By: Ntsako Mathye
“Eat your vegetables if you want to be big and strong like Popeye”, we’ve all heard it! For some of us eating vegetables growing up was not a side dish but rather our main meal, like pap and spinach. I always wondered how I would grow big and strong if I only ate vegetables and no meat. My mother assured me that there was plenty of Protein in vegetables. I didn’t believe her, so I decided to find out for myself, and I was amazed.
Vegetables are not only a great source of Vitamins and Minerals that we need to consume for different bodily functions, but many vegetables are a great source of Protein. Protein is essential for many bodily functions, including muscle growth and repair. So, if you’ve been thinking of decreasing your meat intake and going a little greener, here are some common and easy-to-find vegetables that can help fill the Protein gap.
Beans are so versatile and fortunately they are packed full of Protein. They provide many of the essential Amino Acids, like as Isoleucine and Lysine, which we need in our diet. Amino Acids are the building blocks of Protein. Different beans contain different amounts of Protein. The soybean is one of the best sources of Protein. In just one cup of soybeans you would get 29g of Protein. On average one cup of other cooked beans will give you a very substantial 14g of Protein. Black beans contain about 15g per cup1,2. Sprouted beans are even higher in Protein. Sprouting just means that they have started to grow, so they would have little root-like structures.
Thanks to our friend Popeye we already know that spinach is a ‘superfood’ that gives us great powers. Spinach is a great source of Vitamins, Minerals and Antioxidants. But along with all those micronutrients, there is plenty of Protein as well. Spinach contains 5.3g of Protein per cup of cooked spinach2,3. Spinach can make a Protein-rich addition to your favourite meal or fruit smoothie.
This little round green mushy vegetable is not only a fun food to give to babies when they start to explore food, it’s also a Protein-packed vegetable. Peas contain 7.9g of Protein per cup. You can easily add peas to many dishes like stews and salads to increase the Protein content3, 4.
Broccoli is high in Fibre, Minerals and Antioxidants. It also contains Vitamin K and C. This makes the Protein just an added benefit. Broccoli contains 2.6g of Protein per cup. You can add chopped broccoli to pasta dishes or stews to hide it away from those fussy children, alternatively add a homemade cheese sauce to improve the flavour and increase the Protein3, 4.
They grow everywhere but you can’t eat them all. Mushrooms are a very versatile food which are very easy to find. They are also packed full of Vitamins, Minerals and Antioxidants. Protein content varies within the mushroom range, with popular button mushrooms containing 3.9g of Protein per cooked cup3.
One of my favourite South African vegetables has to be the mealie (as we fondly call it). Technically, corn is a grain, but many people use it as a vegetable. Whether you’re serving sweetcorn on the side or whole kernels on the braai, it is delicious. Corn provides 4.7g per medium ear and also contains plenty of Vitamins and Minerals.
We know we should eat at least 5 fruits and vegetables per day, because they are very “good” for us but often protein is not one of the benefits that pop to mind when we think of veggies. There are many vegetables that can be a good source of Protein. Take your time and familiarise yourself with your vegetable aisle, and try to replace some animal protein in your diet with the vegetables mentioned in this article. To get the most benefit from vegetables, mix it up and eat a rainbow of colours. Play around with recipes to make them interesting, try vegetables raw or cooked, but remember to “eat your veggies if you want to be big and strong like Popeye!”
Where does FUTURELIFE® fit in?
Within the FUTURELIFE® range we have a large variety of high Protein options which can be used to complement your high Protein vegetables in the quest to reach your Protein requirements without eating large amounts of meat. Interestingly, the primary protein source used in our range is the “hero” of vegetable Proteins, the soybean.