Anyone who’s vegan (or vegetarian, for that matter) has all-too-often been asked “Where do you get your protein?” While many people aren’t aware of how prolific these necessary dietary elements really are, the truth is, protein shows up in lots of stuff besides meat.
While protein is all over Kingdom Plantae, there are certain plants that serve as protein powerhouses, serving up more than you might expect. With that in mind, here are six amazing plant proteins worth adding to any diet:
This leafy green favorite isn’t just an amazing source of fiber, iron, calcium, vitamins A, C, K and B6, flavonoids, omega-3s and potassium, it’s also a winner in the protein department. At 2.9 grams of protein per cup, it’s a wise selection in the produce aisle. Steam it, boil it, saute it, puree it — pick your palate pleasure, and make kale a dinnertime staple. Other leafy greens like spinach, collards, swiss chard and their siblings are also all winners.
Who doesn’t love a tender, comforting sweet potato? These starchy sweet tubers are utterly delicious and great for your growing muscles. With 3.6 grams of protein per medium-sized potato, plus more than a day’s worth of vitamin A, fiber, potassium, beta-carotene and more, the more, the better. And don’t shave the skin off, it’s a nutritional powerhouse.
Hopefully, you’ve outgrown any youthful distaste for this cruciferous contender. Broccoli is awesome for lots of reasons, one of which is that it’s rich in protein (2.57 grams per cup), and free of fat (unlike some beef products we might mention). So remember what your mom told you, and eat that broccoli like your life depended on it.
These little green babies are pretty amazing. In addition to being 35% protein, they’re heavy on the phytochemicals that protect against cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis and other nasty illnesses. Plus they’re rich in a laundry list of vitamins and minerals. Other varieties of sprouts (broccoli, pea, lentil, mung bean and others) are fantastic, too. Basically, they’re an all-star addition to your diet.
This creamy, green star of game-day guacamole packs a whopping 4.02 grams of protein per fruit. Sometimes called “the world’s most perfect food,” we wouldn’t disagree. Avocados are awesome, and even go great in brownies.
With the rise in popularity of so many exotic, lesser-known vegetables in recent years, green peas are oft forgotten. But with their abundance of antioxidants, fiber and (drumroll please) protein, they’re worth adding back into your meal regime. One cup of these little cuties has eight grams of protein.
Lastly, while this list focused on a few of our favorite fresh veggies, beans and seeds are also amazing sources of plant-based protein.
And for those who miss that meaty taste, there are a whole host of fabulous companies making healthy, protein-packed substitutes that’ll cure your cravings. From plant-based veggie burgers to chicken patties to fishless filets, there are all kinds of options. Try Sweet Earth Natural Foods’ Santa Fe veggie burger, Gardein’s barbecue wings or Beyond Meat’s seasoned chicken-free strips. All of the protein, none of the animals.
The bottom line is, it’s easy to meet your nutritional needs while sticking to foods without faces. So eat up and enjoy!