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Protein Rich Greens: Ten Green Vegetables that Are Packed with Protein

Saturday, 30 March 2019 23:32

Everyone remembers being told as a child to “eat your green vegetables. “ Most likely, your greens were on a plate beside a chicken drumstick, pork chop or steak. Your meat would provide you with protein, and your green vegetables would supply you with vitamins A, C and K, folate, plus fiber, iron, calcium, potassium and minerals, things that aren't found in significant quantities in meat. “Protein-rich greens” weren't really in the common vocabulary

Nevertheless, protein-rich greens not only exist, they've been around since the days your Mom told you to eat your green vegetables. However, it has only been in the last few decades that awareness of protein-rich greens and their benefits has become widespread.

This is great news for vegans and vegetarians, but, of course, even carnivores will benefit from adding more protein rich greens to their plates. Plus, they’re lower in fat, cholesterol, calories and other “baddies” often found in various meats.

Ten of the Highest Protein-rich Greens You Can Eat

If you suspected that kale is on this list, you're right. But if you're not a kale fan, don't worry: there are lots of other greens that are rich in protein to choose from:

1) Brussels sprouts (3 grams of protein per cup): They're not just for Thanksgiving anymore, and the reason you think you don't like them probably has to do with how they were cooked for you. Boiled or steamed Brussels sprouts are boring, and all that water only intensifies the flavor of their glucosinolates, which are found in high levels in Brussels sprouts. Glucosinolates contain sulfur and nitrogen which become overpowering when exposed to water/steam. Some people like this flavor, but most people seem to be adverse to it.

On the other hand, when roasted in the oven, in a pan or even on the barbecue, the glucosinolates in Brussels sprouts are muted, and the sugars caramelize to a nutty-sweet flavor that is very appealing. Brussels sprouts can even be eaten raw. They are best consumed raw when chopped and added to salad greens. They can even be prepared like cole slaw: simply omit the cabbage and substitute chopped Brussels sprouts.

2) Asparagus (2.9 grams of protein per cup): Here is another green that you might have been turned off by because you tasted it boiled or steamed. Though some people like the taste, it’s definitely not everyone’s forte. That distinctive flavor comes from a chemical found only in asparagus, called asparagusic acid.

Like glucosinolates, asparagusic acid contains sulfur, which is enhanced when asparagus is exposed to water and heat. But, as with Brussels sprouts, asparagus can be pan, oven or barbecue-roasted, which tames the sulfur taste and caramelizes the sugars in asparagus.

3) Kale (2.9 grams of protein per cup): If you’re in your 40’s or older, you might remember going to a restaurant as a child and having your food come to you on a plate that was garnished with a leaf or two of kale. No one would ever actually eat the kale; it was merely for aesthetics.

Fast forward a couple of decades, and health-nuts began to realize the potential benefits of eating kale. Not only is it rich in protein, it is also unusually-high in vitamins A, C and K as well as manganese.

Not a fan of the cruciferous, chewy texture of kale? Try baby kale instead. It is much more tender and sweet, and contains the same nutrients as its fully-grown version. Both baby and mature kale make a delicious addition to salads or can be eaten on their own as a salad. Mature kale can also be cooked by stir-frying or adding to soups, or dried and roasted or air-fried to a potato chip-like crispness for a tasty snack.

4) Broccoli (2.6 grams of protein per cup): Broccoli is a very versatile green vegetable and can be eaten raw or cooked in a variety of ways. Boiling/steaming broccoli is probably the most familiar method of preparation, but it is also delicious when roasted or stir fried. It can be added to a salad, or can be grated/chopped and made into a coleslaw-like salad all on its own. (Hint: shredding is a great way to use up those long broccoli stems that some people find unappealing when cooked.) More and more people are even eating broccoli dried and roasted or air-fried as a crispy, crunchy snack.

5) Pea shoots (2 grams of protein per cup): Pea shoots are simply the baby version of a pea plant and are nutritionally similar to peas (see number 10). They are very tender and have a sweet taste like peas. These popular microgreens can be substituted for (or accompanied by) lettuce on sandwiches or burgers or added to salads. In addition to their high protein content, pea shoots are rich in vitamin C and iron.

6) Mustard greens (1.5 grams of protein per cup): Green connoisseurs are probably familiar with this leafy powerhouse. They are the leaves of the mustard plant, the same plant that produces the seeds that give us our favorite yellow condiment.

Mature leaves are similar in texture to kale but have a bitter, peppery flavor like… mustard, of course! They can be eaten raw in salad or cooked by sauteing, stir-frying or they can be added to soups. Like kale, if the mature leaves aren't appealing to you, try baby mustard greens. They are more tender and taste less bitter. In addition to being a source of vegetable protein, mustard greens are rich in vitamins K, A and C, manganese and folate.

7) Alfalfa sprouts (1.3 grams of protein per cup): Alfalfa sprouts are the original microgreen. The sprouts of the alfalfa plant, they make an interesting substitute for lettuce on sandwiches and wraps, and can also be added to salads and stir fries. Besides being a source of protein, you'll also find alfalfa sprouts packed with vitamins K and C as well as calcium.

8) Collard greens (.9 grams of protein per cup): A long-time staple in southern US cuisine, collard greens come from the same species of plants as broccoli and kale. Collard greens are hardy and tough like kale and mustard greens but have a milder flavor that some find more pleasant. Also like kale and mustard greens, collard greens can be eaten raw in a salad or on sandwiches or wraps. However, in the southern US you'll often find them served sauteed. The can also be stir-fried or added to soups.

9) Spinach (.9 grams of protein per cup): Spinach is probably the most familiar of the leafy protein-rich greens on this list. Uncooked spinach has a pleasant, mild flavor, making it ideal for use in salads. It can also be used in place of (or alongside) lettuce on sandwiches and wraps. Like the other leafy greens on this list, it can also be eaten cooked by sauteing or stir-frying or can be added to soups. Baby spinach is tender and best used uncooked. Mature spinach, although not as cruciferous as kale or mustard greens, is tougher and will stand up better to being cooked than baby spinach.

10) Peas 8 g. Technically, peas are legumes (beans). But they have been included on this list because they are green and are so high in protein. Not only that, but they're as versatile as any vegetable and can be eaten on their own, added to other dishes or even dried and seasoned for a tasty, crunchy snack.

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