Now I have mentioned this before, and I don't mean to be repetitive, but humans need protein to grow and flourish! It is an essential macronutrient, along with carbohydrates and fats, your body needs for overall health and to function properly. And if your main goal is to build muscle, protein is a MUST! But what about vegetarians and vegans, how are they supposed to build muscle and get in their protein? If there’s one thing that most vegetarians hate, it’s this question and having someone talk about their dietary system like it’s a problem that needs to be solved. So let’s get this out of the way: Vegetarians can build muscle and strength just like meat-eaters. Meat doesn't have to be the only protein-rich item in your diet. Believe it or not, there are vegetables out there that can be part of a protein-fueled meal on their own, and not just because they're paired with a steak or chicken breast. So if you are vegetarian or vegan and want to build some muscle (or just live a healthier lifestyle), don't worry I got your back! Here are eight vegetables that provide the most protein bang for your buck.
#1 Soybeans: Soybeans have more protein than any other bean variety. Cooked soybeans have about 28 grams per cup, roughly the amount of protein that can be found in a 4 ounce chicken breast. More importantly, soybeans are one of only two complete plant proteins, the other one being quinoa. A serving of soybeans also contains 17 grams of carbs and 15 grams of fats, 58 percent of which are essential fatty acids. The insoluble fiber in these beans promotes digestive health, while the unsaturated fat promotes cardiovascular health.
Soybeans Protein content: 28.6 g per cup (boiled)
#2 Edamame: Edamame are immature soybeans that are typically either boiled or steamed in the pod. They contain 22 grams of protein per cup. They are typically used more as a side dish, so pair them up with your main protein dish, and you'll be well on your way to the recommended 30 grams of protein per meal.
Edamame Protein content: 16.9 g per cup (cooked)
#3 Lentils: From garbanzo to pinto, beans are an excellent source of plant-based protein. When it comes to legumes, lentils are among the winners. They contain about 18 grams of protein per cup when cooked, and at 230 calories per serving, they're great for anyone watching their calorie intake. Lentils are also a great source of dietary fiber and contain a high amount of the micronutrients folate, thiamin, phosphorus, and iron. Toss them into a cold salad, use them in a soup, or even mold them into a protein-packed veggie patty.
Lentils Protein content: 17.9 g per cup (boiled)
#4 Broccoli: Broccoli is often thought of as just a side dish, typically with chicken or beef, however, one cup of chopped broccoli has 2.6 grams of protein all on its own. And unlike your standard animal-based protein, a cup of these green florets also packs over 100 percent of your daily need for vitamins C and K.Broccoli is also a good source of folate, another important vitamin that has been shown to decrease the risk of certain types of cancer.
Broccoli Protein content: 2.6 grams per cup
#5 Green Peas: Whether you like them whole, mashed or in soup form, green peas are great source of protein! Peas contain just under 9 grams of protein per cup. They're also a good source of vitamin A, C, thiamin, phosphorous, and iron. Additionally, the generous amounts of B vitamins and folate found in peas can help reduce your risk for heart disease. Each serving also contains 5.5 grams of fiber.
Green Peas Protein content: 8.6 g per one cup
#6 Asparagus: Aside from being a diuretic, asparagus is considered protein-rich in the vegetable world. Just 100 grams of the green stuff contains 2.4 grams of protein. Asparagus is also the number one plant source of vitamin K, as well as a good source of potassium and antioxidants.
Asparagus Protein content: 2.4 grams of protein per 100 grams
#7 Pumpkin Seeds: If you are in a snacky mood, and need something to much on go for pumpkin seeds! Roasting them provides a good snack alternative to chips, and just one ounce provides more than 5 grams of protein, more than half of the protein found in an egg. In addition, diets rich in pumpkin seeds have been associated with lower levels of gastric, breast, lung, and colorectal cancer. Pumpkin seeds are also rich in antioxidants, which can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation.
Pumpkin Seeds Protein content: 5.2 grams per ounce (roasted)
#8 Mung Bean Sprouts: You'll often find mung bean sprouts in veggie stir fry or in a salad dish, and good thing to because mung bean sprouts are a great choice for some additional plant-based protein. One cup of cooked beans contains 2.5 grams of protein, and is packed with other nutrients such as lecithin, which may lower cholesterol, and zinc, a mineral that plays an important role in optimizing physical performance.
Mung Bean Sprouts Protein content: 2.5 grams per cup (cooked)
Bonus Protein Packed Veggie Sources: Dark Green Leafy Veggies like Spinach and Kale are full of antioxidants for overall health, but also have substantial amounts of plant protein as well, throw some quinoa, beans or greek yogurt with it, and you got one serious protein packed meal.