Who needs more protein? We all do, every day! Getting enough protein is an important part of your recommended daily intake, because we use protein to make and maintain every vital part of ourselves: skin, organs, hormones, and muscles…just about everything that hangs on our bones. This is why it’s important to include foods high in protein when we shop for groceries, assemble a meal at home, or order out at a restaurant.
Whether you’re trying to join the ranks of bodybuilders or you just want to feel a little bit stronger and healthier, here are 30 high-protein foods to choose from if you’re looking to include extra sources of protein in your diet.
Assorted Foods High in Protein
Below are a variety of foods high in protein, so you can mix and match depending on the diet you follow or the flavors you prefer.
We’ll start off strong with a complete protein that contains all nine essential amino acids. One of the most nutrient-dense natural foods, eggs contain healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals that protect our eyes and brains. If you’re looking for all protein with no extra calories, egg whites are almost purely protein, and can be easily separated from the yellow yolks. Just one large egg has 6 grams of protein.
With about 15.6 grams of protein per cup, yellow corn is a great source of fiber, as well as minerals like calcium. A healthy carb, yellow corn also has vitamin C, B vitamins, and carotenoids like zeaxanthin and lutein, with very little fat.
Each ounce of almonds (which if counted would be about 23 almonds) provides 6 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, 35% of the daily recommendation of vitamin E, and 20% of the recommended daily amount of magnesium. A popular tree nut, they’re the basis of their own candy, Almond Joy, and can help with blood sugar regulation and lowering bad cholesterol.
One more nut while we’re at it. The pistachio is a member of the cashew family, and contains 25 grams of protein per cup. High in calories but extremely low in cholesterol and sodium, pistachios are considered a heart-healthy snack, are high in antioxidants, and are helpful in promoting good gut bacteria.
5. Bok Choy (Chinese Cabbage)
Bok choy, or Chinese cabbage, is a fantastic source of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, and beta-carotene. It is also a good source of vitamin B6, folate, and calcium. A cruciferous leafy green vegetable, 1 shredded cup of bok choy has 1.1 grams of protein to impart along with its valuable antioxidants.
The chicken breast is a staple of protein-rich foods, so common that we compare many things that we eat by declaring whether or not they “taste like chicken.” Eaten without the skin, the majority of the calories you consume with chicken will be from protein (80%). Easy to marinate and cook, if you’re a meat-eater, this is a good one to include.
Helpful in reducing your cholesterol levels, this heart-heathy food is a great source of fiber people usually think of as breakfast food—a great way to start the day. The fiber in oats helps keep you regular, and a single cup of raw oats has 26 grams of protein. Oats are also rich in important minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, and can be easily prepared for a quick, healthy morning meal.
Low in fat and calories, cottage cheese is a dairy product made up of milk curds and loaded with calcium, selenium, vitamin B12, and riboflavin (vitamin B2). A cup of cottage cheese has 27 grams of protein and is a terrific addition to a weight-loss diet because it helps you build muscle at the same time.
Heart-healthy with unsaturated fat, avocados also contain good levels of fiber and potassium and have a rich, buttery taste that begs to be spread over toast. A cup of sliced avocado can net you 2.9 grams of protein, and its smooth texture can conveniently be blended into a variety of dishes, including filling, delicious smoothies.
Greek yogurt or “strained” yogurt, is a thick, creamy type of yogurt that people often flavor with honey. A 6-ounce container of non-fat Greek yogurt has 17 grams of protein and supports a healthy bacterial balance in your gut.
While cow’s milk is highly nutritious, unfortunately a huge percentage of the world’s population is intolerant to it and other dairy products. If you can drink milk though, it is a fantastic source of high-quality protein, and has a little bit of nearly every nutrient needed by your body. Particularly high in calcium, 1 cup of milk also contains 8 grams of protein, and is a very valuable part of a diet if you can include it.
Broccoli is an incredibly healthy cruciferous vegetable loaded with vitamin C, vitamin K, potassium, and fiber. With bioactive nutrients that can protect against cancer, 1 cup of broccoli also has 3 grams of protein, a very high percentage when compared to other green vegetables.
For the carnivores among us, meat, especially lean beef, is extremely high in protein and full of bioavailable iron important for those at risk of anemia (like a certain percentage of menstruating women). A strong source of vitamin B12 and other nutrients, a 3-ounce serving of cooked lean beef has 22 grams of protein. If you’re trying for a low-carb diet high in protein, you can even enjoy the fattier cuts of beef to round out your calorie intake.
Though most famous for being a carbohydrate, a single medium potato (with skin attached for added nutrients) contains over 4 grams of protein. Beware of going overboard on extras—adding butter, salt, sour cream, and cheese to potatoes will quickly add calories (though it also sounds delicious, so just proceed with caution).
15. Sweet Potatoes
Another spud, with 2.1 grams of protein per cup, sweet potatoes have anti-inflammatory effects due to their high levels of vitamin C, beta-carotene, and magnesium. They are also antioxidant heavy hitters, which are useful for protecting cells against aging and disease. Sugared or salted, sweet potatoes can be prepared to your specific liking.
High in omega-3 fatty acids, tuna fish can aid in weight loss, boost your immune system, help prevent a number of heart diseases, and increase your red blood cell count. Low in both fat and calories, tuna is mostly made of protein (39 grams per cup of canned tuna in water), and can be enjoyed by omnivores and pescatarians.
17. Black Beans
With 39 grams of protein per cup, black beans are an inexpensive and easily accessed source of protein. Versatile in how many recipes they can be included in, black beans have folate, vitamin B6, potassium, and fiber, which contributes to heart health by lowering bad cholesterol in the blood. Black beans are especially great to mash up into a veggie burger for those vegetarians in need of a quality protein.
Quinoa is a superfood high in a great number of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Quinoa may help improve blood sugar control and reduce the risk of a number of health conditions. Quinoa also contains 8 grams of protein per cooked cup. With a mild taste, this gluten-free grain can be combined in other dishes and takes on a variety of flavors of your choosing.
A type of legume, lentils are high in fiber, potassium, magnesium, iron, folate, copper, and manganese. An excellent source of plant-based protein with 18 grams of protein per boiled cup, lentils are a valuable food for vegetarians and vegans.
Soybeans have a wealth of benefits, including their ability to protect heart health, aid in metabolism, and help in healthy weight gain. Their high-fiber content makes soybean products valuable in cases of constipation, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. A cup of raw soybeans contains 68 grams of protein.
Though it’s unusual for a fruit to contain protein, guava’s got it: 1.4 grams of protein per whole fruit. A tropical fruit and possibly not easily available everywhere, guava is nevertheless one of the most protein-rich fruits available, and like many fruits also offers a healthy dose of vitamin C.
Ezekiel bread is made from a host of organic and sprouted whole grains and legumes, including spelt, millet, barley, wheat, soybeans, and lentils. Because of that, Ezekiel bread is higher in protein than most breads, with 4 grams of protein per slice, along with a good helping of fiber, folate, and some essential amino acids often lacking in grains, like lysine.
The edible seeds contained in pumpkin gourds, pumpkin seeds are quite high in many nutrients, including iron, zinc, and magnesium. They also have 5 grams of protein per ounce, and can be baked with sweet or salty flavorings per your own tastes, to have as a handy snack.
Similar to chicken breast in many ways, turkey breast is mostly made of protein (24 grams per 3-ounce serving), with very few calories and little fat. With the essential amino acid tryptophan, which helps support healthy levels of serotonin in the body, turkey is a valuable food for meat eaters and a centerpiece on many holiday tables in American culture.
High in fiber, vitamin K, manganese, thiamin, copper, vitamin C, and phosphorous, frozen green peas are inexpensive and easy to find. A fast addition to almost any meal, 1 cup of peas has 8 grams of protein you can stir into soups, mix in with potato dishes, mash up as a filling or spread, or simply toss into various salads.
The seafood staple of cocktail parties, shrimp are high in selenium and vitamin B12, contain plenty of omega-3 fatty acids just like any other fish, and pack a protein punch of 18 grams per 3-ounce serving. Whether stuck on a kabob, simmered in a gumbo, or gobbled up plain at a buffet, shrimp offer a lot of nutritional benefits.
One more high-protein vegetable, cruciferous just like broccoli (meaning it’s from the cabbage family), Brussels sprouts themselves resemble tiny baby cabbages and are high in fiber, vitamin C, and protein: 1 cup of chopped Brussels sprouts has 4 grams of protein.
The key ingredient in peanut butter of course, plain peanuts are an easy snack that is high in fiber and magnesium, with studies suggesting that eating peanuts can help you lose weight. High in protein, 1 ounce has 7 grams, peanuts can be eaten conveniently just about anywhere: in your car, on the hiking trail, at a baseball game along with some crackerjacks, however you’d like!
29. Lima Beans
Lima beans are an excellent source of molybdenum, phosphorus, dietary fiber, copper, and manganese. With folate, potassium, vitamin B1, iron, and magnesium in attendance too, lima beans can offer up to 15 grams of protein per cup.
30. Sun-Dried Tomatoes
A delicious topping to a healthy pizza, sun-dried tomatoes contain lycopene, a plant nutrient with powerful antioxidant properties. Another rare fruit on the list, tomatoes bring 6 grams of protein per cup, and so belong here as much as the rest of our protein-rich foods.
An Array of Protein
So now you know! High-quality protein can come from all corners of the food pyramid, and a diet with the right amount of protein can help you lose unwanted belly fat, increase your muscle mass and strength, lower your blood pressure, and guard against the onset of type 2 diabetes. The daily recommended intake of protein is 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men, so you should never go hungry eating up as much protein as you need. Bon appétit!