When you’re focused on getting the most protein for your caloric buck, it’s very easy to go way overboard on the meat and forget that vegetables often contain ample amounts of protein, too. Vegetables are also rich in dietary fiber, which is essential to keeping your body operating smoothly. The amino acids in vegetables, which are mostly incomplete, complement meat to create a perfect balance of nutrients.
Ideally, 36-45% of your daily Paleo menu should consist of plant foods. And then there are other complications: you don’t want to consume too many carbohydrates, nor more modern food groups like legumes and grains. So what does that leave you with? The following list includes wild plants, seeds, and cultivated vegetables so that you can tap into a wide range of sources.
Nettles have been gathered for their nutritional and medicinal properties throughout much of human history. In addition to being effective against asthma, arthritis, diabetes, prostate cancer, and many more conditions, they are one of the highest sources of protein out there! The stinging sensation completely disappears during cooking, so there’s no need to worry about that. When harvesting, be sure to pick the younger, less bitter plants, and try to harvest only the top 6 inches of them so that they can regrow. All you need to get a sack full of nettles are a long-sleeved shirt, gloves, and a pocketknife. They’re best sautéed or used in herbal tea.
Almonds are the most nutrient-dense nuts; in fact, one ounce contains about 6 grams of protein. Almond trees are among the oldest cultivated plants, and their seeds were enthusiastically spread from the cradle of civilization to Africa, Europe, and the United States over the millennia. The nuts have been found in many archaeological sites, including Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Egyptian Valley of Kings. It’s easy to see why almonds have been so popular for so long: they can be eaten raw or cooked in all kinds of dishes.
Honestly, I think I like squash seeds more than I like squashes. They make wonderful snacks when roasted, and you can add literally any spice mix to them! And they’re easy – just pop out your squash’s guts with a spoon, pour them into a bowl of water, and separate the seeds by hand. Squash seeds are a great source of protein, Vitamin K, iron, and copper. I tend to roast them with curry or chili powder and snack on them while watching movies – they’re much nicer than popcorn!
Though they are the bane of many children’s dinnertimes, broccoli is a fine protein source with a lot of additional nutritional benefits. One cup of this cruciferous wonder contains almost 6 grams of protein! Growing your own is astoundingly easy, and the nutritional benefits of doing so are well worth the effort. Luckily for the culinary art-impaired guy, broccoli tastes best when prepared simply. Just roast or steam your stalk for an awesome side dish to any roasted meat.