Any guy who’s trying to build muscle is probably sensitive to two things: 1. How he works out and 2. What he eats. Ask any trainer or nutritionist, and they’ll both tell you the same thing: both carbohydrates and protein are essential if you want to see next-level strength gains. And while you may be tempted to load up on protein powder and steaks, you could be making a major mistake by skipping over the produce section.
Not only are vegetables chock-full of good-for-you nutrients that help your body function at optimal capacity and recover better, but some of them can even help you build muscle. Something that plant-based diet fans know all too well.
“The biggest misconception about following a vegetarian diet is the inability to consume adequate protein to support muscle growth and maintenance,” says Georgia Rounder, RDN, CDN. “However, you can definitely meet your personal protein needs when following a plant-based diet full of a variety of vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds.”
Here, Rounder shares some vegetables that you should include in your diet, ASAP:
According to a 2014 CDC study, watercress had the highest nutrient density score among 47 fruits and vegetables included in the study. The peppery green has approximately 2 grams of protein and only 8 calories in 2 cups. Watercress is a great addition to smoothies, packing a high dose of nutrients including calcium and iron.
2. Beet greens
While many of us are familiar with beets, beet greens (the leafy part of the vegetable) might be an even bigger nutrition powerhouse. These greens have over two grams of protein per 1 cup-serving, and they are also one of the highest rated vegetables on the CDC’s nutrient density list. The roots of these colorful greens are concentrated with folate, a water-soluble B vitamin that may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and slow the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
3. Brussels Sprouts
It’s safe to say Brussels have become one of the more trendy vegetables as of late—and for good reason. A 1 cup-serving of Brussels sprouts provides 3 grams of protein and a hefty amount of fiber that promotes satiety throughout the day (and in between workouts). Brussels are also a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, a group of cabbages high in the phytonutrient glucosinolate which has been shown to have cancer-protective properties.
4. Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes are not only naturally delicious, but they also provide a wealth of nutrition benefits to help fuel workouts and enhance performance. Their high fiber content helps maintain blood sugar levels, preventing fatigue throughout exercise. Sweet potatoes are also a great source of beta-carotene, a natural pigment that converts to Vitamin A, a key vitamin for clear and healthy vision.
5. Bell pepper
Whether you’re into green, red, yellow, or orange, bell peppers each contain nearly 2 grams of protein per a single ½-cup serving. These colorful vegetables are also a fantastic way to keep off those pesky colds as they are packed with the immunity-boosting Vitamin C.
The nutrient-packed dark, leafy green that has over 2 grams of protein in a 1 cup-serving. Kale also contains off-the-chart levels of Vitamin K, a fat-soluble vitamin that is an essential component in the process of building strong bones.
Soybeans can be a go-to for a plant-based dieter because it’s protein content. There’s 68 grams of protein in one cup of raw soybeans. But there’s tons of other benefits as well. Soybeans, which you will find in tofu and edamane, contain vitamin K, vitamin B6, vitamin C, thamin, folate and riboflavin. It’s also rich in iron, copper, zinc, potassium and other minerals. This muscle-building veggie can help with weight gain, improve metabolism, heart health and improve digestion.
This fungi provides a gram of protein per serving and is a perfect addition to your salad or stir-fry, and are low on calories. Mushrooms also have vitamin D, which some studies have shown can actually affect muscle strength. Healthy ‘shrooms are also rich in antioxidants, can positively affect your immunity and heart health.