Everyone knows by now that plant-based protein is pretty easy to get ahold of. Especially when considering that all foods have protein and that we don’t need to eat animals to take care of our bodies. Some of the best sources of dietary protein in a plant-based diet are often thought of in the form of soy, beans, and legumes. And while those foods are certainly great sources and have their place in many people’s diets, some people may not tolerate them as well as others. Or, when transitioning into a plant-based diet, some may find those foods hard to digest. Though they’re packed with nutritional benefits, they’re not the only source.
Many common grains and vegetables are all overflowing with easy to assimilate protein. Grains and vegetables are much easier to digest (for the most part) than soy, beans, and legumes. Even gluten-free eaters can enjoy whole grains that are filled with protein, along with grain-like seeds that also host an abundant amount. And let’s not forget that veggies are some of the best sources of alkaline protein, which will help keep muscle cells in good shape and prevent inflammation (unlike animal proteins).
Here are some of the best grains and veggies that contain protein:
Yes, the superfood seed-like grain of the decade still ranks as one of the best sources of dietary protein. Though technically a seed, it will cook up just like rice and is delicious. It’s also easy to digest and can be used in everything from muffins to pancakes, to bowls of porridge and baked goods of any kind. Quinoa is the perfect lunch or dinner grain since it’s light on the stomach and contains all essential amino acids.
A common breakfast food perhaps, but one that still deserves acknowledgement, oats are a wonderful source of protein, fiber, magnesium, and B vitamins. They contain 5 grams of protein per 1/3 cup, and are one of the best filling grains that exists due to their high amounts of beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber that improves heart health, cholesterol, and even body weight. Try oats in soaking your oats with coconut yogurt to improve the nutrition, brew up a hearty bowl of oatmeal, try oats in savory dishes of any kind, and get creative with the toppings you choose for a bit of variety and excitement!
Though they are two different types of rice, black and wild rice are very similar in nutrition and flavor. Both are gluten-free, very easy to digest, promote healing and alkalinity, are 100 percent whole grains. They have a slightly sweet, deep, and nutty flavor that work well in any dish of your choosing. Wild rice is actually an aquatic grass that has said to promote healthy digestion and weight loss, and black rice is a common grain eaten that’s easier to digest than brown rice, and higher in fiber and antioxidants. Try black rice in Scented and Crunchy Asian Black Rice Salad and try wild rice in Steamed Sweet Potatoes With Basil and Tomato Chili Sauce. You can also cook a large batch of them at the beginning of the week in some non-dairy milk with cinnamon and vanilla, and reheat each morning to enjoy as a healthy breakfast.
Barley does contain gluten, but is one of the best sources of protein, B vitamins, and cleansing antioxidants. It’s also rich in flavor, containing a slightly sweet, nutty flavor and many people find it easier to digest than wheat and much less allergenic. If you don’t have a diagnosed gluten allergy, do give barley a try. It’s one of the best sources of beta glucan soluble fibers like oats, can keep you full a long time, and is fat and cholesterol-free. Barley makes a mean Mushroom Barley Griller Veggie Burger and can be prepared as a breakfast porridge or used in a hearty soup.
Per cup, broccoli has about 5 grams of protein, which is pretty amazing for a vegetable, and considering that broccoli florets bulk up quickly, one cup is only equal to about 6 florets at the most. That’s pretty great! Eat two cups for one serving (since broccoli really is pretty delicious) and you’ve easily downed 10 grams of protein for about 70 calories. Try comparing any other food to that and you’ll have a hard time coming up with such stellar numbers! Broccoli also contains 4 grams of fiber per cup, which will keep you full awhile, along with promote healthy digestion. Find out 12 Yummy Ways to Cook with Broccoli if you’re tired of the typical steamed option.
Spinach is high in plant-based protein, also equaling 5 grams per cup of loose leaf spinach. Always go for organic when possible, since spinach is a highly contaminated crop in conventional form. Spinach has a nice mild flavor that works well in so many plant-based dishes. Pack out a smoothie with 2 cups of spinach and you’ve easily obtained 10 grams in a delicious, dessert-like meal. You can also use spinach in multiple dinner dishes including salads, soups, tacos, veggie burgers, raw dishes, casseroles, stir-fries, and hearty vegetable bowls. Also try it in 21 of our favorite recipes!
Green beans are technically a vegetable by botanical nature, not a bean. They’re virtually starch-free unlike most beans and legumes, and contain very few carbohydrates per serving, along with calories. Nutritionally, they’re similar to broccoli, containing 4 grams of protein per half cup, along with 3 grams of fiber and 0 grams of fat or cholesterol. They’re also a good source of magnesium and some B vitamins. Any style of green beans will work and will fill you up nicely, while also taking care of your muscles! Try green beans in: Zucchini Pasta with Garlic Green Beans and Stuffing, Super Flax Green Beans, Easy and Delicious Roasted Rosemary String Beans, or even Green Bean Casserole Pizza !
Okay, technically, these aren’t the highest source of the bunch, but they’re pretty impressive for such a healthy little food! Per cup of Brussels, you’ll get 4 grams of protein, which makes it simple to easily get 10-15 grams if you pair them with a few other high protein veggies and a grain. Simple, right? Brussels sprouts are also some of the best anti-cancer vegetables to eat since they contain high amounts of glucosinolates, which are found in broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and other cruciferous veggies that contain glucosinolates as well. Try roasting Brussels sprouts for a dish that has a high-impact flavor, or using them in a curry that’s also rich in nutrients to satisfy you and keep you full.
Green peas are also more like a vegetable than a legume and are very easy to digest compared to some legumes. Green peas are packed with protein, containing 4 grams in just 1/3 cup, and are one of the least allergenic proteins out there. Pea protein powder used in vegan protein supplements is often made from green (or yellow) peas, so why not just eat your sweet green peas and go straight to the source? Remember, this doesn’t include split peas, which are a whole different plant and are more like a legume, richer in starches and sugars. Sneak some green peas in your next smoothie for something surprisingly sweet and tasty, or just use them in a vegetable soup, add them to a hearty entree, over a salad, or even in a nice, hearty veggie wrap. Or, just toss them over some quinoa or wild or black rice and call yourself protein-packed for the day!
Packing your diet out with protein is as easy as putting a variety of grains and vegetables onto your plate. And yes, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and tofu products are just fine too! Also don’t forget that leafy greens and fruits also make up for a healthy diet, so include a variety of non-processed foods to get more than just protein, but also energizing vitamins, minerals, and all that natural goodness!
We also highly recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone, and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 8,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to ten new recipes per day. Check it out!
Lead image source: 5-Ingredient Peanut Butter Oatmeal Energy Bites