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8 Delicious High Protein Vegetables

Most people don't think of vegetables as a major source of protein, but you may be surprised to learn that many vegetables actually are quite high in protein—high enough that they can add significantly to your daily protein needs.

It's important to know which vegetables are high in protein if you follow a vegetarian or a vegan diet, since it can be tricky to make sure you get enough protein when you're vegetarian or vegan. But most people can benefit from adding high-protein vegetables to their diets, since these vegetables are highly nutritious as well as being high in protein.

Here's a guide to eight of the top high-protein vegetables, including their nutritional benefits and how to use them in recipes.


lentils on wooden spoons

There's a reason lentils top this list of high-protein vegetables: ounce for ounce, these tiny legumes contain more protein than virtually any other vegetable.

Lentils—whether they're in soups and stews, or used as an ingredient in salads and casseroles—contain 18 grams of protein per cup, which is more than one-third the protein you need in a day.

Purchase lentils dried or in cans in the vegetable aisle at the grocery store. If you use dried lentils, plan to soak them in the refrigerator for a few hours prior to cooking them.

There are so many delicious ways to use lentils that it's impossible to list them all. Try them in Indian lentil and potato stew, roasted in a shredded Brussels sprouts and lentil salad with carrots, bell peppers, and olives, and as part of an easy vegetarian entree in kale and lentil stuffed sweet potatoes. You also can use lentils as a dip for crackers (like hummus). Consider this anti-inflammatory lemon-herb lentil dip recipe.



Edamame used to be just a side dish you'd see most often in Asian restaurants, but no more: it's gone mainstream, and for good reason. The beans in these little green pods are protein powerhouses.

Half a cup of shelled edamame--about the amount in a typical serving--gets you a whopping 8 grams of protein. That's around 20 percent of your total protein needs for the day, which is pretty amazing for something you might consider as a side dish or an appetizer.

Dry roasted edamame, available in snack packs in a variety of different flavors, contains even more protein per serving. You can find plain edamame in the freezer section of your grocery store, either shelled or unshelled. Look for dry roasted edamame in the snack food aisle near the nuts.

There are plenty of great ways to use edamame. Ginger glazed edamame is a cut above plain steamed edamame (although plain edamame is delicious, too). Try pasta with prosciutto, edamame, and carrots, or create a healthy, spicy edamame dip. Fresh edamame mixed with walnuts, olives, and garlic makes a great snack. Alternatively, you can roast your own edamame as a snack food.



Asparagus, delicious green sprouts that are among the first vegetables to appear in farmers' markets each spring, probably contains a lot more protein than you realize, along with lots of other nutrients.

Just 10 spears of asparagus give you 4 grams of protein. You might even find it hard to only eat 10 spears of asparagus, especially if it's fresh from the farm—they're that delicious!

The fresher the asparagus, the better it tastes, so you'll find it in the produce section of your favorite supermarket. Look for asparagus that's standing tall with no limpness in the stalk and no deterioration around the tips.

The simplest way to serve this versatile vegetable is as roasted or grilled asparagus, and you can vary this theme by trying Asian-inspired roasted asparagus. If you're feeling more adventurous, stir-fried asparagus with bell peppers and cashew nuts makes a delicious vegetarian entree, and mozzarella chicken asparagus rolls creates a quick, easy-to-cook meal with just seven ingredients (not to mention a hefty dose of protein, too).



It's easy to be intimidated by beets: they're grubby bulbous roots that are difficult to envision as part of a meal. But once you get to know beets, you'll love how they add beautiful color and a terrific, sweet-tangy taste to your dishes.

Beets also contain some protein: one cup of raw sliced beets contains 2.2 grams of protein. That's not a huge amount of protein, but it adds up when you combine beets with other high-protein vegetables, and it can help you meet your daily protein requirements.

What's more, beets contain only a tiny amount of fat (in the form of healthy polyunsaturated fat).

You can buy beets either canned (which generally come sliced) or fresh. Be aware that many brands of canned beets contain added salt, so you may want to look specifically for no-salt-added varieties. Still, don't be intimidated by fresh beets, since peeling them is easy. Look for firm purple or golden beets in the produce section.

Beets are delicious in salads, such as this roasted beet and feta salad, and in traditional Russian-style red beet borscht. You also can use them to make this beautiful red-purple beet hummus (which, of course, has plenty of added protein from the chickpeas, along with the beets). Also, try juicing them (this easy beet, carrot, and apple juice is one great juicing recipe).


potatoes on barbecue grill

Most people think of potatoes as being high in carbohydrates, which they are. But potatoes also contain a significant amount of protein that actually helps to balance out those carbs.

Just one medium-sized potato gives you 4 grams of protein. So if you eat a large stuffed potato or a fair-sized serving of mashed or sauteed potatoes, you're actually getting plenty of protein.

You'll find potatoes many places in the grocery store, ranging from boiled potatoes in the canned vegetable aisle to ready-to-heat mashed potatoes near the milk. But the best way to buy potatoes is fresh: look for Russet potatoes, red potatoes, white potatoes, and even purple potatoes (which are a gorgeous color and actually contain much more protein than regular potatoes—some have 6 grams of protein per purple spud).

Oven-roasted potatoes are about as easy a recipe to make as you can find, but there are so many other great ways to prepare potatoes. This crispy Hasselback potato with simple guacamole is a healthier way to assuage any craving for fries, and an anti-inflammatory kale and potato hash with fried egg and tomato will provide you with 18 grams of protein (kale also is a high-protein vegetable).



It's hard to eat healthy without including broccoli in your diet. But while you're probably familiar with broccoli's various nutritional benefits (those green stalks are bursting with critical vitamins and nutrients), you might not be aware that it's also a relatively high-protein vegetable.

One cup of raw broccoli contains 2.5 grams of protein and only 31 calories, and one cup of steamed broccoli contains nearly twice that amount: more than 4 grams of protein.

While 4 grams is only a fraction of the protein you need each day, you can't discount it, since there are so many other potential health benefits to eating plenty of broccoli. Broccoli also contains practically no fat and is high in fiber.

Research has shown that a diet high in broccoli may help to reduce your risk of certain cancers including breast cancer, prostate cancer, and lung cancer. Look for firm, bright green broccoli in the produce section, or purchase frozen broccoli spears.

There are so many ways to use broccoli that it's impossible to list them all. Use it in an Asian broccoli stir-fry (a quick vegetable dish with 4 grams of protein per serving), or alternatively, this healthier (and gluten-free) Chinese-style beef and broccoli. Also, consider trying broccoli and cheese stuffed baked potatoes (those two high-protein vegetables, plus a bit of low-fat cheese, give this dish 6 grams of protein per serving).

Bok Choy

bok choy

Bok choy is a close relative of broccoli and cabbage, but it has a lighter taste that some people prefer. It's found most often in Chinese and other Asian cuisines, so you may have eaten bok choy without even realizing it as part of a Chinese stir-fry.

Like broccoli, bok choy is extremely nutritious, with plenty of fiber, vitamin C, folate, calcium, vitamin B-6, and beta carotene in every stalk. Similar to broccoli, bok choy contains a significant amount of protein: one cup of cooked bok choy has around 2 grams of protein.

As with broccoli, you can't meet all your daily protein needs with bok choy. But this leafy green vegetable provides an undeniable protein boost to any dish, with practically no calories and no fat.

You can find fresh bok choy in most larger supermarkets, especially those that feature good produce sections. Look for tight stalks with fresh, unwilted tops. You'll find that the entire stalk (minus the very bottom) is edible, either raw in salads or cooked.

There are plenty of healthy and easy ways to prepare bok choy. Use bok choy in any dish that might feature broccoli or other green vegetables, such as bok choy and oyster mushroom stir-fry or ginger chicken with baby bok choy (a protein powerhouse with 25 grams per serving). It's also a popular addition to a raw food diet, where it can be an easy way to add a little extra protein.

Green Peas

fresh green peas in bowl

Green peas are tiny, but peas pack an outsized amount of vitamins and nutrients, including vitamin C, thiamin, and folate. They're also one of the most versatile vegetables around, since you can add fresh or frozen peas to almost any dish.

Since green peas are a legume, they're also pretty high in protein. One-half cup of frozen, cooked green peas contains 2.8 grams of protein plus 4.4 grams of dietary fiber. If you make a habit of adding peas to any vegetable dish, that will add up fast.

Although it's possible to purchase fresh peas at farm markets and in the grocery store (peas grow quickly and are one of the first vegetables available in late spring), most people buy frozen peas, which are easy to store and defrost quickly.

Green peas can add protein and nutrition to almost any dish. For example, try this easy lemon mint pea dip made with Greek yogurt. You also can use them in salads, like in this spring vegetable quinoa salad (with 10 grams of protein per serving). Finally, peas add color and protein to main dishes, such as creamy spring vegetable risotto.


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