Plants for Protein

Something I always have struggled with since I started lifting is getting enough protein in my diet in order to sufficiently help my body gain muscle.  I’m not really a huge meat-eating person, not that I actively try to avoid I just don’t like it that much and won’t go out of my way to make it. In conjunction with the fact that I’m a girl, I usually have find that unless I am actively tracking how much protein I’m taking in throughout the day it is difficult for me to put on weight and see improvements in the gym.  However, just because I don’t like eating meat doesn’t mean that need to solely rely on powders for my protein intake.  Obviously, I am partial, but I think vegetables are a very underrated and under appreciated form of protein.  There are so many different options, they are rich in other important nutrients as well as protein, and they don’t come with some of the health risks that are possibly associated with high meat intake. 

Table 1: Comparing content of vegetables to meat with same caloric intake2

    Vegetables with the highest protein content include beans, avocado, broccoli, and brussel sprouts3.  When compared side to side with a meat portion of equal caloric intake vegetables have much higher protein content2.  They are also low in calories and high in other macronutrients.  In comparison, meat has very few macronutrients and is higher in fat and cholesterol.  This means that replacing vegetables for meat will allow you to remain lean while continuing to get the necessary amount of protein.  Filling up on protein-rich vegetables also helps you stay fuller longer, reducing the change of extra snaking. 

    Some studies have also found that diets high in meat are possibly associated with other health risks.  Increased consumption of processed meat has been linked to increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and failure. 

With that being said meat is also beneficial for a well-balanced diet.  Although vegetables are rich in amino acids (the building blocks of proteins), they lack certain essential amino acids that are found in meat1.  Regular intake of fish and poultry is also associated with a lower risk of heart disease and associated conditions including stroke and heart attack.  There has also been a connection between meat intake and reduced loss of muscle mass with aging1.

As is the case with most things, balance in your diet is the most important rule.  Meat and vegetables both offer different benefit and depending on your goals in the gym and how your body reacts to different types of diets it can be useful to trial different sources of protein.

Work Cited

1.  Brown MJ. Animal vs Plant Protein – What’s the Difference? healthline. Published June 17, 2017. Accessed May 14, 2019.

2.  Matters Hand F. Protein Content of Green Vegetables Compared to Meat? The Way To Eat. Published August 13, 2014. Accessed May 14, 2019.

3.  The 20 Vegetables Highest In Protein Content. Published November 28, 2018. Accessed May 14, 2019.

Cover photo

Nashville; 2017. Accessed May 15, 2019.

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