Since 1992, consumers guided their diet using the recognizable Food Guide Pyramid, an illustration distributed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to show the types of foods and servings people should eat on a daily basis. As of 2011, that chart has been replaced with the MyPlate icon, according to The Atlantic.
The circular image resembles a plate and offers a breakdown of what daily consumption should look like for adults and children, as well as the differences for men and women. The largest element of this chart is vegetables, which provide a number of nutrients for people. Let’s take a closer look at this type of food and the helpful proteins found within vegetables:
Not all vegetables are created equal
According to choosemyplate.gov, this food group is broken up into five subcategories:
- Dark-green vegetables
- Starchy vegetables
- Red and orange vegetables
- Beans and peas
- Other vegetables
The number of these items a person needs to consume on a daily basis depends on factors such as age, sex and amount and level of physical activity, the USDA continued.
“Consuming vegetables can minimize the risk of heart disease, diabetes and more.”
A strong source of healthy nutrients
Vegetables offer people many benefits by providing various nutrients and minerals to support a healthy body and diet. From vitamins A and C to potassium, folic acid and beyond, these foods tend to be low-fat and low-calorie, helping consumers minimize the likelihood of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and more, according to the USDA.
While people may not think of vegetables as a strong source of protein – and because MyPlate includes its own protein section – certain subgroups of this food provide this energy-building nutrient.
For vegetarians, vegans and others who need or are looking to introduce more protein into their diet, vegetables can be the answer. These items span the five subgroups the USDA listed. According to Healthline, here are some of the best sources of protein:
- Lima beans: Around 7 grams of protein per 100 grams
- Mung beans: 12 grams of protein per one-fourth cup
- Lentils: 18 grams per one cup
- Green peas: 8.5 grams per one cup
- Edamame: 18 grams per one cup
- Potatoes: 5 grams per one medium potato, with the skin
- Broccoli: 4.26 grams per one stalk
- Artichokes: 4 grams per one artichoke
Not all proteins are the same
Just like the protein people gain by eating meat, certain high-protein vegetables are better than others when people look at the entire package, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Some items may contain a strong serving of protein but be paired with sodium and less healthy fats. Consumers should be cognizant of what their high-protein vegetables contain as well as how they’re prepared to get the most nutrients out of the food. In addition, proteins gained from plants tend to lack all of the essential amino acids people need – which can often be accounted for by eating meat, according to Livestrong.
Supplements can help
Since essential amino acids cannot be produced by the human body – and must instead be consumed by eating certain foods – people often try to incorporate protein-rich items into their diet. For those that eat meat, this feat may be a little simpler. Vegetarians and vegans, however, may struggle to gain all of the amino acid and protein they need to stay healthy.
In these cases, as well as for people looking for additional protein to enhance energy and physical endurance, supplements can be a helpful aid. These additives can provide the essential amino acids people may find challenging to consume.