A muscle building/fat shredding diet doesn’t have to revolve around chicken.
If you want to try something different from meat and fish and ghastly protein powders keep on reading.
So put that protein shaker down for 10 minutes and check out this list.
1) Wakame Seaweed
Wakame is a type of seaweed which has been cultivated in Japan and Korea for centuries. It’s low in calories and high in nutrients. 20 grams of Wakame contains only 10 calories.
Wakame has the lowest amount of protein on this list per 100 grams, but with that said only a small handful gives you 500% of your recommended daily allowance of Iodine.
Why is that important I hear you ask, Iodine is used by the thyroid gland to make hormones. Not having enough Iodine can cause the thyroid to work harder than it should and low levels of iodine can cause women to stop ovulating which can lead to infertility. [Source]
Got high blood pressure? Wakame maybe able to help you lower it. This is once again down to the high iodine content found in Wakame. One study with 417 participants showed that children eating a higher intake of Wakame were able to lower their blood pressure levels. [Source]
Criminally underrated and often underused. Leeks are a part of something called the “allium family” (same family as onions and garlic). Leeks are milder in flavor and can be added to everything from soups to chowders and salads. But are they healthy and do they provide you with protein?
The answer to both questions is yes!
Like Wakame, leeks contain a smaller amount of protein per 100 grams than some of the vegetables later on in this post, but they have been included for their amazing health benefits.
According to Ackerman Cancer Center leeks can reduce the bad type of cholesterol levels while raising the good. Leeks also contain high levels of Vitamin A which has been shown to improve your eye health [Source]
If you want to incorporate leeks into your diet you can check out this leek and potato stew recipe from Natalies Health You can purchase leeks from all supermarkets.
Beansprouts are filled with fiber and are virtually fat-free. One cup of beansprouts also provides you with 3 grams of protein, which is amazing considering that one cup only contains 31 calories.
Beansprouts are a great food to add to your diet, unlike most foods which are considered healthy they are not boring to eat. Beansprouts have a great flavor and you can eat a tonne of them without getting bored.
One cup of beansprouts contains 23% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin C which has been shown to reduce stress an anxiety in women. [Source]
4) Brussel Sprouts
With Christmas around the corner, you won’t have to feel so guilty about all that chocolate you eat when you get some brussel sprouts in your diet on Christmas day. Ok, maybe you should be eating them more than once a year, but it’s a start.
Brussel sprouts are higher in protein per 100g than Wakame, Leeks and beansprouts and have some other awesome health benefits too.
Just one cup of brussel sprouts provides you with 4 grams of protein and over 200% of your Vitamin K RDI, 160% of Vitamin C and 24% of Vitamin A. All while being under 60 calories.
The high levels of vitamin K are important as it helps your body with blood clotting and bone health [Source]
While most people associate brussel sprouts with flatulence, you will be glad to know that they are high in fiber and can help stomach health. I find brussel sprouts are either loved or hated by most. If you can stomach them, they are well worth adding to your diet.
If you want to try some tasty brussel sprouts recipes head on over to Erren’s Kitchen.
Not many foods can beat the first bite into a charred sweetcorn (especially if it’s covered in butter, but then it’s not as healthy!)
Although it does take a rap for being high in carbs, eaten in moderation there is nothing wrong with adding sweetcorn to your diet.
Per 100g of sweetcorn, you should expect just over 4 grams of protein, it also has far less sugar than an apple (I was quite surprised by this fact).
Sweetcorn is also high in fiber, which is great if you’re dieting to lose weight as it will keep you fuller for longer (and it tastes great too).
Sweetcorn contains folate an essential nutrient especially in pregnancy, folate is very important in its role of developing a healthy fetus and can significantly lower the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida [Source]
The Spruce Eats has 8 amazing corn recipes that you can try.
One of the most used vegetables for those in the fitness industry. And there is a good reason too. It’s very low in carbs and per gram has more protein than steak.
You may not know that broccoli is related to other healthy vegetables like kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, and cauliflower. These group of vegetables is often referred to as super veggies. There is a good reason for that too.
Per 100 grams broccoli contains only 34 calories, of these calories 3 grams is protein. One small serving also contains around 10% of your daily recommended fiber intake.
Broccoli is higher in protein than most vegetables, but its made up of roughly 89% water and because of this the amount of actual protein you get per serving is quite low. That said if you are dieting and need a food to keep you fuller for longer broccoli should be your go-to veg in my opinion.
Broccoli can be boring if simply boil it to death, I recommend changing it up every serving. Here is an awesome broccoli recipe from Organic Authority to get you started.
Lentils are seeds from the legume family and come in a variety of colours such as Brown, Green, Yellow, Red and Beluga.
The most common type of lentils is brown lentils which are often used in stews. Each colour has its own makeup of antioxidants and therefore health benefits, for the sake of this post, we will be discussing brown lentils.
One cup of lentils will provide you with around 18 grams of protein, 15 grams of fiber and 90% of your Folate RDI.
Lentils made this list because they are high in protein, help with bowel movements and can even protect you against chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes [Source]
Unlike most “healthy” foods, I don’t think I could get bored of eating lentils because they are so versatile. You can eat lentils as a side dish, pack them into a veggie burger or blitz them up into a dip. Some cool lentil recipe ideas can be found at Loving it Vegan. You can buy lentils from Real Foods.
8) Lima Beans
Also known as butter beans, Lima beans are enjoyable to eat.
In my opinion, they’re meaty in taste and have a creamy texture, but more importantly are very high in protein. 1 cup of lima beans cooked will provide you with roughly 15 grams of protein.
As well as being high in protein, Lima beans have great health benefits especially with those who have diabetes.
Lima beans are high in soluble fiber which absorbs the water in the stomach to form a gel, this process prevents the blood sugar level from spiking directly after a meal which in turn keeps blood sugar levels in a safe range.
Lima beans like lentils are also very flexible and the reason why I love to include them in my diet when trying to lose weight is that they are much lower in carbs and calories than a potato and because of this I can mash my lima beans up and use it as a potato alternative. Not only are lima beans lower in calories but they also keep you feeling fuller for longer due to the protein and fiber content.
9) Green Peas
No doubt you may have hated green peas when growing up but it’s time to put them back into your diet.
It’s worth noting before we go any further into the green pea journey that some in the health community swear by green peas while others are dead against them because of the bloating effects that they have on some people. Now, with that out of the way, let’s have a look at why green peas should be a staple in your diet.
Per 100g of green peas, you should expect around 6 grams of protein, which isn’t bad at all considering the calorie count would be around 70. Green peas also contain most of the daily vitamins and minerals you need along with a nice amount of fiber.
Also, an interesting fact is: gram for gram green peas contains 4x as much protein as a carrot. If the high protein amount isn’t enough for you to consider eating more of these little guys then maybe the health benefits will be.
Green peas have a low glycemic index (GI) which generally means how quick (or slowly in this case) your blood sugar rises after eating a food. Diets low in GI foods have been shown to be helpful in managing blood sugar levels in diabetics [Source] and because of this could reduce the risk of heart disease.
Like lentils or brussel sprouts green peas have been known to cause bloating and flatulence. If you suffer from these symptoms when eating you can try reducing the portion size to see if that can help.
Per 100 grams of garlic you can expect over 6 grams of protein.
But, If you’re eating that much garlic you will more than likely frighten most humans away and not just vampires.
That said, garlic is high in protein and has some excellent health benefits, from 28grams of garlic alone you can expect:
- 23% of your RDA of Magnese
- 17% of your RDA of Vitamin B6
- 15% of your RDA of Vitamin C
All of the above for less than 45 calories. Amazing.
Garlic can be used in a wide range of dishes. Let me know on Twitter what your favourite garlic recipe is and I’ll add it here.
Mushrooms can come in a variety of types including:
- button or white mushroom
And I’m sure there are many more, and the ones that are not toxic can be very healthy and high in protein.
Per 100grams of mushrooms, you can expect around 6 grams of protein, not bad as they are low in fat and carbs. They also taste good with everything they’re added to.
Mushrooms contain antioxidants which help the body by protecting it from free radicals that can cause heart disease and cancer. Mushrooms are high in an antioxidant known as selenium. Selenium deficiency has been seen in patients with Alzheimer’s disease [Source] and increasing selenium levels have shown to improve patients memories [Source]
One of my favourite recipes to eat is a portobello mushroom recipe from Well plated.
Tempeh which is fermented soy makes our high protein vegetable list as it contains 30 grams of protein per cup.
Tempeh is high in protein, probiotics, vitamins and minerals.
The probiotics in tempeh are bacteria which can help promote your digestive health. If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhea or bloating then add tempeh to your diet and it could help.
Studies have also been conducted where tempeh was shown to help people lose weight. One such study [Source] took 210 adults who had high amounts of belly fat and supplemented their diet with tempeh for 12 weeks. On average participants lost 8.5% of their belly fat.
Tofu is controversial, to say the least.
Some love it, some hate it.
If you’re not a fan of genetically modified food then you may want to skip tofu and go on to the next food. With that said, genetically modified foods have not been found to be harmful to human health [Source]
I like tofu, I try to eat it as often as I can, and there is a good reason for that. One 100 gram serving of tofu contains 8 grams of protein with only 4 grams of fat and 2 grams of carbs.
That same 100g serving also provides you with Magnese, Calcium, Selenium, Phosphorus, Copper, Magnesium, Iron and Zinc. All for a total of 70 calories.
Other health benefits of tofu include a lower chance of heart disease [Source] and can reduce blood vessel inflammation while improving blood flow. One study showed that implementing 80mg of isoflavones (found in tofu) for 12 weeks improved blood flow in patients who were at a high chance of a stroke by 68% [Source].
The Pickled Plum has a great list of tofu recipes and you can buy Tofu from most major supermarkets.
14) Black Beans
Per 100grams of black beans, you can expect around 9 grams of protein. Not only are they nutritious but their also versatile and very filling.
The reason why I like them above the health benefits is they’re very cheap. I think we all know that packing protein into your diet can be expensive. Protein shakes, for example, can cost £30-£40 a month depending on the number of shakes you need on a daily basis. Black beans are very cheap by comparison (and much tastier).
Black beans are also easy to prepare and are a great addition to many recipes. They also count as a protein and a vegetable so you’re getting a double health kick.
If you’re on a vegetarian diet then black beans should be a staple for you. Trust me on this, one serving will leave you feeling full for hours and will also give you a good amount of nutrients as they are one of the most nutrient dense foods on earth.
Because of the nutrients black beans provide they’re an excellent choice when dieting. One serving (170grams) will provide you with 15 grams of protein, 45 grams of carbs, 1 gram of fat and 15 grams of fiber. All of this for under 250 calories.
Being part of the legume family you can also expect the same benefits of:
- Aid in weight loss
- Promotes heart health
- Promotes gut and digestion health
- Can lower blood sugar levels
The only negative? They can cause flatulence like most beans!
15) Broad Beans
Broad beans or fava beans can be an excellent vegetable source of protein.
Per 100 grams you can expect around 6 grams of protein. As well as being high in protein they also contain high amounts of fiber, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Iron and potassium.
Eating broad beans can have excellent benefits and can be great for heart health and blood sugar control. They can also help in lowering the bad type of cholesterol in the body [Source].
From one cup of broad beans, you can expect around 40 grams of protein, which is great for building muscle, keeping fuller for longer and maintaining muscle mass when cutting calories.
16) Wild Rice
Before someone hits my email up and complains that wild rice isn’t a vegetable, it is!
Wild rice is an aquatic grass, but its referred to as a rice because of the way it cooks (like all other kinds of rice).
Not only does wild rice contain an ample amount of protein (12 grams per serving) but it also tastes amazing. It’s nutty taste and chewy texture adds something different to your diet, and in my opinion, it’s much more satisfying than quinoa.
And because it’s not a grain it’s suitable to grain-free or gluten-free diets. Result!
Another member of the legume family.
Chickpeas have a beautiful nutty taste and texture and matches very well with so many foods.
They’re nutrient dense, and per serving, you can expect 3 grams of protein for less than 50 calories. If you can stop at one serving though I would be impressed.
Studies have shown that eating chickpeas may promote the production of butyrate which has been known to reduce inflammation in colon cells which could possibly decrease the risk of colon cancer. [Source]
As a student I ate chickpeas a lot, they allowed me to get in the protein that I needed at a fraction of the price of protein shakes.
Chickpeas are versatile and can be used in a wide variety of dishes, I’ve included a link to some of my favourite chickpea recipes.
You can buy chickpeas from The Tapas Lunch Company.
18) Sundried Tomatoes
I’ve eaten sundried tomatoes for as long as I can remember even before learning of their awesome health benefits.
Per 100 grams of sundried tomatoes, you can expect around 8 grams of protein and 7 grams of fiber. One serving also contains 39% of your recommended daily intake of potassium which is important for muscle movement and nerve health.
Check out Julia’s Album for a great sundried tomato and mushroom pasta recipe.
You can buy sundried tomatoes at Ocado.
Not only did it make Popeye strong but it can help you get more of that protein you are looking for.
In one cup of spinach, you can expect around 6 grams of protein. On those numbers, we can calculate Popeye getting at least 12 grams of protein per tin.
Spinach has too many nutrients to list, but rest assured it’s loaded with good nutrients that can help your body lower the bad cholesterol, protect your body from free radicals, maintain a healthy cardiovascular system and lower blood pressure levels.
There is a debate on how to cook spinach to keep as many nutrients as possible, I personally like to steam it for a few minutes. Don’t overcook it as you will lose a lot of the health benefits mentioned above.
Another member of the legume family and like Tofu it gets a lot of bad press due to it being a genetically modified food, but as I mentioned earlier, research has indicated that GMO’s haven’t been linked to any cases where they cause harm to human beings. But like everything, it’s your personal choice.
If you do choose to eat soybeans then you can expect around 14 grams of protein per 100 grams.
Not only do soybeans give you a high amount of protein per serving but they can also make you look healthy too. Advocates of soybeans claim it helps with moisturising their skin, gives them healthier hair and removes visible signs of aging. I don’t know if the above is true, but it’s worth a shot.
21) Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds per cup can provide around 20grams of protein (the same amount as one scoop of protein shake).
They’re packed in nutrients and eating a small amount can provide you with a substantial amount of healthy fats, magnesium and zinc.
Pumpkin seeds have been associated with a wide range of health benefits including improved heart and prostate health.
For men, pumpkin seeds may also improve their sperm health and could contribute to healthy testosterone levels.
22) Seaweed Spirulina
When doing research for this post a few months back I couldn’t get my head around how much protein is in seaweed spirulina per 100 grams. Are you ready for it?
Per 100g of seaweed spirulina, you can expect 64 grams of protein. You probably won’t eat that much, but it’s still amazing.
Gram for gram spirulina is one of the most (if not most) nutritious food on the planet, and possible in outer space (Nasa scientists have proposed growing spirulina in space!)
Like all of the mentioned vegetables above, spirulina can have a positive effect on heart health, blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes control, but one added health benefit that we haven’t come across before is spirulina can be effective in treating the symptoms of allergic rhinitis.
Allergic rhinitis, if you haven’t heard of it, is the inflammation of the nasal passages and it can be a dreadful condition to have. In a study of 127 people with allergic rhinitis, 2 grams a day of spirulina was enough to reduce the symptoms of nasal discharge, sneezing and congestion [Source].
So there you have it, a complete list of 22 high protein vegetables that you can now add to your diet. If I have missed anything off this list, please drop me a message on Twitter or via email, I’d love to know what you think. If you liked this post, you may also like 19 whole grains that you should be eating.
Thanks for reading,
Toby King, a personal trainer in Cardiff