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10 Veggies With the Most Protein

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By Arlene Semeco

Protein is an essential nutrient your body uses to build and repair tissues.

Although animal foods are usually highest in protein, some plants also contain decent amounts.

Here are 10 healthy vegetables that contain a fair amount of protein.

1. Watercress

Watercress is a cruciferous plant that grows in water and has a high protein content.

One cup (34 grams) of chopped watercress contains 0.8 grams of protein and 100 percent of your RDI of vitamin K. It also has good amounts of B vitamins, calcium, manganese, potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C (1).

Moreover, watercress has been shown to offer antioxidant protection. It also contains phenolic compounds that may help prevent cancer (2, 3, 4, 5, 6).

Avoid boiling watercress in water, since this will decrease the antioxidant content. Instead, try eating raw watercress in salads, stuff it in sandwiches or blend it in smoothies (7).

Protein Content: A 1-cup (34-gram) serving of watercress contains 0.8 grams of protein, while 100 grams of watercress contains 2.3 grams. Protein accounts for 50 percent of its calories.

2. Alfalfa Sprouts

Alfalfa sprouts are very low in calories, but rich in nutrients.

One cup (33 grams) of alfalfa sprouts provides 1.3 grams of protein. This vegetable also has decent amounts of folate, B vitamins, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and vitamins K and C (8).

A couple of studies performed in animals demonstrated that alfalfa sprouts can reduce cholesterol levels. This was thought to be due to their high content of saponins, a group of compounds that can lower cholesterol (9, 10).

One study treated 15 people who had high blood lipid levels with 40 grams of alfalfa seeds, three times daily, for eight weeks. These people had a 17 percent reduction in total cholesterol and an 18 percent reduction in "bad" LDL cholesterol (11).

Alfalfa sprouts have also been shown to decrease inflammation, reduce symptoms of menopause and help treat and prevent osteoporosis (12, 13, 14, 15).

Protein Content: A 1-cup (33-gram) serving of alfalfa sprouts contains 1.3 grams of protein, while 100 grams of alfalfa sprouts contains 4 grams. Protein accounts for 42 percent of its calories.

3. Spinach

Spinach is one of the most nutrient-dense leafy green vegetables you can eat.

Protein accounts for 30 percent of its calories and it contains all the essential amino acids. A 1-cup (30-gram) serving provides 1 gram of protein and 181 percent of the RDI for vitamin K (16).

It also contains high amounts of folate, manganese, magnesium, iron, potassium, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin C (16).

Besides its high protein content, spinach contains plant compounds that can increase antioxidant defense and reduce inflammation (17).

In one study, 20 athletes who took spinach supplements for 14 days experienced reduced oxidative stress and muscle damage (18).

Another study gave nitrate-rich spinach to healthy participants and measured its effects on their levels of nitric oxide, a signaling molecule normally used in the body to widen the blood vessels.

The study also measured endothelial function and blood pressure. Nitrate-rich spinach was found to increase nitric oxide, improve endothelial function and lower blood pressure, all of which can improve heart health (19).

Lastly, regularly consuming spinach has been linked to as much as a 44 percent lower risk of breast cancer (20).

Protein Content: A 1-cup (30-gram) serving of raw spinach contains 0.9 grams of protein, while 100 grams of spinach contains 2.9 grams. Protein accounts for 30 percent of the calories in spinach.

4. Chinese Cabbage or Bok Choy

Chinese cabbage, also known as bok choy, is a good source of vegetable protein.

One cup (70 grams) of Chinese cabbage contains 1 gram of protein. It's also an excellent source of folate, calcium, potassium, manganese, iron and vitamins A, C and K (21).

A number of cell studies showed that Chinese cabbage is rich in compounds with antioxidant activity. Its outer leaves appear to contain the most antioxidants. Plus, it has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties (22, 23, 24).

It seems like some studies agree that high intakes of Brassica vegetables, like Chinese cabbage, can decrease the risk of prostate cancer (25).

Additionally, an animal study showed that taking supplements of Chinese cabbage powder reduced the risk of liver cancer (26).

Chinese cabbage is used in many Asian recipes, such as stir-fries, kimchi, soups and spring rolls.

Protein Content: A 1-cup (70-gram) serving of shredded Chinese cabbage contains 1 gram of protein, while 100 grams of Chinese cabbage contain 1.5 grams. Protein accounts for 28 percent of its calories.

5. Asparagus

Asparagus is a very popular vegetable with a high nutrient content.

A 1-cup (134-gram) serving contains 2.9 grams of protein. It is also an excellent source of B vitamins, folate, copper, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamins A and K (27).

Asparagus is thought to have anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties (28).

It also contains fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which provide prebiotic benefits, stimulating the growth of friendly intestinal bacteria (29, 30).

Asparagus can be cooked in the oven, grilled, boiled, steamed or pan-fried and it is wonderful in salads or as a side dish.

Protein Content: A 1-cup (134-gram) serving of asparagus contains 2.9 grams of protein, while 100 grams of asparagus contains 2.2 grams. Protein accounts for 27 percent of the calories in asparagus.

6. Mustard Greens

Mustard greens belong to the Brassica family and are very similar to kale but with a distinct mustard flavor.

A 1-cup (56-gram) serving of mustard greens provides 1.5 grams of protein, as well as 348 percent of the RDI for vitamin K and 118 percent of the RDI for vitamin A. It is also high in manganese, calcium, potassium, B vitamins, vitamin C and vitamin E (31).

Mustard greens, like other Brassica vegetables, contain phenolic compounds that give them antioxidant properties (24, 32).

A test-tube study demonstrated that steaming mustard greens increases their ability to bind to bile acids. This may help them reduce cholesterol levels (33).

The same study found that steaming may have similar positive effects on collard greens, kale, cabbage, green peppers and broccoli.

This veggie can be steamed, boiled, sautéed or simply eaten raw in salads.

Protein Content: A 1-cup (56-gram) serving of chopped mustard greens contains 1.5 grams of protein, while 100 grams of mustard greens contain 2.7 grams. Protein accounts for 25 percent of the calories in mustard greens.

7. Broccoli

Broccoli is a very popular vegetable that also happens to be high in protein. It can be enjoyed raw or cooked.

A 1-cup (91-gram) serving of raw chopped broccoli can provide 2.6 grams of protein, including all the essential amino acids. It also contains plenty of folate, manganese, potassium, phosphorus and vitamins C and K (34).

For all these nutrients, a 1-cup serving of broccoli contains only 31 calories.

Broccoli also provides high amounts of plant compounds and flavonoids, like kaempferol. These can provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits (35, 36).

Similar to mustard greens, broccoli has a high content of glucosinolates, compounds that may help reduce the risk of cancer (37, 38, 39).

Like mustard greens, broccoli has a higher capacity to bind to bile acid when it's steamed than when it's raw, so eating steamed broccoli may help reduce cholesterol levels in your blood (33).

Additionally, broccoli can help improve liver health by stimulating detoxification and the production of antioxidant compounds in the liver (40).

Broccoli can be steamed, roasted, baked or sautéed. You can use it to make tasty side dishes, soups and sauces.

Protein Content: A 1-cup (91-gram) serving of chopped broccoli contains 2.6 grams of protein, while 100 grams of broccoli contain 2.8 grams. Protein accounts for 20 percent of the calories in broccoli.

8. Collard Greens

Collard greens are a dark green, loose-leafed vegetable from the same family as kale, broccoli and cauliflower.

They are a source of fatty acids and plant protein. A 1-cup (36-gram) serving contains 0.9 grams of protein with only about 11 calories. The vitamin K content is particularly remarkable, with 230 percent of the RDI in a 1-cup serving (41).

Additionally, collard greens are an excellent source of calcium, potassium and manganese (41).

As another member of the Brassica family, collard greens are a good source of phenolic compounds and antioxidants (32, 42).

The high levels of antioxidants in collard greens have been linked to a decreased risk of developing prostate cancer (25).

One study reported that people who eat cruciferous vegetables like collard greens are less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer (43).

Collard greens can also bind to bile acids in your gut, helping to reduce your cholesterol levels. One study showed that steam cooking boosts this benefit (33).

You can enjoy collard greens steamed or sautéed. They're particularly tasty mixed with other veggies like onions and mushrooms.

Protein Content: A 1-cup (36-gram) serving of chopped collard greens contains 0.9 grams of protein, while 100 grams of collard greens contain 2.5 grams. Protein accounts for 20 percent of the calories in collard greens.

9. Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts can be a great addition to your diet. They're a good source of protein, fiber and vitamins.

A 1-cup (88-gram) serving contains 3 grams of protein and up to 3.3 grams of fiber. Brussels sprouts are also rich in folate, manganese, magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium and vitamins K, C, A and B6 (44).

A study in animals showed that Brussels sprouts can promote the growth and health of intestinal bacteria and stimulate the production of short-chain fatty acids in the gut (45).

People usually cook Brussels sprouts by boiling, steaming, grilling or roasting. They are an ideal side dish.

Protein Content: A 1-cup (88-gram) serving of Brussels sprouts contains 3 grams of protein, while 100 grams of Brussels sprouts contain 3.4 grams. Protein accounts for 19 percent of the calories in this food.

10. Cauliflower

Like broccoli, cauliflower provides a high amount of protein for the number of calories it delivers.

One cup (100 grams) of cauliflower has 2 grams of protein and 25 calories. It is also a great source of vitamins C and K and minerals like potassium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, calcium and iron (46).

Cauliflower also contains a high amount of a particular glucosinolate compound called sinigrin. This is thought to have anticancer, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (38, 47, 48).

The glucosinolate content of cauliflower may drop significantly when it's cooked. Therefore, cauliflower may be better eaten raw (48).

However, cauliflower is also high in other antioxidants that are preserved during cooking and may even increase after cauliflower is steamed or microwaved (49).

Like several other vegetables on this list, cauliflower has the potential to reduce cholesterol levels because of its capacity to bind bile acids. Steaming cauliflower increases this capacity (50).

Cauliflower is a versatile vegetable that can be adapted to a variety of recipes. In many cases, it can be used as a substitute for starchy carbs.

Protein Content: A 1-cup serving of cauliflower weighs 100 grams and contains 2 grams of protein. Protein accounts for 19 percent of its calories.

Take Home Message

Even though vegetables are not very high in protein compared to some other foods, many of them contain good amounts of protein relative to their calorie content.

Plus, these vegetables are high in many other nutrients and have been linked to all sorts of health benefits.

These protein-rich vegetables are a great way to increase the protein and nutrient content of your diet without adding many calories.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Authority Nutrition.

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Ola Elvestrun, Norway's environment minister, announced Thursday that it is freezing its contributions to the Amazon Fund, and will no longer be transferring €300 million ($33.2 million) to Brazil. In a press release, the Norwegian embassy in Brazil stated:

Given the present circumstances, Norway does not have either the legal or the technical basis for making its annual contribution to the Amazon Fund.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro reacted with sarcasm to Norway's decision, which had been widely expected. After an official event, he commented: "Isn't Norway the country that kills whales at the North Pole? Doesn't it also produce oil? It has no basis for telling us what to do. It should give the money to Angela Merkel [the German Chancellor] to reforest Germany."

According to its website, the Amazon Fund is a "REDD+ mechanism created to raise donations for non-reimbursable investments in efforts to prevent, monitor and combat deforestation, as well as to promote the preservation and sustainable use in the Brazilian Amazon." The bulk of funding comes from Norway and Germany.

The annual transfer of funds from developed world donors to the Amazon Fund depends on a report from the Fund's technical committee. This committee meets after the National Institute of Space Research, which gathers official Amazon deforestation data, publishes its annual report with the definitive figures for deforestation in the previous year.

But this year the Amazon Fund's technical committee, along with its steering committee, COFA, were abolished by the Bolsonaro government on 11 April as part of a sweeping move to dissolve some 600 bodies, most of which had NGO involvement. The Bolsonaro government views NGO work in Brazil as a conspiracy to undermine Brazil's sovereignty.

The Brazilian government then demanded far-reaching changes in the way the fund is managed, as documented in a previous article. As a result, the Amazon Fund's technical committee has been unable to meet; Norway says it therefore cannot continue making donations without a favorable report from the committee.

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Thaís Borges.

An Uncertain Future

The Amazon Fund was announced during the 2007 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, during a period when environmentalists were alarmed at the rocketing rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. It was created as a way of encouraging Brazil to continue bringing down the rate of forest conversion to pastures and croplands.

Government agencies, such as IBAMA, Brazil's environmental agency, and NGOs shared Amazon Fund donations. IBAMA used the money primarily to enforce deforestation laws, while the NGOs oversaw projects to support sustainable communities and livelihoods in the Amazon.

There has been some controversy as to whether the Fund has actually achieved its goals: in the three years before the deal, the rate of deforestation fell dramatically but, after money from the Fund started pouring into the Amazon, the rate remained fairly stationary until 2014, when it began to rise once again. But, in general, the international donors have been pleased with the Fund's performance, and until the Bolsonaro government came to office, the program was expected to continue indefinitely.

Norway has been the main donor (94 percent) to the Amazon Fund, followed by Germany (5 percent), and Brazil's state-owned oil company, Petrobrás (1 percent). Over the past 11 years, the Norwegians have made, by far, the biggest contribution: R$3.2 billion ($855 million) out of the total of R$3.4 billion ($903 million).

Up till now the Fund has approved 103 projects, with the dispersal of R$1.8 billion ($478 million). These projects will not be affected by Norway's funding freeze because the donors have already provided the funding and the Brazilian Development Bank is contractually obliged to disburse the money until the end of the projects. But there are another 54 projects, currently being analyzed, whose future is far less secure.

One of the projects left stranded by the dissolution of the Fund's committees is Projeto Frutificar, which should be a three-year project, with a budget of R$29 million ($7.3 million), for the production of açai and cacao by 1,000 small-scale farmers in the states of Amapá and Pará. The project was drawn up by the Brazilian NGO IPAM (Institute of Environmental research in Amazonia).

Paulo Moutinho, an IPAM researcher, told Globo newspaper: "Our program was ready to go when the [Brazilian] government asked for changes in the Fund. It's now stuck in the BNDES. Without funding from Norway, we don't know what will happen to it."

Norway is not the only European nation to be reconsidering the way it funds environmental projects in Brazil. Germany has many environmental projects in the Latin American country, apart from its small contribution to the Amazon Fund, and is deeply concerned about the way the rate of deforestation has been soaring this year.

The German environment ministry told Mongabay that its minister, Svenja Schulze, had decided to put financial support for forest and biodiversity projects in Brazil on hold, with €35 million ($39 million) for various projects now frozen.

The ministry explained why: "The Brazilian government's policy in the Amazon raises doubts whether a consistent reduction in deforestation rates is still being pursued. Only when clarity is restored, can project collaboration be continued."

Bauxite mines in Paragominas, Brazil. The Bolsonaro administration is urging new laws that would allow large-scale mining within Brazil's indigenous reserves.

Hydro / Halvor Molland / Flickr

Alternative Amazon Funding

Although there will certainly be disruption in the short-term as a result of the paralysis in the Amazon Fund, the governors of Brazil's Amazon states, which rely on international funding for their environmental projects, are already scrambling to create alternative channels.

In a press release issued yesterday Helder Barbalho, the governor of Pará, the state with the highest number of projects financed by the Fund, said that he will do all he can to maintain and increase his state partnership with Norway.

Barbalho had announced earlier that his state would be receiving €12.5 million ($11.1 million) to run deforestation monitoring centers in five regions of Pará. Barbalho said: "The state governments' monitoring systems are recording a high level of deforestation in Pará, as in the other Amazon states. The money will be made available to those who want to help [the Pará government reduce deforestation] without this being seen as international intervention."

Amazonas state has funding partnerships with Germany and is negotiating deals with France. "I am talking with countries, mainly European, that are interested in investing in projects in the Amazon," said Amazonas governor Wilson Miranda Lima. "It is important to look at Amazônia, not only from the point of view of conservation, but also — and this is even more important — from the point of view of its citizens. It's impossible to preserve Amazônia if its inhabitants are poor."

Signing of the EU-Mercusor Latin American trading agreement earlier this year. The pact still needs to be ratified.

Council of Hemispheric Affairs

Looming International Difficulties

The Bolsonaro government's perceived reluctance to take effective measures to curb deforestation may in the longer-term lead to a far more serious problem than the paralysis of the Amazon Fund.

In June, the European Union and Mercosur, the South American trade bloc, reached an agreement to create the largest trading bloc in the world. If all goes ahead as planned, the pact would account for a quarter of the world's economy, involving 780 million people, and remove import tariffs on 90 percent of the goods traded between the two blocs. The Brazilian government has predicted that the deal will lead to an increase of almost $100 billion in Brazilian exports, particularly agricultural products, by 2035.

But the huge surge this year in Amazon deforestation is leading some European countries to think twice about ratifying the deal. In an interview with Mongabay, the German environment ministry made it very clear that Germany is very worried about events in the Amazon: "We are deeply concerned given the pace of destruction in Brazil … The Amazon Forest is vital for the atmospheric circulation and considered as one of the tipping points of the climate system."

The ministry stated that, for the trade deal to go ahead, Brazil must carry out its commitment under the Paris Climate agreement to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent below the 2005 level by 2030. The German environment ministry said: If the trade deal is to go ahead, "It is necessary that Brazil is effectively implementing its climate change objectives adopted under the [Paris] Agreement. It is precisely this commitment that is expressly confirmed in the text of the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement."

Blairo Maggi, Brazil agriculture minister under the Temer administration, and a major shareholder in Amaggi, the largest Brazilian-owned commodities trading company, has said very little in public since Bolsonaro came to power; he's been "in a voluntary retreat," as he puts it. But Maggi is so concerned about the damage Bolsonaro's off the cuff remarks and policies are doing to international relationships he decided to speak out earlier this week.

Former Brazil Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi, who has broken a self-imposed silence to criticize the Bolsonaro government, saying that its rhetoric and policies could threaten Brazil's international commodities trade.

Senado Federal / Visualhunt / CC BY

Maggi, a ruralista who strongly supports agribusiness, told the newspaper, Valor Econômico, that, even if the European Union doesn't get to the point of tearing up a deal that has taken 20 years to negotiate, there could be long delays. "These environmental confusions could create a situation in which the EU says that Brazil isn't sticking to the rules." Maggi speculated. "France doesn't want the deal and perhaps it is taking advantage of the situation to tear it up. Or the deal could take much longer to ratify — three, five years."

Such a delay could have severe repercussions for Brazil's struggling economy which relies heavily on its commodities trade with the EU. Analysists say that Bolsonaro's fears over such an outcome could be one reason for his recently announced October meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, another key trading partner.

Maggi is worried about another, even more alarming, potential consequence of Bolsonaro's failure to stem illegal deforestation — Brazil could be hit by a boycott by its foreign customers. "I don't buy this idea that the world needs Brazil … We are only a player and, worse still, replaceable." Maggi warns, "As an exporter, I'm telling you: things are getting very difficult. Brazil has been saying for years that it is possible to produce and preserve, but with this [Bolsonaro administration] rhetoric, we are going back to square one … We could find markets closed to us."

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