Learn about the best 10 high-protein foods that fuel your body and help build muscle. Improve your health with these protein-rich options!
Best 10 High Protein Foods
Learn about the best 10 high protein foods that fuel your body and help build muscle. Improve your health with these protein-rich options!
Table of Contents
A portion of every human cell is formed of protein. Consuming protein-rich foods enables your body to create new cells and mend damaged ones.1 Among these are the digestive enzymes, hormones, immunological cells, skin, muscles, and organs.2 Your body may struggle to adequately sustain these systems and tissues if you eat too little protein. For instance, the immune system needs enough protein in the diet to make antibodies, which are proteins that work to combat illness.
Most plant-based and animal-based foods contain protein. While most individuals receive their protein from a variety of sources, a vegetarian or vegan diet can still provide you with all the protein you need.5 Although the foods on this list have undergone little processing, protein can also be found in foods and beverages like protein powders, bars, and drinks.
Low-fat Dairy Products:
All dairy products, including those derived from cow, goat, and sheep milk, are protein-rich. Greek yogurt, which is frequently consumed as part of the Mediterranean Diet, is one of the dairy products with the greatest protein content.
A seven-ounce container of low-fat plain Greek yogurt provides:
- 20 grams of protein
- 230 milligrams of calcium, 18% of the DV
- 1.04 micrograms of vitamin B12, 43% of the DV
Small daily servings of yogurt, especially low-fat dairy products, have been found to dramatically lower the incidence of type 2 diabetes, according to a 2021 research review article published in Nutrients.
Yogurt, a nutrient-rich dairy product, may help prevent weight gain and cardiometabolic disorders like high blood pressure, high fasting blood sugar, and high cholesterol, according to another research analysis from Advances in Nutrition. Additionally, fermented yogurt with probiotic bacteria may provide even more advantages.
Smoothies, parfaits, overnight oats, savory foods like soups and dips, and as a higher protein substitute for mayo or sour cream can all be made using plain yogurt. Look for protein-rich plant-based options prepared with live active cultures if you cannot or do not drink dairy.
Lentils are one of the highest plant-based protein foods. One cup of cooked provides:
- 18 grams of protein
- 15 grams of fiber, 53% of the DV
- 731 milligrams of potassium, 15% of the DV
Comparing common legumes, lentils have the highest overall phenolic content. It has been demonstrated that these organic substances provide defense against the onset of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. According to research, lentils also aid to decrease inflammation, feeding healthy gut bacteria, and lowering the risk of obesity.
In addition to being a staple in curries, soups, stews, salads, layered bowls, dips, vegetarian meatballs and bread, and even desserts like lentil blondies and fudge, lentils can also be a source of protein.
Beans and Chickpeas:
Lentils, beans, and chickpeas are protein-rich legumes. One cup of cooked white beans provides:
- 17 grams of protein
- 11 grams of fiber, 40% of the DV
- 1,000 milligrams of potassium, 21% of the DV
Beans are a good source of polyphenol antioxidants, which have been found to lower inflammation and protect cells from oxidative stress, which can cause diseases including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Beans and chickpeas can be used in a variety of dishes, including chickpea cookie dough, red bean ice cream, and black bean brownies, as well as chili, soups, stews, casseroles, salads, curries, dips, and breakfast scrambles.
Tofu is a plant-based protein staple. A three-ounce portion of extra firm tofu provides about:
- 8.67 grams of protein
- 209 milligrams of calcium, 16% of the DV
- 1.36 milligrams of iron, 7.5% of the DV
According to research, soy protein may benefit menopausal women by lowering "bad" LDL cholesterol, and blood pressure, preventing hot flashes, and improving arterial health.
When making a breakfast scramble, tofu can be used in place of the eggs. It can also be used for salads, soups, and stir-fries. It can also be marinated and baked as a main meal. Tofu can also be made into a chilled salad or used as an ingredient in dairy-free cheesecake, mousse, pudding, or ice cream.
Per ounce, skinless chicken breast that’s been baked, broiled, or roasted provides:
- 8.56 grams of protein
- 0.051 micrograms of vitamin B 12, 2% of the DV
- 0.258 milligrams of zinc, 2% of the DV
Chicken is a lean protein source that is a decent substitute for red meat. According to a 2022 study that appeared in Frontiers in Nutrition, consumption of red and processed meat was linked to greater levels of blood indicators for inflammation in overweight and obese Iranian women, although white meat consumption was not.
The white meat was described by researchers as fish and fowl, such as chicken and turkey, while processed meats included sausages, hamburgers, various luncheon meats, and canned fish. Red meat was characterized by researchers as beef, lamb, sheep, and organ meats. Inflammation, according to scientists, is a major risk factor for metabolic illnesses like diabetes.
In the US, chicken is the meat that is most frequently consumed. It can be used in a variety of meals, including pasta, noodle, and rice dishes, casseroles, stews, sandwiches, salads, soups, and stir-fries.
Seeds and Seed Butter:
Many types of seeds contain protein, including chia, sesame, sunflower, hemp, flax, and pumpkin seeds. One ounce of pumpkin seeds out of the shell, about one-quarter cup, provides:
- 8.45 grams of protein
- 156 milligrams of magnesium, 37% of the DV
- 2.17 milligrams of zinc, 20% of the DV
According to a 2022 study review that was published in the journal Plants, pumpkin seeds have a high concentration of antioxidants and polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids that are good for your health.
Pumpkin seeds are touted by researchers as nutritional powerhouses and weapons against diseases like arthritis, inflammation, and prostate cancer. Pumpkin seeds also contain tryptophan, which is converted into serotonin, a naturally occurring neurotransmitter linked to the alleviation of depression.
Pumpkin seeds can be eaten on their own, added to cereal, salads, slaw, cooked vegetables, hummus, and oatmeal or overnight oats. They can also be used to make savory and sweet meals like pesto or energy balls. Seed butter can be drizzled over anything from porridge to cooked vegetables, used as a dip for fresh fruit or crisp vegetables, and used for smoothies, sauces, and energy balls.
Quinoa is a seed, however, it is considered as a whole grain in terms of nutrition. Because its seeds are utilized as cereal grains, it is also known as a pseudocereal. Quinoa has more protein and fiber per serving than common grains like brown rice or oats. For example, one cup of cooked quinoa offers:
- 8.14 grams of protein
- 39.4 grams of carbohydrate, 14% of the DV
- 5 grams of fiber, 18% of the DV
Adding quinoa to people's meals improved body weight, waist measures, total cholesterol, "bad" LDL cholesterol, triglycerides (blood fats), and blood insulin levels, according to a 2020 study of previously published studies.
Quinoa can be eaten sweet or savory, hot or cold. Use it to make breakfast porridge or to flavor parfaits, salads, bowls, soups, stuffed vegetables like peppers, zucchini, and mushrooms, and sweets like fruit cobbler, baked goods, and dark chocolate bark.
The protein content of seafood varies by the type. One ounce of wild Atlantic salmon cooked with dry heat provides:
- 7.2 grams of protein
- 0.86 micrograms of vitamin B12, 36% of the DV
- 13.26 micrograms of selenium, 24% of the DV
Based on a 2,000-calorie diet, the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) advise Americans to consume eight ounces of fish each week.
Anchovies, salmon, sardines, and trout are just a few of the recommended seafood options since they are richer in health-protective EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids and lower in dangerous mercury. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the primary cause of mortality in the United States. Eating fish may help prevent heart disease.
A higher intake of fish was significantly connected with a decreased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, according to a 2020 review of previously published data. Every 20 grams per day increase in fish-eating resulted in a 4% reduction in death risk.
Fish can be used in a variety of recipes, including salads, soups, stews, tacos, pasta and rice dishes, summer rolls, and more. Wild salmon or sardines can be added to avocado toast for breakfast. Try nut-crusted fish, a Greek yogurt-dressed seafood salad, or a fish frittata for even more protein.
Both egg whites and yolks contain protein. One large medium whole egg provides:
- 6.24 grams of protein
- 1.24 micrograms of vitamin D, 6% of the DV
- 0.84 milligrams of iron, 5% of the DV
Over 700 men and women with a mean age of 52 who consumed five to six eggs per week were the subjects of a 2022 study that was written up in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. In adults with or without chronic conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol, researchers observed no association between egg consumption and blood cholesterol.
Eggs can also be baked into avocado halves, hard-boiled and eaten as a snack, or added to avocado toast, salads, grain bowls, and rice dishes, in addition to omelets, scrambles, frittatas, quiche, salty oatmeal, and breakfast tacos.
Nuts and Nut Butter:
As a group, nuts include tree nuts such as pistachios, almonds, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, and others as well as peanuts, a member of the legume family. Although nuts have more fat than protein, they usually provide the same amount of protein per serving as an entire egg. A quarter cup of dry-roasted mixed nuts, or one ounce, has the following benefits:
- 5.53 grams of protein
- 15 grams of fat, 19% of the DV
- 1.74 milligrams of vitamin E, 12% of the DV
According to a 2021 review of the literature in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, nuts are a significant source of nutrients that, along with healthy fats, help protect against oxidative stress and inflammation, enhance brain function, lessen the effects of aging on the brain, and prevent some chronic diseases. Nut consumption is linked to better blood sugar control, weight control, and heart health defense.
Like seeds, nuts can be eaten on their own or combined with other ingredients to make salads, hot or cold cereal, stir-fries, slaw, cooked vegetables, whole grains, or sauces like pesto or nut Bolognese. Dark chocolate truffles, chia pudding, biscuits, bars, and muffins are just a few treats that you can make using nuts and nut butter by blending them into smoothies.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
The current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight per day for healthy adults who don't engage in much physical activity. That works up to around 55 grams of protein per day for a person weighing 150 pounds (68 kilograms). However, the precise quantity of protein you require each day varies on a number of variables, such as your age, sex, height, weight, degree of physical activity, and if you are pregnant or nursing.
An international panel of nutrition experts has advised an average daily consumption of 1.0-1.2 grams of protein per kilogram per day for adults 65 years of age and above to assist preserve muscle mass. That's important since age-related declines in quality of life and risk of sickness and mortality are directly related to loss of muscle and strength.
Additionally, for the purpose to maintain muscle recovery and muscle mass growth, both of which require extra protein, exercisers may need to ingest up to twice the RDA. For those who have malnutrition, severe diseases or injuries, acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term) illnesses, or both, additional protein increases of up to 2 grams per kilogram per day are advised.
The Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) calculator from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), which gives nutrient levels expected to meet the needs of nearly all healthy adults, can help you determine how much protein you need. Speak with your particular healthcare practitioner for more specific advice on your daily protein target, especially if you suffer from kidney disease or certain metabolic problems.
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Guys, I'm Mary Murphy. I'm joining the Health Frantic team because we wanted to expand the nutrition of our Food. Nutrition and food play a vital role in our overall well-being.
By eating a balanced diet, consuming nutrient-dense foods, and adopting conscious eating habits, we can provide our bodies with the nutrients they need. Proper nutrition supports physical health and promotes optimal growth and development. Let food be your medicine for a healthy, happy life.