Vegetable Protein

Somewhere along the way vegetable protein got a bad reputation. This was one of the topics that I stumbled upon when I was learning how to be a vegetarian and was fascinated with nutrition. I did a double take! No way that cup of spinach I just ate has more than 5 grams of protein!

I had grown up believing that protein comes from animal products and there were other nutrients and vitamins that came from vegetables...but they were separate. I’m kind of ashamed to say it now, but I really had no idea vegetables and other plants not only had protein, but quite a bit of it.

I had also heard over and over again that plants can’t provide you with “complete proteins”. Not really understanding what that meant, I accepted it as a reason to not look towards plants for protein for far too long.

Well thankfully that time period is over so I want to dispel some myths here. Yes, many vegetables and fruits contain protein. Yes, sometimes you need to mix and match to get all the amino acids your body needs, (but what’s so bad about mixing and matching?) and yes you will not keel over and die if you start to rely on plants as your main source of protein.

This brings us to another pet peeve of mine: “Oh you’re a vegetarian looking for vegetable protein, here’s the tofu aisle.” I’m not a huge fan of that over-processed meat-like stuff made from soy, gluten, wheat and tons of other additives. Sure, occasionally I’ll use it in a recipe but for the most part I look towards whole foods to nourish my body. If I’m going to eat soy, I’ll opt for the organic edamame.

Here is a list of just some of the wonderful plant sources of vegetable protein:

  • Legumes:lentils: 18 g/ 1 cupblack beans: 15 g/ 1 cupkidney beans: 15 g/ 1 cuppinto beans: 15 g/ 1 cup
  • Green peas: 7 g/ 1 cup
  • Spinach: 5 g/ 1 cup cooked
  • Avocado: 4 g/ avocado
  • Swiss Chard: 3 g/ 1 cup cooked
  • Broccoli: 3 g/ 1 cup raw
  • Asparagus: 3 g/ 1 cup raw
  • Brussels Sprouts: 3 g/ 1 cup raw
  • Kale: 2.5 g/1 cup cookied
  • Cauliflower: 2 g/ 1 cup raw
  • Mushrooms (crimini): 2 g/ 5 oz. raw
  • Okra: 2 g/ 1 cup raw
  • Tomato: 2 g/ 1 cup raw

I tried to select some common vegetables and some that maybe you don’t eat so frequently to show you that there is a wide range of sources of plant and vegetable protein. Of course this list is not comprehensive, you can finds lots of wonderful proteins and essential fats in other veggies, nuts, seeds and even fruits.

So don’t limit yourself, just go out and eat all the colorful produce you can get your hands on, throw in some legumes and nuts and you’ll be able to survive just fine on a plant based diet without worrying about meeting your protein needs!

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