For most people, the protein (meat, chicken, fish, etc.) on their plate is the “hero” of the meal. It gives the meal flavor and taste, and provides the protein needed to build muscles. But don’t think that the meat is your only source of protein. The veggies on your plate can also provide an additional dose of amino acids.
However, it’s important to understand that while some vegetables do contain protein, most do not contain enough protein by themselves to be considered as a good source of high quality protein. Vegetable protein is considered to be incomplete, which means if you eat a diet based in vegetables you are probably not getting all of the essential amino acids your body needs to function.
This is why meat, chicken, eggs, cheese, and fish are all healthy choices for your complete, balanced diet. By adding these animal proteins to your meals, you ensure that you get all nine of the amino acids needed to produce new muscle tissue. The vegetable proteins just add a bit extra to your meals.
Since vegetables are a great source of nutrients with high levels fiber, vitamins, and minerals, it’s important to include them in your diet, just not as your main protein source. Vegetables are low in calories, meaning you can eat a lot of them without worrying about packing on the fat. They are the healthiest foods you can eat, provided you balance them out with other foods–specifically foods with healthy fats and protein.
Here is a chart that shows you of the amount of protein you get from your favorite vegetables (per every 100 grams):
As you can see, many veggies do contain some protein, but not as much as your body needs. However, there are a few other plant-based proteins you may want to add to your diet:
Edamame Beans — These Japanese beans aren’t just a delicious snack, but they’re also highly nutritious! They contain about 22 grams of protein per cup (of unshelled beans), so you definitely want to order them at your favorite sushi restaurant. They’re also an excellent source of dietary fiber, and they’re rich in antioxidants.
Mung Bean Sprouts — These delicious sprouts contain 2.5 grams of protein per cup, making them the perfect addition to any Asian stir fry or salad. They can even be used in place of noodles (for pasta meals), and you’ll find that they’re loaded with nutrients that are vital to your health and wellbeing.
Peas — Peas, like edamame beans, fall into the legume family, but most people consider them vegetables. They contain about 9 grams of protein per cup, making them an excellent addition to your regular meals. They also provide a hefty dose of Vitamins A and C, iron, phosphorus, and thiamine. Pregnant women will find that the folic acid in B vitamins in peas make them a healthy addition to the pregnancy diet.
Pumpkin Seeds — Don’t just eat the pumpkin flesh, but try the seeds as well! Roast the seeds and you’ll get over 5 grams of protein per ounce. Pumpkin seeds have been linked to lower incidences of cancer, and provide a hefty dose of both fiber and antioxidants. There’s even tryptophan to help you sleep better at night!
Try to incorporate your favorite vegetables into every meal! Not only are they a good source of important nutrients, but they’ll help to control your appetite. And remember to pair vegetables with high protein foods such as brown rice, poultry, or lentils for a great, healthy complete meal.