When most of us think of protein, we picture a plate of chicken, hard-boiled eggs, a glass of milk, or a big ol’ tub of Gold Standard Whey. And though those are great sources of the nutrient, they’re not the only ones out there. In fact, tons of plant foods provide protein, too—and we’re not just talking about beans and blocks of tofu.
Even vegetables (hello, leafy greens!) pack some protein—and though it may not be as much as is in a steak, it can help move the needle on your overall intake. Here are the seven highest-protein vegetables you’ll find in the produce aisle.
4.9 grams protein per cup
Artichokes are a wonderful option for people who ‘don’t like vegetables,’ since they offer such a unique, savory, slightly lemon-y flavor. They’re also uniquely nutritious—high in fiber (an impressive seven grams), antioxidants, and vitamin K (which is crucial for blood clotting).
Dietitian Paige Bente, R.D., recommends steaming artichokes until tender, and then slicing them in half, brushing them with olive oil, sprinkling them with sea salt, and grilling them face down until the edges begin to brown.
2. Brussels Sprouts
3 grams protein per cup
In addition to protein, these cruciferous veggies also offer plenty of fiber (3.3 grams), which has been shown to help support the gut microbiome and promote overall intestinal health.
Bente loves roasting Brussels sprouts in the oven with a bit of olive oil, sea salt, pecans, and dried cranberries.
3 grams protein per cup
Whether sweet or white, potatoes offer a noteworthy dose of protein, in addition to 620 milligrams of potassium (that’s more than a banana!).
Toby Amidor, M.S., R.D., author of Smart Meal Prep for Beginners, recommends tossing sweet potatoes into omelets, chili, or stews, or mashing them for a delicious side.
2.9 grams protein per cup
This often-overlooked veggie is another surprising source of protein. Asparagus is also high in fiber and folate, a B vitamin that’s hugely important for heart health and pregnant women (because it supports healthy cell division).
Try steaming or grilling your asparagus until just tender, and serving it with a dipping sauce made of equal parts mayo and Dijon mustard, says Bente.
2.58 grams protein per 3 cups
Not only does spinach provide protein, but it’s also a good source of iron, which helps your red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs throughout your body. It also contains vitamin C, which is crucial for the growth, development and repair of your body’s tissues.
“Replace your usual salad greens with spinach for an extra dose of protein, or add a handful to your morning smoothie to incorporate a serving of vegetables into your breakfast,” suggests Bente.
Bonus: Cook spinach and you’ll score an impressive 5.3 grams per cup. (Thank you, incredible shrinking leaves!)
2.4 grams protein per cup
Like Brussels sprouts, broccoli is another cruciferous vegetable that contains a notable amount of protein and fiber. Research has linked vegetables like broccoli that are higher-fiber and lower-carb with lower blood sugar spikes after eating, supporting proper brain, heart, and digestive function, and overall good health.
To retain as many of its nutrients as possible, Bente suggests steaming broccoli instead of boiling it.
7. Alfalfa Sprouts
1.3 grams protein per cup
Often eaten raw atop salads and in sandwiches, alfalfa sprouts are yet another way to get more protein from your veggies. They’re also high in saponins, a type of plant compounds that have been shown to support healthy cholesterol, says Bente.
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