Turning Green with Protein


By Carol Penfield, M.S., Nurse Practitioner

“Eat your vegetables” is an ageless request.  The health benefits of eating vegetables is extensive.  They are a wonderful source of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.  Eating an assortment of vegetables of various colors also have been shown to promote a decreased risk for heart disease, cancers, stroke, as well as eye and digestive disorders.  Variety is as important as quantity.  The goal is to consume at least 2½ cups of vegetables daily.  According to major studies that included 110,000 people showed that those who ate 8 or more vegetable servings a day were 30% less likely to have a stroke or heart attack.

However, many people do not realize that some vegetables are also sources of protein.  Legumes, such as black beans, chick peas, kidney beans contain roughly 14 – 16 grams of protein per cup.  The highest protein content is in white beans and lentils, topping out at 19 grams/cup.  Other vegetables such as broccoli, spinach, corn and artichokes provide 4 – 5 grams of protein per cup.  Potatoes do as well, but don’t remove the skin, it contains over half of the nutrient.  The ideal source of vegetable protein is soy beans.  A cup serving has 29 grams and contains all 9 of the essential amino acids.

When adding protein to your meal, think beyond animal sources.  Animal based protein, such as meat, chicken, and cheese, also are sources of cholesterol, saturated fat and offer NO fiber.  The typical American diet exceeds the daily requirement of protein.  In fact, the suggested daily requirements have decreased over the years.  An average recommendation for females is 45 – 50 gms daily, and 50 – 70 gms for males. When looking for healthy sources of protein, look to vegetables as a lower calorie option as well.

Yet, another reason to eat more vegetables!


Carol Penfield M.S., NPC. is a Nurse Practitioner specializing in Lifestyle Medicine.  She instructs Complete Health Improvement Programs “CHIP” that highlight nutrition and exercise at Chatham Health & Swim Club. For more information contact: carol@chathamhealthclub.com  or call 508-945-3555.