Whether we are in a cutting, bulking, or maintenance phase, counting our macronutrients is a habit that remains the same. Raising and lowering calories, fats, carbohydrates, and protein intake is essential toward transforming your body into your ultimate physique.
The one macronutrient that is hyped and discussed the most for strength and muscle building is protein. And there’s good reason for that. Protein assists with muscle growth and helping to repair and rebuild your muscles after they become stressed during exercise. Proper protein intake helps improve the protein synthesis process within your body, which assists in building muscle faster and stronger.
The first foods we think about consuming to meet our protein requirements are meats, fish, or protein powders. Chicken, beef, turkey, tuna, salmon, eggs, and whey protein are some of the most common food items we eat to satisfy our daily protein intake.
But many of us get so focused on counting our macronutrients that we tend to forget about our micronutrients. Micronutrients include fruits and vegetables and provide our body with essential vitamins and minerals, which help our body and brain function properly each day. A deficiency in these vitamins and minerals can lead to you having less energy throughout the day and leave you more susceptible to injury – and less likely to get exercise.
Fruits and vegetables are also an excellent source of protein for those of you who are vegetarians, vegans, or just someone looking to add some extra grams of protein into your diet. Adding protein-packed vegetables to your daily nutritional regimen is an easy way to add more protein to your diet while also adding the variety of other nutritional benefits that vegetables provide.
Here’s a list of 10 protein-packed vegetables to help you close in on those extra 15-30 grams of protein you may need to reach your daily protein goals and build your ideal physique.
The king of protein-packed vegetables, soybeans provide approximately 28 grams of protein per cup, which is equivalent to about 5 oz of chicken. So pairing a cup of soybeans with your chicken can provide you with over 50 grams of protein in one meal. The fiber and unsaturated fats within the soybeans also provide digestive and cardiovascular benefits.
- Brussels Sprouts
The one vegetable you either love or hate, Brussels sprouts is a great low-calorie, low-fat vegetable to incorporate into your daily nutrition. Providing 3 grams of protein per cup at only 40 calories, Brussels sprouts will help fuel your body as they are rich in vitamin C and K, and also contact minerals like folate and copper.
Stop thinking of edamame as something you eat before sushi. With 22 grams of protein per cup, edamame is also low in fat and calories and packs a large amount of essential vitamins and minerals. Packing edamame into Ziploc bags to keep in the fridge as a quick, high-protein snack is a great way to stay on par with your nutrition.
One of the most nutrient-packed legumes, lentils packs approximately 18 grams of protein per cup when cooked, with only 230 calories. Lentils are a great protein source to add to your diet during a cut or those low-calorie days because of their low calorie count. They are also a great source of fiber and provide high amounts of folate, phosphorus, and iron. Lentils are perfect for pairing along with your meat and carbohydrate source for some extra protein. Or, if you are looking to take a break from the meat for one meal, you can mold them into a lentil patty for a high-protein, meat-free burger.
A fruit that’s not always in season, the guava is a sweet, tasty fruit that you can use to satisfy your sweet tooth, meet your micronutrient goals, and provide your body with a small amount of healthy protein. With 4 grams of protein in a single guava, guavas are also high in fiber and packed with vitamins A, B, C, and K.
They may be small, but peas provide a decent amount of protein. A cup of peas contains about 9 grams of protein and is a great source of vitamin A, C, fiber, and iron. Containing a good amount of fiber, peas are a great protein-packed vegetable to add to your diet on a high-carb day.
- Pumpkin Seeds
Not just a snack to enjoy during the fall season, pumpkin seeds pack approximately 5 grams of protein per ounce, pumpkin seeds can be roasted, seasoned and put into plastic bags as tasty snack when you get that midday craving. Throw away the chips and start munching on these small, high-protein bites.
My personal favorite of all nutrient-rich vegetables, one cup of asparagus contains approximately 5 grams of protein per serving. Asparagus also provides a great amount of potassium and is one of the top plant sources for vitamin K. This protein-packed vegetable is one of my favorites because it also acts as a natural diuretic, providing the perfect side dish during those cutting phases. Depending on your goals, asparagus is going to help you get slimmer while helping you reach your daily protein intake.
Ah, broccoli. The go-to vegetable for anyone who eats a healthy diet and wants to look their best. Why? Because broccoli is a fat-free, micronutrient-packed vegetable that can be paired with any meal with ease. Microwave, sautéed, or boiled, one cup of broccoli will give you an extra 2.6 grams of protein per cup. While broccoli doesn’t pack the high amount of protein as the vegetables discussed before, a cup of broccoli will give you over 100 percent of your daily vitamin C and K needs.
A hearty vegetable you can enjoy alongside your steak or chicken. With 16 grams of protein per cup of corn, this vegetable is one of the highest protein packed micros on this list. Corn has been a staple vegetable within numerous cultures for thousands of years and provides a healthy source of fiber and vitamin B.