26 August 2018

9 high-protein vegetables that will fill you up fast

You’ll be a lean, green, fighting machine.


Popeye is notorious for showing off his massive biceps. His secret? Spinach. But that isn’t your only ticket to the gun show.

According to Rosanne Rust, many vegetables provide you with two grams of protein per cup raw, or per half cup cooked. (So anything with two or more grams per serving can be considered a high-protein vegetable.)

It sounds underwhelming when you compare it to, say, the 31g of protein in a chicken breast. But the smaller amounts of protein in veggies can significantly contribute to your recommended daily intake if you aim for the recommended five to 10 servings a day.

However, there is a catch. “Plant proteins are ‘incomplete’ proteins, meaning they aren’t made up of all the essential amino acids,” Rust says. She says it’s important to make sure to “eat the rainbow” of veggies and grains to ensure you’re getting a variety of amino acids. (Translation: Don’t just eat tons of broccoli and call it a day.)

On your next supermarket run, scan the produce aisle for these lean, green muscle machines.

1. Peas

These literal pea-sized gems pack more than meets the eye. “Peas are loaded with vitamin A, a good source of potassium and fibre, and 4g of protein per half cup,” says Rust. “Steam them and toss them into pasta, rice or salads.”

Per 1/2-cup serving: 246kJ, 0.3g fat (0g saturated), 10g carbs, 4g sugar, 4mg sodium, 4g fibre, 4g protein

Read more: Here’s exactly how much protein you should be eating every day

2. Spinach

Loaded with vitamin C, folic acid and other B vitamins, spinach provides a substantial amount of protein when cooked, says Rust.

Per 1/2-cup serving: 87kJ, 0g fat (0g saturated), 3g carbs, 0g sugar, 63mg sodium, 2g fibre, 3g protein

3. Baked potato

You’ll throw praise-hands emojis up at Mother Nature for this one: A medium-sized baked potato contains 3g of protein, tons of vitamin C, potassium and some filling fibre, says Rust.

Per medium potato: 606kJ, 0g fat (0g saturated), 34g carbs, 3g sugar, 8mg sodium, 2g fibre, 3g protein

bowl of baked potatoes

Read more: 20 high-protein, low-carbohydrate foods everyone should be eating

4. Broccoli

Your parents were onto something when they forced you to eat your broccoli as a kid. Now, you’ll want it all on your own – Rust says this cruciferous veggie isn’t only packed with essential nutrients, fibre and protein, it’s also great for maintaining proper gut health.

Per 1-cup serving: 129kJ, 0.3g fat (0g saturated), 6g carbs, 2g sugar, 30mg sodium, 2g fibre, 3g protein

5. Brussels sprouts

These little green guys used to get a bad rap, but now they’re cropping up on gourmet menus everywhere. Like broccoli, Rust says these cruciferous veggies are a great source of potassium, vitamin A, vitamin K and fibre. Steal her simple sprout tip: Halve them, place them on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, add a pinch of salt and roast them for 25 to 35 minutes at 180 degrees, tossing once halfway through.

Per 1/2-cup serving: 117kJ, 4g fat (0g saturated), 6g carbs, 1g sugar, 16mg sodium, 2g fibre, 2g protein

bowl of brussel sprouts

Read more: 5 weird signs that you need to eat more protein

6. Broccoli rabe

Rust predicts this leafy green with broccoli-like buds (also known as “rapini”) will be the next “it” vegetable, and for good reason: It boasts a surprising amount of protein, vitamin A and vitamin K.

Per 85 g serving: 87kJ, 0g fat (0g saturated), 3g carbs, 1g sugar, 48mg sodium, 2  fibre, 3g protein

7. Corn

While field corn (fed to livestock animals) is considered a grain, the sweet corn we enjoy on the braai doused in butter is considered a vegetable, says Rust. And a surprisingly protein-loaded one, at that.

Per medium ear: 368kJ, 1.4g fat (0g saturated), 19g carbs, 6g sugar, 15mg sodium, 2g fibre, 3g protein

Corn on the cob

Read more: The big protein mistake you’re probably making

8. Portobello mushrooms

This fungi is packed with almost as much protein as an egg. Rust says it’s also high in fibre and loaded with antioxidants. “You can grill, chop and sauté them using olive oil and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar at the end of cooking. You can also add them to a vegetable skewer to boost the protein,” Rust says.

Per 1-cup serving: 146kJ, 1g fat (0g saturated), 5g carbs, 3g sugar, 13mg sodium, 2.7g fibre, 4g protein

9. Lima beans

The combination of high fibre and high protein make these legumes (in this case, a veggie, too, says Rust) a satiating nutrient-filled powerhouse. To make a healthy homemade dip, Rust says to cook them in boiling water for 10 minutes, drain and cool, then transfer to a food processor, adding a clove of garlic, a tablespoon of lemon juice, two teaspoons of cumin and pinch of salt. Blend until smooth and serve with raw veggies or pita chips.

Per 1/2-cup serving: 439kJ, 0g fat (0g saturated), 20g carbs, 1g sugar, 13mg sodium, 5g fibre, 6g protein

close up of lima beans

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Image credit: iStock


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