What comes to your mind when I say protein? A cup of milk? Eggs? Lean or Red meat? What if I tell you, that even there exist high protein veggies that can help in meeting your daily protein requirement?
In this article, you will come to know about such high protein veggies that you have been including in your daily meals and should encourage to add more.
Table of Content
- What is Protein
- Protein Requirement
- Amino Acids
- Protein in Diet
- Vegetables Rich in Protein
- Green Peas
- Green Leafy Vegetables
- Brussels Sprouts
What is Protein?
The word protein comes from the Greek word ‘Proteos’ meaning primary or first place. It is the macro-nutrient as required in a relatively larger amount by the body for normal functioning.
It is one of the essential nutrients as cannot be synthesized or can be stored for further utilization. And plays a crucial role in the smooth and healthy growth and development.
The protein comprises of elements- Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, and Nitrogen.
The Food Energy of Protein is 4 cal/ gram, which means that upon digestion and assimilation, it gets oxidized and release 4 cals of energy. It is equivalent to carbohydrate.
As protein is required for the growth and maintenance, its requirement varies individual to individual. Therefore two factors which are considered to determine its requirement are:
Metabolic demand- It is the minimum energy required by the body for all the voluntary and involuntary functions in the body. It varies as per an individual’s physical, physiological and mental state.
Dietary requirement- It is the number of calories attributed to nutrient, been supplied by the diet to fulfill the metabolic demands. In the context of the protein, it is its amount to meet up the metabolic demands as well as maintain nitrogen equilibrium.
As all the protein we eat is not completely digested and its efficiency of absorption varies between animal and plant sources, as described by Net Protein Utilization, the above mentioned two factors should be in the ratio of
Dietary requirement > Metabolic demands
Also, the dietary requirement increases as metabolic demands during special needs like growth, pregnancy, and lactation.
As per the Indian Council of Medical Research, 2010, the protein requirement is based on
- Reference Body Weight
- Bioavailability of protein source
- Maintenance and well being
- Also, as per the NFHS reports, the deficiency of protein especially in pregnant women along with poor Pre and Post-delivery development.
Table 1: Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of Man and Woman as per ICMR
|Body weight (kg)|
|Lactation (0-6 months)|
Amino Acids: The Building Blocks
The basic and even the most complicated structure of a protein is attributed to its basic element: amino acid.
Basically, there are 20 amino acids whose different placement and arrangement determine the structure and function of the protein.
Out of these 20 amino acids, 9 are the one that cannot be synthesized by the body and are required from external sources. These are known as essential amino acids.
Attributing to the amino acid content and arrangement, the functions of protein can be categorized into:
Table 2: Functions of Protein
That catalyze many vital biochemical reactions in the body
Pepsin, Amylase, Lipase
They help in transportation of compounds around the body
Responsible for transmitting the message in the form of signals
Responsible for building body immunity
Antibodies, Complement proteins
Form structural components
Responsible for muscle contraction and relaxation
Protein in Diet
As protein is a crucial nutrient required by each and every body tissue, its presence is inevitable. Therefore, the inclusion of protein-rich food groups in your diet should be ensured.
After the ingestion and digestion, protein is simplified to amino acids and used for different purposes in different parts of the body.
Protein comes from a variety of sources categorized into Animal and plant sources.
Animal sources- Foods like meat, fish, eggs, dairy and dairy products are excellent sources of protein. Also, these are better compared to plant sources as contain all essential amino acids which are more efficiently absorbed as well.
Plant sources- Sources like dals, legumes, seeds, nuts, and millets are considered to be a good source of protein.
Vegetables Rich in Protein
As we are discussing and thinking about protein-rich sources, usually an image of grilled chicken or a cup of milk comes to our mind. But what if you are pure vegetarian or even vegan?
Well, to your surprise, there are plenty of vegetables that you have been consuming since always, being unaware of the fact that they are also contributing significantly to your daily protein requirement as well.
Let’s take a look at some of these protein-rich vegetables
Not like by many but its a treasure of nutrients. Broccoli, belonging to the Cruciferae family, is high in protein.
100 gram of raw and chopped broccoli provides around 2.82 grams of protein.
It includes a good content of essential amino acids, vitamins like Vitamin C, E, and Folic acid, minerals like Calcium, Magnesium, and Selenium as well.
Other health benefits of Broccoli
- Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action– As contain phytonutrients like flavonoids and polyphenols, they help in reducing the inflammatory reactions in the body. Also, help in removing toxins and free radicals from the body.
- Reduce the risk of Cancer- As Broccoli belongs to the Cruciferae family, it is a rich source of Glucosinolates, that reduce the risk of cancer.
- Good for Liver health- Due to free radical scavenging activity, the Liver is less susceptible to damage due to oxidative stress and free fatty acids concentration in the body.
Various forms to consume Broccoli- It can be consumed in steamed, sauteed and baked form as well. Can be used as side dishes, soups or salad.
Also known as garden peas, English peas or ‘Matar’, it is a vegetable belonging to the Fabaceae family. Green peas are a good source of protein and supply 5.42 gram of protein per 100 gram in fresh form.
Compared to other legumes, it is low in calories as well providing 81 calories per 100 gram.
Apart from protein, broccoli is also a good source of micronutrients like folic acid (65 mcg), Vitamin C (40 mg) and Vitamin K (25 mcg).
Other health benefits of Green Peas
- Provide satiety value– Being rich in protein, Green peas digest slowly, providing the satiety value and therefore, there is a feeling of fullness for a longer time. This helps to prevent overeating.
- Regulate blood sugar level– As high in protein and fiber, with the low GI, green peas regulate blood sugar level by the slow digestion and consequently, slow release of glucose in the body.
- Healthy for gut-microflora– As green peas are a rich source of insoluble fiber, they are responsible for the flourishing of healthy bacteria in the intestine that also helps on the synthesis of essential vitamins like Vitamin K.
- Antihyperglycemic effect Presence of bioactive compounds like flavonols, carotenoids in green peas, they are helpful in reducing the hazardous consequences of oxidative stress and also lowering down the blood glucose level.
- Reduce inflammation– Due to compounds like ferulic acid, caffeic acid, and flavonols, consumption of green peas helps in reducing the incidence of inflammation in the body and therefore, lowering the chances and prevalence of inflammation-related diseases.
Various forms to consume Green peas– It can be consumed as a side dish as soups, salads, and sauces. Also, used as the main dish in curry form.
Green Leafy Vegetables
Green leafy vegetables (GLVs) are not only good for micronutrients but also a great source of proteins as well.
Some commonly consumed green leafy vegetables like bathua leaves, spinach, drumstick leaves, amaranth have high protein content which contributes significantly to the Daily Reference Intake (DRI) as shown in Table 3.
Table 3: Protein content in GLVs per 100 gram
Green Leafy Vegetables
Protein (gram/100 gram)
Other health benefits of Green Leafy Vegetables
- Assist in weight loss– As these are very less in simple carbs and majorly comprising of complex carbs, they are very good at shedding weight.
- Prevents lifestyle disorders– This is majorly attributed to fiber content that is responsible for regulating blood sugar and lowers the blood cholesterol level. Also, antioxidants like beta- carotenes and quercetin reduce the inflammation induced chronic diseases.
- Healthy bone and Blood circulation– Green leafy vegetables are the rich source for Vitamin K, it is potential of preventing blood clotting. Also, forms a compound called osteocalcin, which is very essential for bone health.
- Rich in bioactive compounds– Contains a good amount of carotenoids- Lutein and zeaxanthin which are responsible for eye and skin health, prevents cancer and even strokes.
Various forms to consume Green Leafy Vegetables- It is a versatile vegetable and can be used in smoothies, salads, sandwiches and even in curry form.
As in childhood or even now, its taste might not be heartening but it is nutrient content has given it a place in some of the most exotic, gourmet menus.
These are cruciferous vegetables of the same class as of cabbage and are good sources of protein, fiber, minerals, and vitamins.
100 gram of fresh brussels sprouts contains around 4 gram of protein. Also, a rich source of other nutrients like fiber, Vitamin K, vitamin C, folic acid and beta-carotene.
Other health benefits of Brussels Sprouts
- Helpful in managing diabetes- Studies have suggested that Brussels sprouts contain an antioxidant called alpha-lipoic acid which has shown to improve the blood glucose level, improve the insulin sensitivity as well as reduce the oxidative stress.
- Antioxidant property- Contains phytonutrients like lutein, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene that help in reducing oxidative stress as well as related chronic diseases.
- Good for eye and skin health- As contain a good amount of Vitamin C and carotenoids, they help in improving the strengthening the vision power as well as help in keeping skin intact.
Various forms to consume Brussels sprouts– It can be consumed in various forms ranging from the steamed, roasted, toasted form. It can be used to make a one-pot dish, as a salad, added in soups as well.
Belonging to the Malvaceae family, it is commonly known as gumbo or Ladies finger with characteristic viscous juice.
They are basically cultivated in warm, temperate regions around the world. It is considered a very important and resourceful plant with its majorly all parts being utilized including, stems, fresh leaves, flowers, and pods.
They are harvested when green and tender at an immature stage.
They have a high content of protein with around 2 gram in 100 gram of fresh okra. They are also a good source of fiber wit around 3 gram per 100 gram of okra.
Other Health Benefits of Okra
- Less in calorie- Okra has very less calorie carrying 30 calories per 100 gram besides the total absence of saturated and trans fats.
- Helps in easing constipation- As the pods contain viscous juice or mucilage, this helps in preventing or reducing the case of constipation by ensuring smooth peristaltic movement.
- Good source of Carotenoids- These help in providing strong antioxidant property to the body removing free radicals from the body. Also, they help in improving the health of eye and skin epithelium as well.
- Okra is a good source of one of Vitamin B- Folic acid, that helps in proper formation and expression of DNA. Therefore, prevents any neural and growth related defects in newborns, if sufficiently supplied during pre-conception, conception and gestation phase.
Various forms to consume Okra- Okra is commonly consumed in fried form with curries, with seafood, roasted form, stew and even, pickled form.
There are a lot of other vegetables like potato, cauliflower, cluster beans, fava beans, etc, that when consumed regularly in the form of different recipes can contribute to your protein intake as well as providing other precious, healthy phytonutrients.