Vegan Protein Source: Vegetables

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This may come as a shock, but there are vegetables that have more protein than an egg! Yep, and some veggies are incredibly diverse; meaning a wide variety of products and types of food can be made from them. Have you ever seen cauliflower flour? My local supermarket carries it and you can use it just like any other flour (cauliflower crust pizza anyone?) except that it’s packed with protein. Just one more reason to eat your vegetables, by which of course we mean actual vegetables since all we eat as vegans is plants, ha!

This is incredibly important to know not just for home cooking, but for when you eat out as well. There’s a reason that vegans joke about being able to eat off the side menu – it’s packed with protein! A side of broccoli and a side of fries (baked, and made with healthy oil of course) is actually an incredible nutritious meal. Did you know potatoes are packed with vitamin C?

As always, you need to specifically check with a location to ensure that your meal actually is vegan, you may be surprised where animal ingredients sneak their way into otherwise plant-based food. For example, McDonald’s french fries in the US… not vegan. Fries at Burger King and Wendy’s are though, and a large fry at Wendy’s has a whopping 7 g of protein! (Just so you know, Wendy’s fries actually have a slightly larger serving size, so the large fries at Burger King are 5 g of protein.)

Anyway, we’ve created some handy charts for you to better understand protein and vegetables. For easier reading, we broke them into four groups:  true vegetables (what we all think of as vegetables), root vegetables, leaf vegetables, and seed vegetables (ones that are technically fruits because they contain seeds). Read these charts carefully; for example, you’re probably not going to eat only one asparagus spear or celery stalk, and eating an entire head or broccoli in one meal would be a feat even for the biggest veggie lovers among us. We wanted to present each vegetable as it’s most true self: one stalk of celery is the essence of celery. If that wasn’t possible, we tried to pick a general content that we all can easily call to mind such as “1 cup”.

Also, keep in mind that even though some of these numbers are fairly low, they’re not nothing. Every little bit of protein adds up to your daily total, which is part of the beauty of a plant-based diet: you understand that you get an extra protein boost from that side of brussel sprouts, which most people don’t know. There’s this ‘main meat’ on your plate concept that we’ve focused on for so long, it really is a different way of thinking about food to realize just how prevalent protein is in our diet. So do what your mother told you and eat more vegetables! They have protein too. Check it out!

True Vegetables

If you’re not from the Northeast US., you’re probably wondering what fiddleheads are. They’re the new branches of a fern which are curled (see image left). I’ve never tried them myself, but supposedly they’re really tasty. They do need to be cooked though because they (like many common foods) have compounds that need to be cooked away for safety.

Bamboo on the other hand I have had the pleasure of trying at a Chinese restaurant near me and it’s quite good. Okra on the other hand, I have to warn you: follow a recipe for okra. When you cut it open, it’s slimy and horrible. You will probably never want to put okra on a veggies and dip platter unless maybe it’s for Halloween. But, cooked it’s quite good.

Root Vegetables

The humble potato! Weighing in with almost 5 g of protein! What’s even better is that when you bake a potato, it’s so easy to top with chili, chickpeas, beans in general or whatever else that all works together to create a filling high-protein meal. Pictured right: a breakfast sweet potato that’s topped with nut butter, tahini, banana, blueberries and hemp seeds.

The most surprising veggie on this list though is probably the jimca. Jimca is much more tasty than other root veggies, so much so that you would definitely want this one on a veggie dip platter. The 4 mg of iron in it is a major step towards achieving our daily value as plant-based eaters; that’s over 30% DV for adult men and more than 10% DV for adult women.

Seed Vegetables

Seed vegetables are all technically fruits because the definition of a fruit is a plant that has seeds (or in the case of an avocado: one seed). Can you believe an avocado has 4 g of protein? Get a good high-protein bread and your avo-toast is suddenly a decent serving of protein, plus all those healthy fats.

The cucumber was actually the most surprising to me though; 2 g of protein just for putting a cucumber on my salad? Sweet! And to think all those times I’ve heard someone say that the cucumber has little value because it’s mostly water. I’m mostly water too, buddy! Pass me some cucumber! And, yes, I’ll have an extra gram of protein from a tomato too thanks. The bell pepper is another one where it’s just so comforting to know that if you stuff your grain medley (like rice and beans or quinoa and pecans) into a bell pepper, you pick up an extra gram of protein from the pepper.

Leaf Vegetables

Last but not least, the salad (although there’s a whole lot more you can do with these than just salad. Leaf vegetables can be mixed into stir fry medleys (pictured right), grain medleys, or for some of the bigger ones, used in place of bread for a lower carb sandwich or taco. The bok choy bringing in almost 2 mg of iron is a significant value (have you read our nutritional guide on iron yet, it’s different for vegans and important that you know about).

Recipe Suggestions

Here are a few vegetable-focused dishes to bring more veggie protein into your life! (Stay tuned, we’re new; more will be added soon!)