FUEL UP: THESE ARE THE 40 BEST HIGH-PROTEIN FOODS YOU NEED TO EAT
Paleo, Vegan, Gluten-free, Vegetarian, Keto or Macro – no matter which diet you are following, protein is essential for all of us. This power nutrient builds our body tissue, nourishes our muscles and is an excellent fuel source. As a matter of fact, proteins provide as much energy density as carbohydrates!
However, new research reveals many Australians are not eating enough or getting it from the right food sources.
If you’re thinking meat pies, chicken nuggets or ice-cream are good protein sources, we have to stop you right there. Time to get you back on track in the nutrient department ;). A survey of 200,000 adults found that those following a low-quality diet consume eight times more protein from junk food than people on a high-quality diet – and, unsurprisingly, these candidates experienced three times higher risk of obesity.
So how much of these good proteins should we get a day? As a guideline, men should consume around 56 grams a day while women can get away with 46 grams. A 2015 study in the American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism even showed those who ate twice as much protein could maintain and build muscles easier while keeping their metabolism revving on high speed!
But let’s talk real food: What does this practically mean for your everyday dinner/lunches or breakies? To give you an idea of what this boils down to in the meat department, this is roughly what you’d get from 2 ½ pork chops, 4-5 chicken drumsticks or an 8-ounce steak. If you’re a vego, you’ll need 2 cups of tofu, 1 ½ cups of soybeans or a big bowl of oats.
So let’s agree on this: for building and maintaining muscles, weight loss and a balanced, healthy lifestyle, we need to have a close eye on our protein levels. To reach your fitness and weight-loss goals (and also not bore yourself!!) variety is key: go beyond the chicken zone and banish taste bud boredom with our list of delicious, high-protein foods for all diets!
Read up on our extensive guide to the 40 best high-protein foods you need to eat now:
1. Greek Yogurt: 23 grams per 8 oz. serving
Having twice as much protein as other types of yoghurt, plain greek yoghurt (no hidden sugars here please!) has become fairly popular. Another beneficial side effect: it’s also rich in calcium and probiotic bacteria - make your gut happy!
2. Cottage Cheese: 14 grams per 1/2 cup serving
Feeling like a late night snack? Go for cottage cheese. Its high amount of casein, a dairy protein that digests more slowly than whey, effectively feeds your muscles all night so they don't catabolize - and it keeps you from waking up starving at 3 a.m.
3. Eggs: 6 grams per 1 large egg
Eggs are truly perfect muscle food: cheap, versatile (dream of perfect poached eggs, scrambled, fried…) and packed with branched-chain amino acids. Make your morning a protein-rich one!
4. Steak (Top Or Bottom Round): 23 grams per 3 oz. serving
These cuts of steaks are super lean and provide an amazing 1 gram of protein for every 7 calories – compared to the classic ribeye, which delivers only 1 gram of protein for every 11 calories! Avoid overcooking round or loin pieces (also considered more economical cuts) though – Any more than medium rare and they’re as dry as a shoe sole…
5. Minced Beef (90% Lean): 18 grams per 3 oz. serving
If you opt to use around 90% ground beef this will just have the right amount of fat to make your burgers taste juicy – and don’t forget, this sort of red meat is a great source for creatine, too!
PS: Grass-fed beef contains more nutrients than its factory-farm brothers and sisters.
6. Pork Chops (Boneless): 26 grams per 3 oz. serving
The powerhouse of protein power. 26 grams per 3 oz. serving is as high as you can get with this piece of muscle-sculpting protein. Plus, pork chops are easy to prepare, tasty and complement almost every dish…
7. Chicken Breast (Boneless And Skinless): 24 grams per 3 oz. serving
Almost as powerful as pork chops, chicken is the go-to for every protein-aware fitness enthusiast. It delivers more protein than other poultry cuts, which is why it should remain a constant presence in your shopping cart.
8. Turkey Breast: 24 grams per 3 oz. serving
Turkey is just as protein-dense as chicken. With both meats, it's important to be careful of antibiotic use – stay away and look for turkey breast labelled “antibiotic-free”!
9. Yellowfin Tuna: 25 grams per 3 oz. serving
This big, meaty fish packs a super punch of easily digested, premium protein. But that’s not all our favourite fish comes up with: Benefit from the healthy amount of B vitamins and antioxidant selenium. Look for troll - or pole-caught tuna to support sustainable fishing practices.
10. Light Tuna: 22 grams per 3 oz. serving
Real tuna can get really expensive when cravings for it every week – buuut here’s to less-pricey canned light tuna! Almost as protein-packed as the fresh caught version, light tuna actually provides more protein than the more expensive canned white tuna.
11. Halibut 23 grams per 3 oz. serving
Who doesn’t love a juicy, meaty delicateness of white fish? Halibut is the absolute premium white fish when it comes to getting the best for your muscle build up. Note: Pacific halibut is generally considered a more sustainable choice than Atlantic.
12. Octopus: 25 grams per 3 oz. serving
We always read about tuna and salmon as premium fish protein sources. But how about Octopus? Its protein-packed muscles contain a full 25 grams of protein per 3 oz. serving – that’s more than halibut, canned tuna or salmon!
13. Sockeye Salmon: 23 grams per 3 oz. serving
Not only does wild salmon like sockeye taste better than its farmed cousin, it also supplies more protein. In addition, you'll reap the benefits of its rich, fat-fighting long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. Look for salmon with the skin still intact, as it provides added flavour during cooking.
14. Anchovies: 24 grams per 3 oz. serving
These tiny fishes are definitely underestimated. In terms of canned fish protein, no one can beat anchovies! Because of their size, they also don't accumulate toxins the same way that bigger species do! Italians love using them instead of salt in their tomato sauces, but if you’re not a big fan of the intense saltiness, here’s a little tip: simply soak them in water for 30 minutes, drain and pat dry.
15. Sardines: 21 grams per 3 oz. serving
Once regarded as typical 70s ingredient, the humble sardine is on its way back. The oily little swimmer is full of omega-3-fats, vitamin D, and not too less protein! Their strong taste can be balanced best while combining it with more neutral foods like potatoes or cauliflower.
16. Rye Berries: 12.5 grams per ½ cup
Have you heard of Pumpernickel? This German goodness is particularly known for being incredibly filling – it’s super ingredient is rye. Rye itself is also an absolutely neglected superfood. It might need to cook a little longer than rice, but it’s a great vegetarian protein side dish!
17. Flaxmeal: 2 grams per 2 Tbsp
Flaxmeal might be most known for its fibre content and rich omega 3-fatty acid profile, but it actually is a good protein source as well. Just blend into your protein shakes or smoothies and enjoy some extra protein!
18. Hubbard Squash: 2.5 grams per ½ cup
This not so common squash (think of the size and color!) stashes a serious amount of metabolism-boosting protein. Take only the seeds: they deliver 8 grams of protein per ¼ cup! Adding the flesh, you’ll get another few grams out of it…
19. Passion Fruit: 2.5 grams per ½ cup
I bet you didn’t think necessarily of fruit when talking about protein did you? Surprise! Fruits like passionfruit and pomegranate contain a good dose of protein within their edible seeds – sprinkle half a cup over your granola and you’ll also get 12 grams of fibre and more than half a day’s vitamin C!
20. Broccoli Rabe: 3.3 grams per serving
Broccoli Rabe might be the bitter cousin to your usual broccoli, but it has one of the highest protein-per-calorie ratios in the plant world: For every 8.7 calories it comes up to 1 gram of protein! Just one serving will give you 3.3 grams for just 28 calories - yes, that’s indeed more protein than a spoonful of peanut butter.
21. Mushrooms: 4 grams per serving
Mushrooms are not only a great source of selenium (a mineral that’s essential for proper muscle function!), those soft veggie superstars do contain a lot of protein as well! Thinking of the delicious Portobello mushrooms (you see them a lot as bun alternative in burger places), they contain about 4 grams of protein per serving, for less than 40 calories! Our hands are up for the bunless burger trend!
22. Pomegranate: 5 grams per fruit
Another juicy protein-powerhouse: Pomegranate stores, like passion fruit, all of its protein within the seeds of the fruit. This sweet and sour colour and flavour bomb will definitely spice up your morning yoghurt bowl!
23. Oatmeal: 6 grams per 1 cup serving
Can you imagine that just one cup of oatmeal delivers as much protein as an egg? For all vegans out there, this is your new protein breakkie must-ingredient! And almost nothing is more versatile than oatmeal – we could go on and on, but that’s for another blog post!
24. Hummus: 6 grams per ½ cup serving
Hummus essentially is pureed chickpeas mixed with olive oil. And chickpeas are true protein-bombs! Plus, hummus is probably our favourite dip ever; healthy, yummy, filling and a solid 6 grams of protein in half a cup! Dig in with your cucumber and carrot sticks.
25. Green Beans: 6 grams per ½ cup cooked
Greens keep you lean. Heard of that? It’s a killer fat burner and comes up one gram of protein for every 18 calories you consume! Combine it with a yummy steak and you have an unbeatable protein-rich meal.
26. Pistachios: 6.5 grams per ¼ cup
All nuts are high in protein, but pistachios may have additional metabolic powers, making them one of the best-ever high protein snacks. A study by scientists in India looked at 60 middle-aged men who were at risk for diabetes and heart disease. Those that got 20% of their daily calories from pistachios had a lower cholesterol level by an average of 15 points and their blood sugar numbers improved as well!
27. Spirulina: 8 grams per tablespoon
Spirulina has enjoyed a big boom throughout the last 2 years – you might best know the powdered version of the blue-green algae, but it’s also sold as flakes or tablets. Like Quinoa, dried spirulina is a complete protein – meaning it can be converted directly into your muscle – and it consists to 60% of protein. It’s vegan suitable as well – just mix it in with your smoothie and not only get a full 8 grams of metabolism-boosting protein but also half a day’s allotment of vitamin B12!
28. Black Rice: 10 grams per ¼ cup uncooked
If you’ve ever tasted black rice, you’ll never want to go back to your soggy white or brown rice – it’s chewy, extremely filling and one of the hottest new food trends. But this is not only about trend: black rice is higher in protein AND fibre than brown or white rice!
29. Tempeh: 16 grams per ½ cup
A lot of people don’t know the real difference between tempeh and tofu (and even if you’re not vegetarian both are so worth trying!): Tempeh is not as soft as tofu because it’s made from soybeans – not soy milk! Resulting from this, tempeh is closer to a whole food and keeps around 50% more of its protein!
30. Navy Beans: 20 grams per 1 cup serving
Beans are one of the cheapest sources of protein in the world of food. Even the ancient Incas knew already about the many benefits of beans. Not only does this usually canned legume boost your muscles with 20 grams protein per 1 cup serving, it also supplies an impressive 13 grams of dietary fibre!
31. Dried Lentils: 13 grams per 1/4 cup serving
Almost as cheap as beans, lentils have been on the back shelf for too long. It’s slowly but surely making its way to the top in creative vegan and vegetarian dishes. Lentils simply are secret nutrition bombs: not only are they ramping up your protein intake and fibre, they also contain a wide range of vital minerals.
32. Pepperoni: 18 grams per 3 oz. serving
Who would have thought that our favourite pizza and salad topping has a stellar amount of protein?! With 18 grams per 3 oz. servings we’re saying yes to pizza with a looot of pepperoni!
33. Peanut Butter: 8 grams per 2 tbsp serving
Everyone’s darling peanut butter might not be as trendy (or pricey!) as almond or macadamia butter, but it’s definitely winning in the protein department. The perfect mid-day snack (spread a little bit on pre-cut apples – it’s so delish!) is best in its natural forms without all the hidden, nasty sugars. Most healthy stores let you even still grind your own!
34. Mixed Nuts: 6 grams per 2 oz. serving
We’re staying within the nutty section. Almonds, cashews, brazil nuts or walnuts are a crunchy and snack-approved way to add in a little more protein and healthy unsaturated fats into your diet. Always keep a box next to your workspace for hunger emergencies! Tip: Try to go for unsalted nuts as otherwise, your sodium intake might reach new records…
35. Bean Chips: 4 grams per 1 oz. serving
If you’re cravings for fatty, salty chips just won’t stop, bean chips are clearly the solution for you. You’ll hardly find a better option than these protein-packed black beauties – prepare your dips and dig in.
36. Tofu: 12 grams per 3 oz. serving
Meatless Mondays are not a new thing anymore, however, we still find it’s a great cause to contribute to. If you’re looking at slabs of tofu you don’t even have to cut back on your protein intake! Tofu can almost be added into any dish and will go a very long way with a good marinade…
37. Edamame: 8 grams per 1/2 cup serving
Edamame are green soybeans – the popular Japanese snack will give your lunch a boost of plant protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals! We love to add in a little bit of fresh lemon juice, smoked paprika and, of course, salt.
38. Green Peas: 7 grams per 1 cup serving
We could literally add green peas into every single dish. Even though a lot of vegetables contain good amounts of protein, green peas are simply a protein powerhouse and you’d better want a bag stashed in your freezer at all times.
39. Soba Noodles: 12 grams per 3 oz. serving
Soba noodles are Japanese-style noodles made out of buckwheat – and contain way more protein than most wheat-based noodles. But that’s not the only bonus point, they also cook in about half the time as whole-wheat pasta! Pro-tip: remove the excess starch (makes it more gummy than yummy) by rinsing your cooked soba after draining.
40. Quinoa: 8 grams per 1 cup serving
Our last candidate of powerful protein foods is quinoa. The South American whole grain is a true rarity among all other whole grains: it contains an abundance of essential amino acids! This makes the proteins a complete protein, ready to go straight into your muscle. If you want to enhance the nutty flavour, simply toast the quinoa before simmering it in water.