This Popular Veggie Has More Protein Than You'd Expect

Protein is essential for more than just lifting heavy weights. Kids need it for growth and development, but adults can benefit from getting plenty in their diets, too. Protein can do wonders for your health, from keeping your bones strong to regulating your blood pressure and even supporting your fitness levels. But let's face it; getting the recommended 15 to 30 grams of protein (per Mayo Clinic) into each meal can be challenging. Fortunately, there are a variety of delicious, healthy, and readily available ways to incorporate protein into your diet.

For instance, did you know you don't have to rely solely on meat to get your daily dose of protein? Believe it or not, many vegetables, including broccoli, can also be great protein sources. It may not seem possible, but according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), broccoli is actually a decent source of protein that is also seriously low in calories, carbs, and fat.

Broccoli is low in calories and packed with protein

Broccoli is a powerhouse of nutrients that packs a protein punch. According to the USDA, one cup of chopped broccoli contains 2.6 grams of protein. And perhaps the best part is it has just 34 calories, about 7 carbs, and less than a gram of fat. Broccoli is not only a good source of protein, but it's also loaded with vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber, making it a perfect addition to your meals. Broccoli's amino acid profile is also noteworthy. Although it's not a complete protein as it does not contain all nine essential amino acids, it is packed with six of them. 

Your body can't produce these on its own, so you need to get them from your diet. It also contains several non-essential amino acids, which are key to maintaining a healthy body. These essential building blocks of proteins are necessary for tissue growth, repair, and maintenance. Additionally, amino acids are involved in vital bodily functions such as hormone production and nutrient transport.

Broccoli's health benefits go way beyond protein

Aside from being protein-packed, broccoli is also full of vitamins and nutrients that contribute to overall well-being and offer many health benefits too. Vitamins like C, K, and A are all essential for different aspects of well-being, including immune system support, blood clotting, bone health, vision, and skin health. Broccoli's excellent antioxidant properties notably come from natural compounds like sulforaphane, quercetin, and beta-carotene. These elements help fight oxidative stress, reducing inflammation and the risk of developing chronic diseases. 

Broccoli's high fiber content is also great for your digestive system and can even help with weight management by making you feel fuller for longer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fiber also helps regulate blood sugar levels and cholesterol, promoting better cardiovascular health. 

Research also suggests that sulforaphane, another important compound found in broccoli, can inhibit the growth of cancer cells (via UCLA Health). In addition, vitamin K, along with calcium and phosphorus content in broccoli, supports bone health, which is essential to prevent conditions such as osteoporosis, per Healthline.

Broccoli's versatility in nutritious meal creations

Make the most of this nutrient-packed vegetable by incorporating it into more meals. Mix broccoli with colorful veggies like cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, and red onions, drizzle with olive oil, and roast until caramelized for a visually appealing and yummy side dish. Craving a loaded baked potato? Try stuffing it with a broccoli and cheese filling. Give traditional pesto a makeover by blending steamed broccoli with basil, garlic, pine nuts, and Parmesan. Toss with your favorite pasta for a nutritious and flavorful alternative.

If you're looking for a savory vegetarian burger, simply combine cooked quinoa with finely chopped broccoli, breadcrumbs, herbs, and spices. Pan-fry it until it's golden brown and ready to eat. You could even try blending broccoli into a green smoothie with fruits like bananas, berries, and almond milk for a refreshing and nutrient-packed way to kickstart your morning. 

Stir-fry broccoli with chickpeas, bell peppers, and a flavorful sauce, and serve over brown rice or quinoa. Simply put, broccoli can be a versatile, easy, and enjoyable part of your daily meals while boosting your protein.