables are rich in carbohydrates, they also contain fat and protein. For example, spinach is known for being a nutrient-dense leafy green, but there's a surprisingly high amount of protein in spinach. There is a reason why Popeye the Sailor chugged cans of spinach to boost his strength.

1. Boiled or Steamed Broccoli

Broccoli is a cruciferous veggie than can be eaten raw or cooked. It is packed with vitamins and minerals, and there is quite a bit of protein in broccoli too.

According to the USDA, the amount of protein in broccoli is as follows:

  • 3.7 grams per 1 cup
  • 2.4 grams per 100 grams
  • 13.6 grams per 200-calorie serving

One cup of cooked broccoli also contains 5.1 grams of fiber and more than 100 percent of your daily value of Vitamin C and Vitamin K. These little trees are known as one of the healthiest vegetables due to their nutritional content and proven health benefits.

2. Baked Russet Potatoes

If your go-to meal is meat and potatoes, you're actually getting protein from both animal and plant sources. Many people love baked potatoes but do not know that they are classified as high-protein vegetables.

Per the USDA, baked russet potatoes contain the following amounts of protein:

  • 4.5 grams per 1 medium potato
  • 2.6 grams per 100 grams
  • 5.4 grams per 200-calorie serving

To get the most protein out of these spuds, do not peel them before eating. Potato skins contribute the protein content in potatoes, and eating potato skins even has health benefits.

3. Sweet Corn on the Cob

Corn or maize is a staple food in cultures throughout the world. Some people are allergic to corn, but those who are not can capitalize on corn's protein content.

The USDA reports that corn contains the following protein:

  • 3.5 grams per 1 medium ear
  • 3.4 grams per 100 grams
  • 7.1 grams per 200-calorie serving

For people who want to gain weight, corn may align with your goals. In a September 2015 study published in PLOS Medicine, researchers found that increased corn intake contributes to weight gain. Researchers contribute the correlation to the higher glycemic load (GL) in starchy vegetables like corn.

4. Boiled Green Peas

Frozen peas are not just for icing a bruised knee or black eye. Once you get around to cooking the bag of peas in the back of your freezer, you are one step closer to consuming more high-protein vegetables.

In fact, boiled green peas are packed with protein as confirmed by the USDA:

  • 8.6 grams per 1 cup
  • 5.4 grams per 100 grams
  • 12.8 grams per 200-calorie serving

Consuming veggies high in protein like green peas has the additional benefits of their high fiber, vitamin and mineral content. They also have health benefits. A November 2014 study published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism found that green peas may protect against cardiovascular disease, cancer and inflammation.

5. Cooked or Sauteed Spinach

The amount of protein in spinach can be shocking. Once you master the art of sauteing spinach, you can regularly consume this leafy green and other high-protein vegetables for an array of nutrients and benefits.

According to the USDA, the amount of protein in cooked spinach is as follows:

  • 5.3 grams per 1 cup
  • 3 grams per 100 grams
  • 25.8 grams per 200-calorie serving

If you want to increase your intake of veggies high in protein, consider spinach. Not only is it a good source of plant-based protein, it is also a heart-healthy food.

A small July 2015 study with 27 participants published in Clinical Nutrition Research found that spinach is high in nitrates, which protect against adverse cardiovascular events and elevated blood pressure. The study concluded that spinach consumption can manage blood pressure.

6. Cooked Green Asparagus

Cooked asparagus is one of many veggies high in protein. There are many ways to prepare asparagus, but some of the most common methods include roasting, sauteing and grilling.

The USDA reports that cooked green asparagus contains the following protein:

  • 4.3 grams per 1 cup
  • 2.4 grams per 100 grams
  • 21.8 grams per 200-calorie serving

Asparagus is also a good source of fiber and vitamin K. White asparagus may also be a contender, though green asparagus is slightly higher in protein.

7. Steamed Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts can be an intimidating green veggie for kids, but this high-protein vegetable makes for a healthy and tasty side dish when steamed.

Per the USDA, Brussels sprouts contain the following amounts of protein:

  • 4 grams per 1 cup
  • 2.6 grams per 100 grams
  • 14.2 grams per 200-calorie serving

In addition to being high-protein vegetables, Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of iron. One of the disadvantages of being vegan is the increased risk of iron deficiency. If you follow a plant-based diet, Brussels sprouts can help fill your daily iron requirement.

8. Grilled Portabella Mushrooms

While mushrooms are often grouped in the vegetable category, they are actually fungi. Like many other vegetables, mushrooms can be eaten cooked or raw. Their patty shape makes them a great alternative to beef or veggie burgers.

Grilled portabella mushrooms are packed with protein as confirmed by the USDA:

  • 4 grams per 1 cup
  • 3.3 grams per 100 grams
  • 22.6 grams per 200-calorie serving

9. Globe or French Artichokes

Grilled artichoke hearts are not just an appetizer — this plant joins the ranks as one of the veggies high in protein.

The USDA reports that the amount of protein in cooked artichokes is as follows:

  • 4.8 grams per 1 cup
  • 2.9 grams per 100 grams
  • 11.3 grams per 200-calorie serving
  • 3.5 grams per 1 medium artichoke

Artichokes are also a low-calorie and low-carbohydrate vegetable, though they are high in fiber. If your fitness goal is weight loss, artichokes can be consumed as a low-calorie source of protein.

10. Baked Sweet Potatoes

There is a reason why bodybuilders and professional athletes incorporate a lot of sweet potatoes into their diets — these are root veggies high in protein and other nutrients.

The high protein content in cooked sweet potatoes is confirmed by the USDA:

  • 4 grams per 1 cup
  • 2 grams per 100 grams
  • 4.5 grams per 200-calorie serving

Both orange and purple sweet potatoes are known for their health benefits and nutritional content. In a March 2018 study published in Scientific Reports, researchers found that purple sweet potatoes have potent antioxidant and prebiotic properties. They can impact gut health with their prebiotic-like activity and ability to inhibit harmful bacteria in the microbiome.

Eat More High-Protein Vegetables

You would not assume the high amount of protein in broccoli, green peas and other vegetables. However these are great examples of vegetables high in protein. Vegetables also have the added benefit of containing fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

These high-protein vegetables demonstrate that you do not need to eat animal products to get enough protein. Other sources of plant-based protein include legumes, grains, nuts, seeds and soy protein.

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