Popeye’s favorite veggie is a great source of not only protein, but also vitamins A and C, antioxidants and heart-healthy folate. One cup of the green superfood has nearly as much protein as a hard-boiled egg—for half the calories. Looking to get the biggest nutritional bang for your buck? Be sure to steam your spinach instead of eating it raw. This cooking method helps retain vitamins and makes it easier for the body to absorb the green’s calcium content. Add a handful to soups, omelets, pasta dishes and veggie stir-fries, or simply steam it and top with pepper, garlic, olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.
Another veggie worthy of a spot in your diet is mustard greens. When steamed, they provide a whopping 922 percent of your RDI for vitamin K, 96 percent of your vitamin A, and 47 percent of your vitamin C per cup, and they have a host of disease-fighting properties thanks to their high glucosinolate content. Glucosinolates are plant chemicals that your body converts into isothiocyanates, which have been shown to ward off cancer.
Kale has definitely had its moment in the sun (and then some) but as far as healthy veggies go, it’s certainly worthy of praise. The cruciferous green (which is even available in McDonald’s these days) is loaded with health-boosting nutrients like vitamin A, phosphorus, and B vitamins like folate, and it boasts twice the vitamin C as spinach, another nutritional superstar. Furthermore, a study in the journal JRSM Cardiovascular Disease found that a high daily consumption of green leafy and cruciferous veggies (such as kale) significantly reduced incidence of several types of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death among women in the U.S. And since the veggie is as versatile as they come, feel free to add some kale to an array of meals ranging from egg dishes to tacos, and drinks such as juices and smoothies.
Ghrelin is your body’s “I’m hungry” hormone, which is suppressed when your stomach is full, so eating satiating high-fiber and high-protein foods is a no-brainer. The humble artichoke is a winner on both counts: It has almost twice as much fiber as kale (10.3 g per medium artichoke, or 40 percent of the daily fiber the average woman needs) and one of the highest protein counts among vegetables. Boil and eat the whole shebang as a self-contained salad (why not add a little goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes?), toss the leaves with your favorite greens and dressing, or peel and pop the hearts onto healthy pizzas and flatbreads and lose belly fat.
It’s enough to make Popeye do a spit take: Despite their wimpy reputation, a cup of green peas contains eight times the protein of a cup of spinach. And with almost 100 percent of your daily value of vitamin C in a single cup, they’ll help keep your immune system up to snuff. Layer them into a mason jar salad or add them to an omelet to boost eggs’ satiating power.