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Five Popular Vegetables with High Protein Content

Updated on November 13, 2020
beverley byer profile image

Beverley has a degree in Science and additional certifications in nutrition and aromatherapy. She's published on and offline.

Graphic rendition of proteins
Graphic rendition of proteins | Source

When most people think of a protein source, vegetables rarely come to mind. We tend to think meat, chicken, fish, eggs and dairy. But there are several vegetables with a high enough concentration of protein to rival some of those non-plant-based foods. A few examples: leafy greens, asparagus, legumes, peanuts, soy/ tofu. For vegans and vegetarians, of which I am the latter, this is excellent news!

Protein is called the “building block” because without it, we lack structure. A total of 20 amino acids form a variety of molecular and structural protein chains that make up our skeletal frame, muscles, blood, and skin (x), (x). Keratin and collagen are two examples of the types of protein in our bodies (x).

Protein also perform certain enzymatic and hormonal syntheses and functions. Without enough of this vital compound, we could suffer weakness, anemia, stunting, compromised immunity and more (x).

So, what are the five popular vegetables with high concentrations of protein? Asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and spinach.

Asparagus

There are three main varieties of asparagus: green, the American and British variety, which is familiar to most of us; purple, the French version and white, which the Dutch and the Spaniards claim. Ancient folk once considered asparagus an aphrodisiac. The Greeks, who discovered it some 2,500 years ago, used it as a cure for toothaches and bee stings (x).

The succulent shoots (called spears) of Asparagus officinalis, the perennial vegetable’s official botanical name, are harvested in the spring. It takes three good years for the first harvest to occur (x), (x).

Asparagus
Asparagus | Source

Nutrition and Health Benefits

According to a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website, one cup of asparagus, about 134 grams, has about 2.95 grams of protein (x).

The vegetable has other important nutrients, some in very high quantities: dietary fiber, vitamins A, B6, B9 or folate, C and K, minerals calcium, iron, selenium, zinc, magnesium and potassium, important antioxidant phytocompounds, including carotene, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin. (x).

Research imply that these compounds may help support or promote heart, digestive and immune health, lower the risk of type 2 diabetes and cancer, and slow the aging process (x). So, we’re not just getting protein benefits.

Preparation

How is asparagus prepared? The spears can be cooked in a number of delicious ways: grilled, steamed, broiled, pan-fried and more.

Fresh Asparagus Patties

Safety Concerns

Are there any side effects? Asparagus is generally safe to consume. But individuals can be allergic and show symptoms such as runny nose, rash, swelling and even breathing issues. Its sulfuric compounds may also cause urine to smell badly (x).

Broccoli

Did you know that the average American consumes roughly six pounds of broccoli annually? That statistic comes from the US Department of Agriculture (x). This superfood has been around since the sixth century. Italian in origin, its ancestor is thought to be a wild cabbage. The Italians called it “broccolo” because they saw it as the top flowers of cabbage. The British called it “Italian asparagus.” Broccoli’s scientific or botanical name is Brassica oleracea (x), (x).

There are three varieties of the Cruciferous family member. Most familiar to Americans is the Calabrese. Broccoli is best harvested when the shoots are young because they’re more tender (x), (x).

Broccoli
Broccoli | Source

Nutrition and Health Benefits

How protein-rich is broccoli? The US Food and Drug Administration chart on the Department of Agriculture website shows that one cup of raw broccoli has approximately 2. 57g (x).

As with other cruciferous vegetables, broccoli is also potent in dietary fiber, vitamins A, B9/ folate, C and K, choline, minerals calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and selenium, phytocompounds carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin (x).

Research conducted on these nutrients suggest that broccoli may also be helpful in preventing cancer, and inflammatory conditions, reducing cholesterol, promoting heart, digestive and vision health and detoxification (x).

Preparation

Broccoli can be steamed, boiled, sautéed, added to stir-fries or eaten raw in salads.

Roasted Broccoli with Garlic and Lemon Recipe

Safety Concerns

Broccoli’s most common side effects are bloating, gas and upset stomach (x).

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts is another member of the cruciferous family. During the end-of-year holiday season, these mini cabbage look-likes can be found on dinner tables across the country. An excellent thing, nutritious-wise!

Like cabbage, broccoli and Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts are native to the Mediterranean. The name was derived from its 16th century cultivation in Belgium. Brussels is the capitol city (x). Depending on variety, maturity can take six months to a year (x), (x).

Brussels sprouts
Brussels sprouts | Source

Nutrition and Health Benefits

One cup of Brussels sprouts has about 2.97 g of protein. That equates 5.0 % of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for adults (x), (x).

Other bountiful nutrients include dietary fiber, vitamins A, B9, C, K and E, choline, minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and selenium, phytocompounds carotene and the other xanthophylls (x).

Because of these nutrients, several research studies suggest that Brussels sprouts may prevent cancer and inflammatory issues, support heart health, good vision and strong immunity in addition to the protein benefits (x).

Preparation

Brussels sprouts are delicious roasted, steamed or sautéed.

Crispy Brussels Sprouts Two Ways: In Pan & Oven

Safety Concerns

Though generally safe to consume, Brussels sprouts side effects may include thyroid problems.

Cabbage

Cabbage is another Cruciferae family member and ancestor of the European wild cabbage. It receives top-ten billing in the vegetable most consumed by Americans, at least in 2014. And 45% of it is prepared as coleslaw (x).

Cabbages come in a variety of colors and species. Harvesting can occur from day 35 after planting to day 120, depending on species (x).

Cabbage
Cabbage | Source

Nutrition and Health Benefits

One cup of chopped cabbage contains 1.14g of protein.

Its other nutritional ingredients include healthy supplies of dietary fiber, vitamins A, B9, C, K and E, choline, minerals calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and selenium, phytocompounds carotene and the other xanthophylls (x).

Just as in broccoli and Brussels sprouts, these nutrients have the potential to provide us the same excellent health benefits, including strengthening our immune system (x).

Preparation

Besides coleslaw, cabbage can be sautéed, stir-fried, steamed, boiled and fermented as in sauerkraut.

Healthy Cabbage Fry Up For Sunday Dinner

Safety Concerns

Side effects of cabbage are similar to that of the other crucifers or Brassica oleracea, which this group of veggies are also called.

Spinach

The fifth common high protein vegetable is spinach. Its versatility lends itself as an ingredient in a wide range of global recipes. According to a Healthline website article, spinach, scientifically known as Spinacia oleracea, is indigenous to Persia/ Iran. Cultivation in the United States did not begin until 1806. Spinach is a member of the amaranth family. The grain quinoa is also a member (x).

There are three varieties of spinach: savoy, semi-savoy and flat or smoothed-leaved. The most common type grown in the US is the semi-savoy. Tender leaves are harvested no later than 45 days after planting (x), (x).

Spinach
Spinach | Source

Nutrition and Health Benefits

One cup of spinach has 0.85g of protein.

It’s also rich in vitamins A, B9, C and K, minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, and the antioxidant/ anti-inflammatory xanthophylls (x).

Research studies indicate that they may help lower blood pressure, support good vision and prevent cancer (x).

Preparation

Ways to prepare spinach include as a dip, in salads, soups, sandwiches, smoothies and mocktails.

3 Healthy Green Smoothies: Healthy Breakfast Ideas

Safety Concerns

Spinach contains compounds which can negatively affect the kidneys if too much of it is consumed. And the vitamin K may interfere with blood thinner medication (x).

Favorite High Protein Vegetable

Which is your favorite high protein vegetable?

See results

Bottom Line

Now that we know which of our popular vegetables contain a high protein content, we, especially vegans and vegetarians can rest assured that we may be getting the sufficient daily recommended amount. If not, we can adjust our diets to include them.

In addition to a strong skeletal and muscular framework, excellent blood and skin health, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and spinach may also provide us good heart, digestive and vision health, strong immune system, low blood pressure and more.

Note, though research studies show that the nutrients mentioned in these vegetables may have potential in aiding our health and wellbeing, there’s no medical evidence to support them curing, treating or preventing disease.

Comments

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    • beverley byer profile imageAUTHOR

      Beverley Byer 

      9 months ago from United States of America

      Happy to inform. Thank you for responding!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      9 months ago from The Caribbean

      Thanks for bringing these protein vegetables to our attention, also the consequences of neglecting our protein intake. I love these vegetables, but never considered them for that content. I've learned from your article. Thanks.

    • beverley byer profile imageAUTHOR

      Beverley Byer 

      9 months ago from United States of America

      Thanks, Ken!

    • Ken Burgess profile image

      Ken Burgess 

      9 months ago from Florida

      Good article, the best protein for you is green.

      And fish, good for omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and minerals.

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