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What Are Some High Protein Foods?

By Bethany Keene
Updated May 16, 2024
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Protein is a major building block of the human body. Hair, skin, muscle, connective tissue, metabolism, and many chemical processes in the body are affected by or made up of protein. Protein itself is made up of amino acids. There are 20 necessary amino acids for protein, and the body produces only eleven. This means that we need to get the remaining nine from high protein foods. We need to consume them daily because the body doesn't store them for later use.

Eating foods that are high in protein is the best way to get all of the protein, and by default amino acids, that you need. The United States Recommended Daily Allowances (USRDA) recommends eating 0.37 grams (about 0.013 ounces) of protein for every pound, or .8 grams (0.028 ounces) for every kilogram, of body weight. A 150-pound person (about 68 kilograms), for example, would theoretically need to eat about 55 grams (1.94 ounces) of protein per day.

An easier way to remember this rule is that between ten and 15 percent of the Calories you consume should come from protein, assuming you have a healthy diet for your body size and type. People who have kidney or liver disease should consult their health care professional to determine how much protein they should consume daily.

Eating protein high foods with a low amount of saturated fat is the healthiest way to meet your recommended daily amounts. Be sure to read labels when you are purchasing high protein foods. In general, the best high protein foods are meat, dairy, including milk, cheese and yogurt, and eggs. These are the most complete foods for essential amino acids. Fish is another example of a food with a high protein content.

If you are on a diet, you will need to pay extra attention to make sure you are meeting your body’s nutritional needs, including eating enough protein. People on a specialized diet, such as a keto diet, may want to use an app for meal-planning advice. You can consult with your nutritionist to see if there is a keto diet app that suits your needs and aligns well with your current health situation and goals. 

Vegetarians or vegans can also achieve the recommended amount of protein with a bit more work. Since proteins found in plants do not always offer the full complement of amino acids found in animal products, it is necessary to combine high protein foods. Some foods high in protein include spinach, soy, and quinoa. Nuts, beans, legumes, and seeds also have a high protein content. Tofu and seitan are other options. Whole grains and brown rice have a small amount of protein, but when combined with beans and vegetables, the whole meal will offer the benefits of a full range of protein.

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Discussion Comments

By amysamp — On Oct 04, 2011

Some high protein low carb foods that I noticed in this article were the dairy products.

For example cheese is one of them, not all but some yogurts (all are a good source of protein, not all are low carb), and egg whites fall into that category as well (I have read that you should eat at least one egg yolk a day, but I am not sure that multiple egg yolks would be the best thing).

Other low carb high protein and low calorie foods that I know of are of the seafood variety such as salmon, tuna, or shrimp. However, if you buy fresh fish I am not sure that would fall in your budget conscious category. But, if you buy salmon or tuna packets they are inexpensive especially for the amount of protein you get!

Now I know what you are thinking - those packets are not the tastiest things you have ever had. But here's what I have found which I think is the key with these packets of tuna or salmon:

Rule #1 - Don't even dare compare the packets with fresh tuna or salmon - you will be disappointed every time.

Rule #2 - Don't eat them on their own - put them on a salad, put them on a cracker, and most important - season them!

By Speechie — On Oct 04, 2011

I had no idea that you had to keep up your amounts of protein daily secondary to your body not storing it! Wouldn't it be nice if our bodies could store protein instead of fat? But I am sure there is a good reason as to why our body does not store it.

My husband has always felt that he feels better on a high protein diet, but not so great on protein plus carbs, so he finds himself trying to eat meat as his main source of protein since it can be lean and low carb.

However, recently we decided budget-wise it wasn't the best choice to continue to purchase so much meat as it tends to be (even on sale) the most expensive things on our receipts.

Any suggestions on what some lean high protein and low carb (and budget conscious) foods we might purchase?

By behaviourism — On Oct 03, 2011

Seeds are another group of high protein and low carb foods that are really high in protein, and also fatty acids.

I think most people are used to the idea of pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds as a snack. Even better, though, are flax seed and chia seeds, though they might not be so appealing on their own.

I love to bake with flax seed- it can actually replace other fat sources, like butter, in recipes. It adds a sort of nutty taste and texture too- I really like it in cookies.

And I like chia seed because it is high in protein and good fats, and you don't need much to get the benefits. I sometimes sprinkle either chia or flax on top of yogurt for a little protein burst, and it keeps me going and full for a long time.

By sunnySkys — On Oct 02, 2011

@JaneAir - Beans and rice are a pretty popular meal among poor college students, probably for all the reasons you just mentioned!

Another food with a decent amount of protein that is great for vegetarians is the avocado. It's also full of "good" fats. I really like to use it in salad, especially if I don't have any meat available. A whole avocado really helps turn a salad into a filling meal. Plus, it is delicious.

The only drawback to eating avocado for protein is that it's fairly expensive. Most of the grocery stores in my area sell an avocado for around $2! This is a lot, compared to what other types of produce usually sell for.

By JaneAir — On Oct 02, 2011

One of my good friends is a vegetarian. One of her go-to meals is beans and rice. She calls it a "complete" protein, and says that it really fills her up and gives her a lot of energy. She also likes it because it's a pretty inexpensive meal and easy to make ahead of time.

I enjoy beans and rice too, but I like to add some meat to it since I'm not a vegetarian. I guess it's a pretty high protein meal the way I make it!

By julies — On Oct 02, 2011

When I am the only one home in the evening and I want a quick, nutritious meal that is high in protein I often make this same meal.

I fry a couple of eggs with some onion, green peppers and cheese added to them. Then I have a piece of whole wheat bread toasted with some avocado slices and peanut butter spread on it.

I finish off the meal with a smoothie that is made with Greek yogurt, fresh fruit and a scoop of whey protein powder.

This only takes me a few minutes to make, but I am full for the rest of the evening and know I get a lot of protein from this meal.

By SarahSon — On Oct 01, 2011

I always feel satisfied and full longer when I eat foods that are high in protein. I like to start out my day with high protein foods such as eggs, a fruit smoothie with protein powder in it, or a bowl of whole grain cereal that contains a fair amount of protein.

There are quite a few healthy high protein foods to choose from. Just because a food is high in protein, doesn't mean it is bad for you. I think some people confuse a low fat diet with one that is also low in protein, but this does not have to be the case.

A lot of our bodies are made up of protein, and many people don't get nearly enough on a regular basis. I try to make sure I get good protein with every meal I eat. I feel better after eating a meal high in protein than one that is high in carbohydrates.

By ElizaBennett — On Sep 30, 2011

@CellMania - Beans are probably the ultimate high protein diet food. They have no fat besides what you add.

I also like to eat low-fat dairy products; they're very high in protein and satisfying. Yogurt has health benefits, of course, but cottage cheese is higher in protein. It's my go-to snack when I'm pregnant!

By turquoise — On Sep 29, 2011

There are plenty of protein-rich foods available to us but I think what's most important is not the amount of protein in a food, but rather the protein-to-fat ratio.

Red meat and milk has a lot of protein but red meat also tends to be very high in saturated fats. That's why it is not recommended to people with high cholesterol. Milk and cheese, if it's made with whole fat milk is also very disproportionate in the protein-fat ratio leaning towards fat.

That's why I always try and pick foods that are high in protein, but low in fat like beans, egg whites, low fat cheese and salmon. I feel that the protein in these foods are much more beneficial for me than the protein in fattier foods.

By surfNturf — On Sep 29, 2011

@Sunny27 - You can also look into soy products because they also tend to be high in protein. I also think that your list of high protein foods should include peanut butter and nuts in general. Nuts are great because they tend to curb your appetite.

I usually have a handful in the late afternoon when I start to feel a little tired and want something sweet, and not only does it take away my craving for something sweet but the protein in the nuts tends to keep me satisfied until dinner. I usually snack on cashews or walnuts. They are my favorite. You can also get a banana and slice it up and put peanut butter on it. It makes a great satifying snack that is also healthy.

By Sunny27 — On Sep 29, 2011

@CellMania-I think that good high protein foods should always include fish like tuna, salmon, mahi-mahi and tilapia. The great thing about fish is that it not only is high in protein but it tends to be lower in fat.

The Omega 3 fatty acid that it contains is great for your heart and tends to lower your cholesterol. There a lot of lean meats that are rich in protein but sometimes additional protein is added to cereal and meal replacement bars. I read somewhere that if the meal replacement bar has at least ten grams of protein then it would be considered a good high protein food.

Eggs are also supposed to be high in protein but some people might shy away from eggs because it also has a high cholesterol rating. I hope that helps.

By CellMania — On Aug 23, 2010

I am looking for some high protein and low fat foods. I'm not sure what all could be included on both lists. Any suggestions?

By anon27930 — On Mar 08, 2009

Is albumin present in high protein's formation?

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