As a Personal Trainer and Health and Nutrition Coach I get a lot of questions about what foods to eat that are high in protein. Protein is a macronutrient similar to fat or carbohydrates, that the body needs for energy and to build muscle. Protein is composed of essential, nonessential, and conditional amino acids. Essential amino acids are those that can’t be produced by the body, which is why we have to get protein from the food we eat. Protein is found in high quantities in animal products like meat, eggs, and milk, but is also found in legumes, nuts, seeds, leafy greens and other vegetables, and whole grains.
High protein foods can help you lose weight (especially belly fat), and increase your muscle mass and strength.
The recommended daily intake (RDI) is 46 grams for women, and 56 grams for men.
That number is just a recommendation and not a set rule. Use this as a general guideline for the minimum amount of protein you need based on your body weight. More information you can find on Eat for Health website. They have a calculator that you can use to calculate your daily requirements. Work with your doctor to come up with the right goal for you based on your age, weight, activity level, and any other factors.
Protein is often associated with exercise and active lifestyles. When you work out, you’re basically creating tears in your muscles that need to be rebuilt, which is one of the reasons you’re so sore the next day. When you’re lifting weights or doing any kind of strength training, they’re rebuilt bigger than they were before. Soon after exercising, it’s recommended that you have a serve of high-quality protein (such as a glass of milk or tub of yoghurt) with a carbohydrate meal to help maintain your body’s protein balance.
Here is a list of 20 delicious foods that are high in protein:
Whole eggs are among the healthiest and most nutritious foods on the planet.
They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, eye-protecting antioxidants and brain nutrients that most people don’t get enough of. Whole eggs are high in protein, but egg whites are almost pure protein.
Protein content: 35% of calories in a whole egg. 1 large egg contains 6 grams of protein, with 78 calories.
They are loaded with important nutrients, including fiber, vitamin E and magnesium.
Protein content: 13% of calories. 6 grams per 28 g serving, with 161 calories.
Other High-Protein Nuts
Pistachios (13% of calories) and cashews (11% of calories).
3. Chicken Breast
If you eat it without the skin, the majority of the calories in it come from protein.
Protein content: 80% of calories. 1 roasted chicken breast without skin contains 53 grams, with only 284 calories.
They are loaded with healthy fibers, magnesium, manganese, thiamin (vitamin B1) and several other nutrients.
Protein content: 15% of calories. Half a cup of raw oats contains 13 grams, with 303 calories.
5. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is a type of cheese that tends to be very low in fat and calories.
It is loaded with calcium, phosphorus, selenium, vitamin B12, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and various other nutrients.
Protein content: 59% of calories. A cup (226 g) of cottage cheese with 2% fat contains 27 grams of protein, with 194 calories.
Other Types of Cheese That Are High in Protein
Parmesan cheese (38% of calories), Swiss cheese (30%), mozzarella (29%) and cheddar (26%).
6. Greek Yogurt
Protein content: Non-fat Greek yogurt has protein at 48% of calories. One 170 gram container has 17 grams of protein, with only 100 calories.
Just make sure to choose one without added sugar. Full-fat Greek yogurt is also very high in protein, but contains more calories.
Regular full-fat yogurt (24% of calories)
However, if you tolerate milk and enjoy drinking it, then milk can be an excellent source of high-quality protein. Milk contains a little bit of almost every single nutrient needed by the human body. It is particularly high in calcium, phosphorus and riboflavin (vitamin B2).
Protein content: 21% of calories. 1 cup of whole milk contains 8 grams of protein, with 149 calories.
Broccoli is an incredibly healthy vegetable, loaded with vitamin C, vitamin K, fiber and potassium. Broccoli is also loaded with various bioactive nutrients believed to help protect against cancer.
Protein content: 20% of calories. 1 cup of chopped broccoli (96 grams) contains 3 grams of protein, with only 31 calories.
9. Lean Beef
It is loaded with highly bioavailable iron, vitamin B12 and numerous other nutrients.
Protein content: 53% of calories. 85g serving of cooked beef with 10% fat contains 22 grams of protein, with 184 calories.
It is low in both fat and calories, so what we’re left with is mostly just protein.
Like other fish, tuna is also very high in various nutrients and contains a decent amount of omega-3 fatty acids.
Protein content: 94% of calories, in tuna canned in water. A cup (154) contains 39 grams of protein, with only 179 calories.
Quinoa is a seed/grain that is currently among the world’s most popular superfoods.
It is high in many vitamins, minerals and fiber, and is loaded with antioxidants.
Protein content: 15% of calories. One cup (185 g) of cooked quinoa contains 8 grams, with 222 calories.
12. Whey Protein Supplements
When you’re pressed for time and unable to cook, a whey protein supplement can come in handy. Whey is a type of high-quality protein from dairy foods, shown to be very effective at building muscle mass, and may help with weight loss.
Protein content: Varies between brands, can go over 90% of calories, with 20-50 grams of protein per serving.
They are high in fiber, magnesium, potassium, iron, folate, copper, manganese and various other nutrients.
Lentils are among the world’s best sources of plant-based protein, and are an excellent food for vegetarians.
Protein content: 27% of calories. 1 cup (198 g) of boiled lentils contains 18 grams, with 230 calories.
Other High-Protein Legumes
Soybeans (33% of calories), chickpeas (19%) and kidney beans (24%).
14. Ezekiel Bread
It is made of organic and sprouted whole grains and legumes, including millet, barley, spelt, wheat, soybeans and lentils. Compared to most breads, Ezekiel bread is very high in protein, fiber and various nutrients.
Protein content: 20% of calories. 1 slice contains 4 grams, with 80 calories.
15. Pumpkin Seeds
They are incredibly high in many nutrients, including iron, magnesium and zinc.
Protein content: 14% of calories. 1 ounce 28g contains 5 grams of protein, with 125 calories.
Other High-Protein Seeds
Flax seeds (12% of calories), sunflower seeds (12%) and chia seeds (11%).
16. Turkey Breast
It consists mostly of protein, with very little fat and calories. It also tastes delicious.
Protein content: 70% of calories. 85g serving contains 24 grams, with 146 calories.
17. Fish (All Types)
It is loaded with various important nutrients, and tends to be very high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Protein content: Highly variable. Salmon is 46% protein, with 19 grams per 85 g serving, with 175 calories.
It is low in calories, but loaded with various nutrients, including selenium and vitamin B12.
Like fish, prawns also contains plenty of omega-3 fatty acids.
Protein content: 90% of calories. 85 g serving contains 18 grams, with only 84 calories.
19. Brussels Sprouts
It is very high in fiber, vitamin C and other nutrients.
Protein content: 17% of calories. Half a cup (78 g) contains 2 grams of protein, with 28 calories.
They are high in protein, fiber, magnesium and many studies show that they can help you lose weight.
Protein content: 16% of calories. 28g contains 7 grams, with 159 calories.