List of Foods High in Protein

Karen Frazier
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While many people believe meat is the best source of protein, you may be surprised to discover just how many foods provide high levels of this macronutrient. While meat really is a good way to consume protein, there are other healthy sources as well.

Types of Protein

There are two basic types of protein: complete and incomplete. Complete proteins are animal-based proteins which provide all of the essential amino acids in a single source. Incomplete proteins, as the term implies, do not supply all amino acids. Fortunately, you can find complementary sources which together, provide all the essentials for your diet.

High Protein Foods

The following lists of high protein foods are divided into categories including both animal and plant sources. They have high levels of protein per serving (protein amounts are listed in parenthesis, as found at SelfNutritionData.com):

Meat and Poultry

Meat and poultry are excellent sources of animal protein. All of the following are complete proteins:

Chicken breast
Chicken breast
  • Chicken breast, 3.5 oz (30 g)
  • Turkey (21 g)
  • Pork chop (22 g)
  • Pork tenderloin, 4 oz (29 g)
  • Ham, 3 oz (19 g)
  • Beef steak, 6 oz (42 g)
  • Beef liver, 3 oz (23 g)
  • Hamburger patty, 4 oz (28 g)
  • Roast beef (28 g)
  • Chicken leg (11 g)
  • Turkey breast, skinless, 4 oz (28 g)

If you are concerned about your fat consumption, choose skinless chicken or turkey breasts and lean beef.

Eggs and Dairy

Eggs and dairy are complete proteins, but they're also higher in fat. If you are watching your fat intake, try low-fat or nonfat milk and cheese and use egg whites rather than the entire egg.

Eggs and Dairy
Eggs and Dairy
  • Egg (6 g)
  • Blue cheese, 1 oz (6 g)
  • Shredded cheddar cheese, 1 cup (28 g)
  • Cheddar cheese, 3.5 oz (25 g)
  • Mozzarella cheese, 1 oz (6 g)
  • Parmesan cheese, grated, 1 oz (12 g)
  • Eggnog, 1 cup (10 g)
  • Chocolate milk shake, 10.6 oz (9 g)
  • Vanilla milk shake, 10.6 oz (12 g)
  • Yogurt, low-fat, plain (10 g)
  • Cottage cheese, ½ cup (15 g)
  • Milk, 1 cup (8 g)

Fish and Seafood

Fish and seafood provide heart-healthy fat and a complete protein in one tasty dish. Here are some of the highest protein fish options:

Salmon
Salmon
  • Tuna, 6 oz (40 g)
  • Salmon (27 g)
  • Catfish, 3 oz (15 g)
  • Clam, 3 oz (11 g)
  • Cod, 3 oz (20 g)
  • Alaska King crab, 1 oz (16 g)
  • Flounder, 3 oz (21 g)
  • Lobster, 3 oz (17 g)
  • Oyster, 1 oz (17 g)

Beans and Legumes

Beans and legumes are incomplete proteins; however, if you choose to avoid animal proteins, they will be an important component of your diet. Try these high-protein options:

Legumes
Varieties of Legumes
  • Black-eyed peas, 1 cup (13 g)
  • Chickpeas, 1 cup (15 g)
  • Lentils, 1 cup (18 g)
  • Split peas, 1 cup (16 g)
  • Refried beans, 1 cup (14 g)
  • Miso, 1 cup (32 g)
  • Tofu, 4 oz (8 g)
  • Edamame, 1 cup (17 g)

Nuts and Seeds

No list of high protein foods would be complete with nuts and seeds, which are tasty sources of healthy fats but also incomplete proteins. If you do not eat animal proteins, it's important that you consume other sources. Add nuts and seeds to your salads and smoothies or munch on them as snacks. Here are the protein counts for some of the most popular nuts, nut butters, and seeds:

Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and Seeds
  • Peanut butter, 2 tbsp (8 g)
  • Peanuts, ½ cup (2.5 g)
  • Almonds, ¼ cup (8 g)
  • Peanuts, ¼ cup (9 g)
  • Cashews, ¼ cup (5 g)
  • Sunflower seeds, ¼ cup (6 g)
  • Flax seeds, ¼ cup (8 g)
  • Pumpkin seeds, ¼ cup (19 g)
  • Brazil nuts, 1 oz (4 g)
  • Carob flour, 1 cup (5 g)
  • Macadamia nuts, 1 cup, 2 oz (8 g)

Plant Based Complete Proteins

Most plant foods are incomplete proteins but there are a handful of exceptions. The following plant based foods are considered complete proteins.

  • Quinoa, 1 cup (8 g)
  • Chia seeds, 1 oz (4 g)
  • Hemp seeds, 1 oz (10 g)
  • Soybeans (roasted), 1 cup (61 g)
  • Soy milk, 1 cup (7 g)
  • Amaranth, 1 cup (9 g)
  • Buckwheat, 1 cup (23 g)

Meeting Your Needs

You can easily meet your body's daily need for protein by choosing foods high in this macronutrient while low in fat and sodium. Your protein intake will provide your body with the necessary building blocks to create strong bones and muscles.

List of Foods High in Protein