When trying to cut back on sugar, many forget to replace processed foods with just the right amount of vegetables. But they provide so much more than vitamins — they’re important sources of macronutrients, too. Vegetables are loaded with healthy carbs, and many common veggies are also high in protein. This nutrient not only promotes muscle growth, but also serves as the foundation for many of your body’s basic functions. (Your mom wasn’t lying when she told you vegetables were good for you.) Here are 15 vegetables that are high in protein, and all the extra benefits they can provide.
1. Hubbard squash
Protein per cup (cooked): 5.08 grams
Hubbard squash provides approximately 10 grams of fiber per cup, almost half the amount of fiber you’re supposed to eat daily. Like other orange vegetables, it also carries a lot of vitamins A and C. And according to Organic Facts, squash can help you keep your blood sugar stable, reduce inflammation, and even promote a healthy heart. Just a serving or two of squash at dinner is plenty. With that much protein and fiber, you’ll feel full in no time.
Next: You put it in your salad, but you probably don’t know why it’s so good for you.
Protein per cup (raw): 0.86 grams
The average spinach salad uses at least 2 cups of this leafy vegetable per bowl, which means you’ll get a decent amount of protein even without adding chicken (and just think how much you could pack in if you wilt it first). The World’s Healthiest Foods says spinach is also an excellent source of iron. So, if you’re not a big red meat eater, adding spinach to your diet can increase your iron intake without much effort. Don’t like salad? Put spinach on your burger or sandwich. You can also add it to pasta, or blend it into your veggie-based smoothie.
Next: This starchy vegetable has more protein than the others you’ve seen so far.
3. Green peas
Protein per cup (cooked): 8.58 grams
Unless you have an inexplicable aversion to foods that roll, green peas should be a staple in your weekly meal plan. According to Livestrong.com, peas contain enough fiber, iron, and vitamin A to add significant value to whatever you pair them with. Peas have 25 grams of carbs per cup, so they aren’t the best choice if you’re trying to minimize your carb intake. However, their combined protein and fiber content will make you think twice before saying yes to an extra large portion of dessert.
Next: This vegetable can replicate a lot of your favorite starch-heavy sides.
Protein per cup (cooked): 1.14 grams
There are about 2 grams of fiber per cup of cauliflower, which can easily contribute to your recommended 25 grams per day (women over 50 should aim for 21). Cauliflower, according to Authority Nutrition, also provides plenty of antioxidants to help reduce inflammation and reduce your cancer risk. Plus, it’s a healthy, versatile vegetable many people use instead of grains. Even if you’re not on a low-carb diet, making rice, a mashed side (instead of mashed potatoes), and pizza crust out of cauliflower can cut your carb intake significantly.
Next: Did you know you can eat multiple parts of this root vegetable?
5. Beet greens
Protein per cup (raw): 0.84 grams
Eating green, leafy vegetables is one of the best things you can do to make sure you’re getting all the vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy. Beet greens are often forgotten, but they’re great for eating, too. Livestrong.com notes beet greens are a plentiful source of vitamins A, C, and K. Even better, their bitter taste makes them easy to pair with some of your favorite flavors, like garlic, olive oil, and cheese. Once you separate beets from their greens, you can sauté the greens while roasting the root ends to create a colorful, flavor-filled salad.
Next: You’ll have to get creative when flavoring these guys.
6. Brussels sprouts
Protein per cup (cooked): 2.97 grams
At almost 3 grams of…