It’s a myth that vegans are protein deficient. These seven of the best plant-based protein sources are great for fulfilling your macronutrient requirements.
Eating a diet high in protein is essential for a healthy body. Among its many functions, protein is essential for building and repairing muscle. However, vegetables, which are an important part of a healthy diet, are not generally considered high-protein foods.
A common misconception is that it is difficult to get enough protein on a vegan diet. However, research shows that a well-planned vegan diet can provide all the essential nutrients, including protein.
A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that a well-planned vegan diet can meet or exceed all nutrient requirements, including protein. The study also found that vegan diets can in fact provide health benefits such as reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.
So apart from tofu, tempeh, and chickpeas, which are great plant protein sources, there are many high-protein vegetables that are worth incorporating into your diet. By doing so, you can increase your protein intake without relying on animal sources.
The general nutritional limit for most adults is 0.75 grams (g) of protein per kilogram (kg) of body weight daily (g/kg/d). Of course, pregnancy requires more protein intake, which must be increased by 6g per day, and in lactation by 8-11g, depending on the infant’s age.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adults should have 10-35% of their daily calories as protein (46g for females and 56g for males).
However, protein requirements also vary depending on an individual’s activity levels.
For instance, bodybuilders are recommended to consume 1.4-2 g/kg/d protein for building and maintaining muscle mass as per the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN). Additionally, the organization notes that individuals who have trained against resistance may benefit from eating higher protein intakes.
Having said that, all of these limits are easily attainable on a plant-based diet provided you choose the right vegetables to ensure that you are getting enough protein. Here are seven high-protein vegetables that you should consider incorporating into your diet:
Seven protein rich veggies to include in your daily diet
Edamame is a type of soybean that is commonly served as a snack or appetizer in Japanese cuisine. A 1/2 cup serving of edamame contains a whopping 11 grams of protein, making it an excellent plant-based protein source. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that consuming soy protein, like that found in edamame, may lower cholesterol levels.
Lentils are commonly used in soups and stews. One cup of cooked lentils contains a whopping 18 grams of protein. Lentils, which are a type of legumes, are also rich in antioxidants that can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases, according to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.
Peas are highly versatile and can be used in soups, stews, salads, and more. One cup of cooked peas contains 9 grams of protein. Peas are also rich in fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin K. A study published in the Journal of Food Science found that consuming peas may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Spinach is a leafy green vegetable that can be used in salads, smoothies, and more. One cup of cooked spinach contains 5 grams of protein. Spinach is also rich in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as iron and calcium. A study published in the Journal of Nutritional Science found that consuming spinach may help improve cardiovascular health.
Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that can be eaten raw or cooked. One cup of cooked broccoli contains 4 grams of protein. Broccoli is also rich in vitamins C and K, as well as fiber and antioxidants. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that consuming broccoli may help reduce the risk of cancer.
Brussels sprouts are a cruciferous vegetable that can be roasted, sautéed, or steamed. One cup of cooked Brussels sprouts contains 4 grams of protein. This vegetable is a great source of protein and is packed with fiber, vitamin C, and vitamin K. According to a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Brussels sprouts may reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
Asparagus is a high-protein, low-carb vegetable that can be eaten raw or cooked. One cup of cooked asparagus contains 4 grams of protein. It is also rich in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as fiber and antioxidants. The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reported that asparagus consumption may improve cognitive function.
There are many other plant sources, such as quinoa, water cress, alfalfa sprouts, and Chinese cabbage, that are equally great for getting your daily protein fix.
However, it is important to note that while vegetables are high in protein, they are often referred to as incomplete proteins, meaning that they lack one or more of the essential amino acids that our bodies need to function properly. However, by combining different plant-based proteins, such as whole grains, beans, and rice, or nuts, seeds, and peanut butter, you can create a complete protein that contains all of the essential amino acids.
According to the British Nutrition Foundation, if vegetarians and vegans combine plant proteins, there is no reason why the quality of the proteins cannot match that of a diet consisting of meat, milk, eggs, or other animal-based foods.
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