There is no way around it. Protein is the most important macronutrient your body needs. Without protein, your muscles can’t refresh and repair themselves. And you can’t even start thinking about building muscle without protein. Even those who want to lose weight have to increase their protein intake and lower their carb intake.
I know most of you know that you need 1g of protein per pound of body weight. But I wouldn’t go that far. To be fair, if you manage to get half of that every day, you’ll be fine. That changes if your goal is to build muscles and if you are a physique-minded individual, however.
But for us regular Joes, who are not as obsessed with our body as some athletes and physique-minded individuals are, 1g per 2 pounds of body weight is more than enough. But with so many high protein foods available, people still struggle to get their protein. Why? Because they don’t know which foods are the best sources of protein. That’s why I’ve created a list—one you can call the ultimate list of high protein foods.
So let’s get started!
We’re starting off with fish. Why? Because fish is one of the healthiest high protein foods you can get. And in the sea of fish, salmon is probably the best one. Make sure you are getting lean wild salmon, not the frozen salmon. Per one fillet of salmon, usually 3oz, you get 17g of protein. But since most salmon fillets tend to be bigger, you get even more protein.
This is not canned tuna, which has less protein than fresh tuna. I must say, tuna steak is even better than salmon steak. And if you want to be eco-friendly, look for pole-caught tuna as one of the most sustainable options. In addition to protein, tuna comes with a healthy amount of vitamin B and selenium. As for the protein, you get 25g per 3oz fillet.
I know this is not a fish you can find easily in just any grocery store. But when you can get your hands on halibut, be sure to pick it up. This white flesh fish is one of the best sources of protein. Not just because of the high protein amount (23g per 3oz serving), but also due to the low amount of fat. In a 3oz serving, you get just 2g of fat.
One of the things friends tell me is that fish is an expensive option. But that’s not entirely true; if you can’t get salmon, get tilapia. This American-farmed fish offers one of the best cost-to-value ratios. A lot cheaper than salmon, tilapia still delivers 21g of protein per 3oz of serving. You can find it at any fish market. The taste is not as good as salmon, but you can add some seasoning and herbs to enhance the taste.
Another inexpensive option you can get is canned sardines. They are loaded with protein, 21g per 3oz of serving, to be exact. They have often been overlooked due to the fact that people think they are loaded with fats as well. But that’s a good thing in this case: they are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids as well as vitamin D. There are very few foods on the market with vitamin D, and sardines are one of them.
We are now entering the cheese section, and we start off with non-fat mozzarella. This Italian cheese is known as a great addition to salads and many other dishes.
Some people dislike the neutral flavor and taste, but I don’t. And you get 9g of protein per 1oz of slice. Not bad, right?
This is arguably your best cheese snack option. With 14g of protein in just ½ cup, you give your muscles slow-digesting protein that will provide a steady supply of nutrients. The only thing you need to pay attention to is the sodium amount. Cottage cheese can be high in sodium, so look at the label and find one with low amounts of sodium.
Ounce for ounce, Swiss cheese is among the best options you can get at the grocery store. Just make sure to look for the low-fat version.
True, the flavor isn’t as good as the full-fat Swiss cheese, but the ratio is still 8g of protein per 1oz of serving. And you get an 8 to 1 ratio on protein versus fat.
When you think of protein, the first thing that comes to mind is meat. Yes, there are expensive versions and budget versions. But steak is the best thing you can get, not just because of the protein content, but the flavor and taste are second to none. Look for leaner cuts of steak. Rib-eye is still good, but lean cuts provide an even better protein to calories ratio. As for the protein, you get 23g per 3oz of serving. Another thing to note: if you opt for a lean cut, cook it quickly over high heat. Lean cuts can get dry if overcooked.
Chicken or turkey breast
These two are basically the same. Some people prefer turkey to chicken, but you get the same amount of protein, which is 25g per 3oz of serving. That’s if you get a lean cut.
Chicken legs and chicken thighs are not as high in protein as lean cuts.
Lean beef and veal
Next item on the menu is beef. But not ground beef—you want a piece of lean beef or veal. Look for low-fat versions, and you’ll get 31g of protein per 3oz slice.
Beef jerky is still good, but not as good as lean beef or lean veal meat.
Every type of meat has its own protein star. And in the case of pork, that’s the pork loin. It’s just amazing how high in protein this piece of meat is.
One pork loin chop, which is usually 5oz, delivers 41g of protein. And you’ll be surprised, but even bacon, which is essentially pork meat, has some protein. One slice has 3g of protein.
The vegetarian alternative is tofu. You’re not getting as much protein as with meat, but you can still get enough to satisfy the daily requirement.
One cup of firm tofu will give you 20g of protein, while soft tofu provides 16g of protein. Tempeh, for example, is even better, as one cup provides 31g of protein.
Another great vegetarian alternative is beans. Let’s start with soybeans, as they are usually the popular choice. One cup of cooked soybeans brings 31g of protein to the table.
Other good options are kidney beans (17g of protein), lima beans (15g of protein), and black beans (39g of protein).
Try to get one glass of yogurt for breakfast, and you’ll get a protein boost every day.
Yogurt has around 14g of protein per glass. And if milk is your choice, go for skim milk, which brings 8g of protein to the table.
Some people prefer only egg whites, but you can eat whole eggs as well. Now, if you are into bodybuilding or you are a physique-oriented individual, you want to avoid egg yolks. They contain some fat that you want to stay away from. For me, personally, 3 egg whites with 1 egg yolk is the perfect combination for an omelet. In one large egg, you get 6g of protein. Multiply that by 3, and you get 18g of protein in your omelet. Add some cheese, and you get a perfect breakfast!
Nuts and seeds
So many options here, including almonds, peanuts, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, squash seeds, and so on. Almost anything you choose delivers around 8g of protein per 1oz serving.
I love almonds the most, but peanuts are good as well. And if you are into homemade peanut butter, that will be on the list of high protein foods as well.
Generally speaking, whole grains are not as rich in protein as the other foods on this list. However, quinoa seeds are special. In addition to being one of the high protein foods, quinoa seeds also contain a full arsenal of amino acids, and those are two ingredients you need to build muscle.
One cup of quinoa delivers 8g of protein. You can add them in salads or in any other dish you want. If you want to enhance the natural flavor of the quinoa seeds, cook them in a dry skillet or saucepan before simmering in water.
I want to finish with one of my favorite high protein foods—the Spanish-seasoned pork sausage. I didn’t want to mention it in the pork section because it deserves its own listing. Sausages are not usually healthy, but chorizo is awesome. You can use chorizo to turn scrambled eggs, soups, salads, and pasta dishes into a high protein meal. And no, you don’t need to cook it before eating, as Spanish chorizo is cured. However, if you find Mexican chorizo, you need to cook it first before adding it to any meal. As for the protein content, 3oz of chorizo gives you 21g of protein. Sounds good to me!