10 High Protein Vegetables You Should Be Eating

As plant eaters, we have so many options when it comes to vegetables, fruits, legumes, and various other foods to eat. Variety can be both a good and bad thing. On one hand, there is plenty to choose from; on the other, how can you possibly choose!? But what about when it comes to high protein vegetables? 

When one wants to ensure they consume a high protein snack or meal, do you know which vegetables to prioritize into your diet?

I tried to answer this question myself this past week, and was left wondering which high protein vegetables were truly best.

Then I tried googling for an answer and got a litany of different plant-based lists with different results and orders. Some included fruits, some included legumes, other grains.

To make matters worse, most of the lists were measuring by volume.

The good ‘ol imperial system, HA!

This is important to talk about. In the United States, we measure most of our food in volume (e.g. cups, fluid ounces). The rest of the world typically measures in weight (e.g. grams).

The difference: One system (metric) always compares food on a consistent basis while the other (imperial) can compare food differently depending on size and density.

For example, if you wanted to compare the amount of protein in a cup of rice versus a cup of broccoli, volume wouldn’t exactly be the best way to do so. The cup of rice has almost no air pockets, while the broccoli likely has plenty of air pockets! By measuring in volume we are not accounting for the compressibility of foods.

For this reason, and for this exercise, we will be comparing foods based on weight.

100 grams will always be 100 grams no matter what. A cups weight can vary.

On top of that calories are based on weight not volume!

How are calories calculated?

All foods are essentially made up of 4 main things:

  • Water
  • Protein
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fats

If you were to take 100 grams of any food, it would break down into each of the above categories. Most plant-based foods are not calorically dense, or mostly made up of water. This is why when eating a healthy, whole plant-based foods diet (with little processed foods), it’s nearly impossible to overeat!

Compare any of the low-density vegetables in our list to something calorically dense, like french fries (which comes in around 320 calories per 100 grams) and you can see why we have an obesity epidemic on our hands.

Fiber, which we all know is great for us, is typically removed from the carbohydrate calorie count.

Technically calories, or kcals, are based on the amount of energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water 1 degree Celsius. Historically, to get the calories of a given food, we would have placed a food in a sealed container under water. The food was then burned in order to measure the energy produced. This would provide the calorie count of any given food.

However, today we use the Atwater system as required by the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 (NLEA) and base it on the weight of the macronutrients.

MacronutrientCalories per Gram
Protein4 Calories
Carbohydrates4 Calories
Fat9 Calories

It should be noted that there have been disputes with the Atwater system, however no real alternatives have been proposed.

Now, I’m not saying there isn’t a place or time for measuring by volume, but for this exercise, measuring by weight makes the most sense.

Framework Utilized For Creating The High Protein Vegetables List

In order to create this list, I started by listing every vegetable I could think of and then searched for any remaining which may have a decent amount of protein in it.

I utilized a single nutritional source in order to be as consistent as possible.

The database I used is provided by the USDA and can be found here.

Every food searched in the database was a standard reference, or unbranded. Additionally, every food was compared in 100 gram serving sizes.

Typically nutrients, including protein, can yield lower levels after a food is cooked. This can depend on many variables. Regardless, I tried to choose the end disposition of the food by which it is typically consumed.

For example, if the majority of the population eats potatoes cooked, then I searched for those specific nutritional values. For each of the foods, I indicate the cooking method (not every food item had multiple options).

Please note fruits, legumes and legume-related foods as well as tree nuts will be part of separate lists.

I present to you the highest protein vegetables in descending order.

High Protein Vegetables

 

high-protein-vegetables-arugula

#10. Arugula (raw)

Arugula contains high nitrate levels, which have been shown to help lower blood pressure and reduce the amount of oxygen needed during exercise. High in vitamin K, arugula is great for bone health. As a cruciferous vegetable, arugula contains sulfur-containing compounds which can delay or impede cancer, in particular, melanoma, esophageal, prostate, and pancreatic cancers. Lastly, arugula has plenty of antioxidants which help to clear your body of free radicals.

Macronutrients per 100 grams
Protein: 2.6 grams
Fat: 0.7 grams
Carbohydrates: 3.7 grams
Fiber: 1.6 grams

Full Nutritional Profile Here.

 

high-protein-vegetables-russet-potatoes

#9. Russet Potatoes (baked)

A starchy and high protein vegetable, potatoes have kukoamines which have been found to help with lowering blood pressure (source). Potatoes contain high amounts of vitamin B6, which can be crucial for assisting amino acids with the synthesis of muscle. Vitamin B6 also helps improve brain activity, including the production of serotonin and melatonin. Lastly, vitamin B6 assists with the breakdown of glycogen, which is how sugar is stored in muscle cells and the liver, making the potato a great option for athletes. Remember, if you want to get the gastrointestinal benefit from potatoes, most of the fiber is contained in the skin of the potato.

Macronutrients per 100 grams
Protein: 2.6 grams
Fat: 0.1 grams
Carbohydrates: 21.4 grams
Fiber: 2.3 grams

Full Nutritional Profile Here.

 

high-protein-vegetables-collards

#8. Collard Greens (raw)

Collard greens are exceptionally healthy for you! They contain a broad range of antioxidants which help to lower the risk of oxidative stress in our cells (which can lead to cancer). An excellent source of vitamin K and omega-3’s helps to provide anti-inflammatory benefits. One of the highest amounts of fiber in our list, collard greens are fantastic for digestive support and can even help protect the health of the stomach lining.

Macronutrients per 100 grams
Protein: 2.7 grams
Fat: 0.7 grams
Carbohydrates: 5.7 grams
Fiber: 4.0 grams

Full Nutritional Profile Here.

 

high-protein-vegetables-Broccoli

#7. Broccoli (raw)

As a cruciferous vegetable, broccoli has sulforaphane, which been shown to lower cancer risk, especially lung and colon (source). Sulforaphane has also been found to prevent or reverse damage to blood vessels caused by inflammation. Broccoli is very high in vitamin K, a key component of bone health. Research has shown kaempferol, a compound found in broccoli, to be a key component in lessening the effect of allergy-related substances in our bodies.

Macronutrients per 100 grams
Protein: 2.8 grams
Fat: 0.4 grams
Carbohydrates: 6.6 grams
Fiber: 2.6 grams

Full Nutritional Profile Here.

 

high-protein-vegetables-spinach

#6. Spinach (raw)

One of the more well known superfoods, aside from being a high protein vegetable, spinach provides a wealth of positives. High in beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthing, spinach has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancerous properties. It also is important for healthy eyesight and can help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts. Flavonoids in spinach help to keep cholesterol from oxidizing and can protect the body (especially the colon) from free radicals.

Macronutrients per 100 grams
Protein: 2.9 grams
Fat: 0.4 grams
Carbohydrates: 3.6 grams
Fiber: 2.2 grams

Full Nutritional Profile Here.

high-protein-vegetables-water-chestnuts

#5. Water Chestnut (boiled)

Water chestnuts, used in traditional Asian cuisines, has been said to alleviate nausea and detoxify the body from impurities. Aboriginal people used to crush up the outsides of the bulb and apply to wounds to assist with inflammation and healing. Water chestnuts contain an antibiotic compound called puchin which acts similarly to penicillin.

Macronutrients per 100 grams
Protein: 2.9 grams
Fat: 0.8 grams
Carbohydrates: 33.6 grams
Fiber: 3.0 grams

Full Nutritional Profile Here.

 

high-protein-vegetable-artichokes

#4. Artichokes (boiled)

Artichokes have a range of benefits. They are choked full of antioxidants and have been proven to have greater antioxidant benefits than proven antioxidant-rich superfoods such as blueberries, red wine, and dark chocolate. Artichokes can help with upset stomach and indigestion (source). It contains compounds and prebiotics which can help move food through the digestive tract and increase the good bacteria in the gut. Artichokes have also been shown to improve liver health (source). Lastly, the fiber content of artichokes comes in with the highest amount on our list!

Macronutrients per 100 grams
Protein: 2.9 grams
Fat: 0.3 grams
Carbohydrates: 12.0 grams
Fiber: 5.7 grams

Full Nutritional Profile Here.

high-protein-vegetables-sweet-corn

#3. Sweet Corn (boiled)

Corn is a high vegetable protein? Really?

Really.

A starchy vegetable, corn is not only a high vegetable protein, but it comes loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. It contains folate (vitamin B9), beta cryptoxanthin, thiamine (vitamin B1), and zeaxanthin which can help improve cardiovascular health, prevent cancer, protect vision and even enhance memory. It’s also gluten free and has great amounts of fiber.

Macronutrients per 100 grams
Protein: 3.0 grams
Fat: 1.5 grams
Carbohydrates: 21.0 grams
Fiber: 2.4 grams

Full Nutritional Profile Here.

 

high-protein-vegetables-shiitake

#2. Shiitake Mushrooms (stir-fried)

Shiitake mushrooms are great for heart health and boosting the immune system. Shiitake mushrooms have fat-reducing effects because they contain eritadenine and b-glucan, soluble dietary fiber which is also found in barley, rye and oats. A recent study by the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that Shiitake mushrooms improved cell effector function and improved gut immunity (source). Lastly, Shiitake mushrooms boost energy and brain function. They are a good source of B vitamins which can help with adrenal function and assist with forming food into energy.

Macronutrients per 100 grams
Protein: 3.5 grams
Fat: 0.4 grams
Carbohydrates: 7.7 grams
Fiber: 3.6 grams

Full Nutritional Profile Here.

 

 

high-protein-vegetables-kale

#1. Kale (raw)

Taking the top spot on our high protein vegetable list is the well known superfood Kale. Kale is high in fiber, iron, and vitamin K. Additionally, it has plenty of powerful antioxidants as well as omega-3 fatty acids. It works great for salads and smoothies.

Macronutrients per 100 grams
Protein: 4.3 grams
Fat: 0.9 grams
Carbohydrates: 8.8 grams
Fiber: 3.6 grams

Full Nutritional Profile Here.

 

Honorable Mentions (High protein vegetables but not quite enough to crack the top 10)

  • Mustard Greens
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Shallots
  • Asparagus
  • Watercress

 

High Protein Vegetable Fun Facts

  • Surprisingly, turnip greens (leaves on top) have about twice the protein than the turnips themselves. Make sure you save them for your smoothies!
  • Garlic had the highest protein of the onion family, and overall, coming in at 6.36 grams of protein per 100 grams. However, because it is more of a ‘garnish’ it was not included in this list.
  • Spirulina has a fantastic amount of protein per 100 grams (5.92 grams to be exact) and plenty of other benefits.

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If you have any questions or thought a certain vegetable should have been included in this list, please comment below.

9 thoughts on “10 High Protein Vegetables You Should Be Eating”

  1. They all are great beside the russet potato.for someone that has had a gastric sleeve surgery, it is way to high in carbs. You have to stay under 15 grams for carbs and sugars.

    1. Peas will be included as part of the legume list. Although, they are “low” in protein compared to most legumes.

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