Although vegetables may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about foods for building muscles and strength, there are many plants that contain exactly what your body needs to put on the muscle mass while giving you the extra energy you need to stay active.
If you work out, your requirements for nutrition will also be significantly higher, so whether you grow them yourself, or find the most nutrient dense organic produce you can, consider the following nutrients and vegetables when you’re trying to pack on the muscle mass to increase your strength.
Before we get to the vegetables, first we’ll go over some of the most important nutrients for muscle building.
#1. Calcium: vital for muscle contraction and bone health, among other things. Low levels of calcium can lead to fatigue during exercise.
#2. Protein: made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of muscles and other tissue.
#3. B vitamins: B vitamins, such as B1, B2, B3, B6, B7 and B9 are important for hemoglobin formation (hemoglobin brings oxygen to cells), energy production, protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism, muscle growth, cell regeneration and many other important functions.
#4. Vitamin A: aids the repair of tissues, is crucial for testosterone production, strengthening of bones, as well as fighting free radicals that can build up with intense activity. Bodybuilding can disrupt the absorption of vitamin A, so getting extra is a good idea.
#5. Vitamin C: important for muscle building and energy levels for many reasons, including for healthy blood vessels, which are needed for muscles to receive oxygen and nutrients. Vitamin C is also important for the absorption of iron.
#6. Zinc: crucial for tissue growth and healing, it can be lost through sweat.
#7. Iron: vital for the transportation of oxygen to cells, including muscle cells, as well as for removing carbon dioxide.
#8. Potassium: plays an important role in nerve firing and the contraction of muscles.
Other key nutrients include Vitamin D, Copper, Magnesium, and Manganese.
With these nutrients in mind, here are some of the best vegetables for building muscles and increasing your strength:
That’s right, kale isn’t just for hippies and health fanatics. It has especially high levels of vitamins A, B6, and C, as well as calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium.
You can often find nettles dried at health food stores, or if you’re lucky you may find them to forage in the wild. Although growing them in your own garden may not be appealing due to the fact that they sting when touched, you can easily harvest them with gloves and and steam them to take away the sting. They are high in protein as well as vitamins C and A, calcium and iron.
Moringa tree leaves are one of the most potent sources of nutrients on Earth. It is eaten as a vegetable in India and Africa, and has recently become a health craze in North America for good reason. Usually found at health food stores in powdered form, the leaves are high in vitamins A and C, and calcium, potassium, and protein.
#4. Chanterelle and Other Mushrooms
Okay, these aren’t technically a vegetable, but since they are one of the few food sources of vitamin D, they deserve a place on this list. They are also high in iron, potassium, and B3, among many other important nutrients. Other mushrooms like shiitake are also super nutritious.
You’re probably aware that beans are good source of protein, but they are also generally high in iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese and especially vitamin B9.
Seaweed is much more nutritionally dense than most land vegetables. It is high in calcium, iron, magnesium and vitamin A, to name a few.
Not just for flavor, garlic is high in vitamin C, B1, B6, as well as calcium, potassium, copper, manganese and selenium.
Although the above list of nutrients and vegetables for muscle growth and strength will give you a good idea of some of the diverse plant sources of nutrients you should include in your life as part of a healthy diet, the reality is there are no nutrients that aren’t important for building muscle. Most of these vegetables can easily be grown in your own garden, which will ensure even higher nutrient levels if you build your soil well and care for your plants.
Are there any of your favorite veggies or other plants missing from this list? Let us know in the comments below!