There are plenty of reasons to add more protein to your diet.
It can boost your metabolism, help you lose weight, and develop strength.
But protein isn't just for those looking to shed pounds and building muscles.
Sure, those are great, but protein means much more to your body than that.
Proteins are the main building block of the human body.
They are used to make various tissues and molecules that serve both structural and functional purposes. This includes muscles, hair, nails, bone, and more (1).
It's clear getting enough protein in your diet is very important for overall health. But this doesn't mean you need to go on a high protein meat-based diet like the Paleo.
In fact there are tons of foods rich in quality protein without eating steak and pork chop. There are many plant-based options to choose from, not that you have to be a vegetarian.
Note: The recommended daily intake (RDI) is 46 grams for women, and 56 grams for men (2).
Here is a list of 20 best high quality protein foods to eat.
An whole eggs are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat.
They are also an excellent protein source, containing all the essential amino acids in the right ratios.
This ensures our bodies to be well equipped to make full use of the protein in them.
In fact, about 35% of the calories in a whole egg is protein. And of which, egg whites are almost pure protein.
You can find nearly 6 grams of protein in every large egg, all for 78 calories (3).
Humans all across the world have eaten eggs for thousands of years, for protein and other nutrients in them.
Besides protein, eggs contain many vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, antioxidants properties for eye and brain health that many people are deficient of (4).
Amongst all animal proteins, fish is the healthiest protein source around.
Fish is almost incomparable to other protein sources like meat.
It’s low in calories, fat, but high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
Here are some example below:
- 3oz Tuna: 24g of protein, 112 calories.
- 3oz Snapper: 17g of protein 85 calories
- 3oz Salmon: 17g of protein 177 calories
In addition to protein and omega-3s, fish is the only good source of vitamin D (5).
This is critical since more than 40% of Americans may be vitamin D deficient (6).
While all types of fish are healthy source of vitamin D, fatty fish like salmon and herring contain the highest amounts.
Consuming a sufficient level of vitamin D helps with regulation of calcium and phosphorus absorption, maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. It's also said to protect against cancer, type 1 diabetes, and multiple sclerosis (7).
3. Chicken Breast
Chicken breast is one of the most popular protein sources. And it's one food health nuts and weight loss gurus rave about.
It is lean and low in fat. In fact, the majority of the calories of chicken breast comes from protein.
It's said to be as high as 80% of calories in chicken breast is protein.
One roasted chicken breast without skin contains 53 grams of protein, with only 284 calories (8).
Chicken breast is also very easy to cook, and tastes delicious with simple seasonings.
It can be grilled, stir-fried, and boiled.
If you need more protein in your diet, it's an easy way to fulfill your recommended protein intake.
4. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is creamy, delicious and nutritious.
It is also remarkably high in protein.
For non-fat Greek yogurt, just about 48% of calories comes from protein.
That is about 17 grams of protein found in every 6 oz container or 170 grams, and calorie count is about 100 calories (9).
You can get the benefit of high protein with full-fat Greek yogurt, but it most certainly comes with more calories.
With Greek yogurt, it's also important to avoid excess sugar and extra processing by picking plain over flavored. You can always top it with honey and fruits for sweetness and flavors.
5. Cottage Cheese
Creamy and mild in flavor, cottage cheese is a type of cheese that tends to be high in protein and low in fat and calories.
A single cup of cottage cheese provides 28 grams of protein, 2% fat, with 163 calories. And protein makes up 56% of that calories (10).
In addition to its protein content, cottage cheese has gained a lot of popularity in the last few decades for its nutrient density.
Needless to say, it's been frequently recommended as part of a healthy diet.
Calcium, phosphorus, selenium, vitamin B12, and to riboflavin (vitamin B2) are just few other nutrients you find in cottage cheese.
6. Turkey Breast
Similar to chicken breast, turkey breast is uber nutritious.
It consists mostly of protein, with very little fat and calories.
3 ounce serving of turkey breast contains 14 grams of protein, with 88 total calories. 70% of its calories is of protein (11).
Overall, it's great way to pack up animal protein without loading up on saturated fat.
It's an excellent substitute for other meats like pork and beef that may be high in protein but contain other unwanted fats.
7. Lean Beef
Lean beef is very high in protein with far less fats than other cuts like ribeye.
It is packed with highly bioavailable iron, vitamin B12 and numerous other nutrients.
Every 3 ounce (85 g) of cooked lean beef contains 21 grams of protein with just 14% of fat. It only also comes with 173 calories (12).
If you want to beef up without sabotaging your health, then go for a leaner cut beef.
However it’s still recommended that we limit the amount to red meat 18 ounces per week (13).
Shrimp is another nutritious seafood that definitely deserves a place in this high protein food list.
It’s very low in calories, yet full of various nutrients, including selenium and vitamin B12 (14).
And let's not forget, it's a rich source of protein, being 90% of shrimp calories comes from protein.
There’s about 23.18 grams of protein per 3 ounce, which only brings in 121 calories. 81% of its calories is of protein. (15)
And just like fish, shrimp also contains plenty of omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3s' health benefits include boosting your brain functions, heart health and lowering bad cholesterol LDL.
Almonds are one of the most celebrated nuts.
They’re incredibly popular and very nutritious nuts.
They are also very high in protein, being 12% of its calories comes from protein. In fact almonds are the tree nuts highest protein (16).
Almonds also contain lots of healthy fats, fiber, magnesium and vitamin D.
It's really no surprise they are full of health benefits.
Almonds are linked to lower blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels. They are also known to reduce hunger and promote weight loss.
Other high-protein nuts include pistachios and cashews, deriving 13% and 11% of its calories from protein respectively.
It is related to cabbage, kale, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts.
Broccoli is one of the few foods that deserves superfoods status.
It is packed with vitamin C, vitamin K, fiber and potassium.
Calorie for calorie, it is high in protein compared to most vegetables in its family.
1 cup of chopped broccoli (91 grams) contains 3 grams of protein, with only 31 calories (19).
Quinoa, pronounced "Keen-Wah" is a gluten-free, grain like seed. It's currently among the world’s most popular and nutritious "superfoods".
It is full of fiber, iron, magnesium, B-vitamins, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin E and various beneficial antioxidants.
In fact, its excellent health benefits have NASA hoping to grow it on interplanetary space flights (20).
Besides those perks, quinoa is a great source of protein.
There’s 8 grams of protein per one cup of cooked quinoa, adding 222 calories to your diet (21).
Protein is about 15 percent of quinoa's overall calories.
Quinoa is also one of the few plant-based foods that contain all the nine essential amino acids, making it a near perfect way to beef up for vegetarians and alike.
You can learn more about health benefits of quinoa here in this article.
If you’re not a meat eater and are looking to add some high quality protein to your diet, lentils are the way to go.
Lentils are a type of legume that is incredibly rich in nutrients.
Just one cup of cooked lentils provides 18 grams of protein, which makes up 27% of the overall calories (22).
Lentils are also high in fiber, magnesium, potassium, iron, folate, copper, manganese and various other nutrients.
They are among the world’s best sources of plant-based protein, and are an excellent food for vegetarians. They also increase your satiety and help quell hunger.
13. Brussels Sprouts
The Brussels sprouts is another rich-protein vegetable related to broccoli.
It’s also very high in fiber, vitamin C and other nutrients.
Half a cup (78 g) contains 2 gram of protein, and 28 grams of calories (23).
That's comparatively high for green vegetables.
If you are a vegan opposed to legumes, these vegetable protein sources can become a prominent, even staple part of your meals.
Oats are one of the healthiest grains on the planet.
They are rich in many nutrients, including fibers, magnesium, manganese, thiamin (vitamin B1) and several other nutrients.
There are roughly 13 grams of protein in half a cup of raw oats, this makes up 15% of the total calories (24).
This means, a mere 300 calorie oat breakfast can pack in more than 10 grams of protein. That's what I call a power breakfast.
Ready to make oats for your next breakfast? We've got a great recipe right here.
15: Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds may be small in size, but they’re very nutritious and packed with valuable nutrients like protein, iron, magnesium and zing.
In every one ounce or 28 grams of pumpkin seeds, you can get 5 grams of protein, 1.7 grams of fiber, 5 grams of carbs, all for 125 calories (25).
Pumpkin seeds are also known to improve heart health and provide protections against certain types of cancer (26).
Despite its name, buckwheat is not related to wheat, and is therefore gluten-free (27).
Buckwheat is processed into groats, flour and noodles, or used in buckwheat tea.
The groats can be used in much the same way as rice. They are the main ingredient in many traditional European and Asian dishes like soba noodles (28).
It is considered to be high in protein than many other grains, containing 6 grams of protein per cup of cooked buckwheat (31).
Soybeans are among the best sources of plant-based protein. And that is if we are talking about whole soybeans, not highly processed soy derivatives.
The protein content of soybeans is 33% of their total calories.
About 29 grams of protein is found in every cup of boiled soybeans (32).
Other soy protein:
Soy is a complete protein and thoroughly deserves its status as the go-to substitute for the meat-free (but go easy on the processed varieties). Tempeh and natto are made by fermenting the beans, but tofu is probably the best known soy product. If protein’s a concern, it’s important to choose the firmest tofu available—the harder the tofu, the higher the protein content.
18. Ezekiel Bread
Ezekiel Bread is a sprouted whole grain bread inspired by the Holy Scripture verse.
It is made with freshly sprouted organically grown whole grains and legumes, including millet, barley, spelt, barley, beans, and lentils.
Ezekiel Bread is naturally flavorful and bursting with nutrients like protein and fiber.
In fact, just 1 slice provides 4 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber, which is about 11% of the daily recommend value (36).
When these six grains and legumes are sprouted and combined, an amazing thing happens. A complete protein is created containing all of the 9 essential amino acids, much like the protein you find in meat, eggs and milk (37).
"This fragment of Ezekiel 4:9, while initially intended to help a besieged Jerusalem make bread when supplies were low, turned out to be a recipe for an extraordinarily nutritious loaf that contains all of the essential amino acids.
19. Hemp Seeds
Hemp seeds are exceptionally nutritious and rich in healthy fats, protein, and various other minerals.
25% of their calories is high-quality protein. That's about 10 grams of protein in every 2 tablespoons of hemp seeds (38).
Hemp seeds are also rich in two essential fatty acids, linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3) (39).
They contain significant amounts of all nine essential amino acids (though it's too low in lysine to be considered complete), as well as plenty of magnesium, zinc, iron, and calcium.
These essential fatty acids, like omega-3s, can help fight depression without the need to get high!
20. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds is truly one of the world's best superfoods.
They are packed with nutrients that include protein, fiber, and calcium.
One ounce of chia seeds contains 4 grams of protein, 11 grams of fiber, 18% of the RDA for calcium (40).
In addition to being rich in protein, chia seeds also provide the highest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids. Surprisingly, they contain more fiber than flax seeds or nuts (41).
Chia seeds are fantastic for making healthy puddings, thickening smoothies, or replacing eggs in vegan baking.
There you have it!
High protein foods list
20 of the best and highest quality protein you can add to your diet.
It's clear proteins are incredibly important for overall health. And getting enough high quality protein cannot be overstated. Whether its through plant-based or meat sources, I hope this high protein foods list give you an idea which protein foods can give you the best bang for your buck.