It’s become more and more evident that a diet based mainly on plants is a healthy one.
That’s why many people have adopted a plant-based diet, consuming more vegetables than meat. Of course vegetarians and vegans restrict their consumption of meat or animal products even further, for reasons of health as well as moral and ethical convictions.
Either way, if you’ve reduced your intake of meat, you must find alternate sources of protein. Eggs and dairy products are good protein-rich options. But what if you’re a vegan and eat only plant-based foods?
Fortunately, if you choose your vegetables well, you will enjoy plentiful protein, and avoid the insidious effects of protein deficiency than many people are not aware of…
What happens when you lack protein
When a body is protein-deficient, it ages more quickly.
Mayo Clinic cancer biologist Jan van Deursen stumbled on this fact while doing cancer research. He wanted to find out what role chromosome numbers had in causing cancer. To do so, he engineered mice to produce less BubR1, a protein that helps chromosomes divide.
To his surprise, the mice did not develop cancer. Instead, they began aging rapidly, four to five times faster than mice in the control group. What’s more, this seemed to echo a rare condition in humans where a mutation of the BubR1 gene caused people to age prematurely.
The irony of aging and protein
As our bodies age, they naturally produce less of their own protein, leaving our diet to pull more of the weight.
For non-meat eaters, the result can be a protein deficiency that, ironically, resembles many of the symptoms we usually write off as signs of the aging process:
- Fatigue and sluggishness
- Trouble building muscle mass
- Muscle, bone and joint pain
- Pre-diabetic blood sugar changes
- Slow wound healing
- Low immunity
10 protein-rich vegetables
By selecting the right vegetables and consuming them in sufficient portions, you will get all the protein you need.
A cup of boiled soybeans contains 22g of protein, about as much as a 2-ounce serving of chicken. Dry-roasted soybeans, lightly salted, are a great snack, and have 37g of protein. Always choose non-GMO soybeans.
Tempeh is nothing more than fermented soybeans, sold in blocks similar to tofu, but protein-rich (tofu is made from soybean milk).
A 3-ounce tempeh ‘burger’ has about 19g of protein with none of the fat!
Rich in selenium, zinc, copper and magnesium, lentils are versatile enough to be eaten in soups, stews, in burger form, and in salads. Half a cup of cooked lentils has about 9 grams of protein.
4. Sugar snap peas
Protein isn’t the first thing you think of when it comes to a green vegetable, but delicious sugar snap peas are an exception. Stir-fry them with tofu, tempeh, onions and peppers for 5 grams of protein per cup.
A large baked potato has about 8 grams of protein. Just watch the butter and sour cream! Top your potato with vegetarian chili that includes beans and tempeh for even more protein.
6. Broccoli rabe
More closely related to the turnip than to broccoli, this well-known superfood has an ounce of protein per ounce of vegetable.
But that’s not all. It’s packed with vitamins and minerals that support the heart, protect eyesight, and improve digestion. A half cup of broccoli rabe has over 100% of the RDA of Vitamin K, essential for blood clotting and bone strength.
7. White mushrooms
A cup of cooked white mushrooms has 2-3 grams of protein. Enjoy them sautéed with garlic and onions, in omelets or salads.
An ear of corn can net you 2-3g of protein. The protein in corn is incomplete protein, meaning it’s lacking in a few amino acids. Not a problem! Just pair it with some lentils and brown rice for a protein-rich meal or side dish. Try to get yours at the farmer’s market.
The easiest way to prepare this unique vegetable is to boil it whole, sprinkle with salt and drizzle with olive oil. You’ll be getting around 3.5g of protein.
10. Brussels sprouts
Roasting Brussels sprouts with garlic, onions and olive oil softens the naturally bitter flavor that puts some people off. A half cup will give you about 2g of protein.
- Veggies That Pack in the Protein — WebMD
- Revved-Up Protein Fights Aging — Science
- Protein deficiency is cause for concern, especially in elderly — San Diego Union-Tribune