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Top High Protein Foods List

by Elsa

Ever wondered what are the high protein foods available? This was one of the things that I had to figure out when I was thinking of doing a “meatless” day once a week. I was aware of the common animal protein sources but less so with the others.

Initially, I had only planned to find out what practical non-meat sources of protein were available that I could easily get and prepare. But my curiosity got the better of me and eventually also needed to understand which types of meats contained more protein. Was it beef, chicken, pork or fish?

After that, in the spirit of trying to eat healthy, it started to dawn on me that just getting the protein amount of each food wasn’t enough. I also needed to understand how many calories each of them had. This way it would be easier to not just compare high protein foods but also how they will affect our diets, and eventually our waistlines.

How Much Protein Do We Need?

Before going into the guide itself, I thought it would useful to know just how much protein each of us needs. Protein is one of the essential foods that all of us needs to maintain our physical health. It is responsible for building and repairing muscles as well as give us energy.

Getting too little of it will make us frail and weak. But it is also important not to get too much of it since it may make some of our organs, like the liver and kidneys over work.

Recommended Daily Protein Requirements

This is a general guideline, and based on the average person. The bigger or taller you are, the more protein you need to sustain your body. The opposite is true if you are a petite individual.

But from the table, we can see that both men and women need different amounts of protein. The same is true for our kids who are growing.

Computing Your Exact Protein Requirements

If you’re like me, that table may not be enough since there are so many different variables to each individual. So here’s a more detailed way of doing it. Don’t worry the math’s very simple. The formulas take into consideration your weight and also how active you are.

Average Person

  • Needs 0.36 to 0.60 grams of protein per pound of body weight

Active lifestyle

  • Needs 0.6 to 0.80 grams of protein pound of body weight

Very Active / High Level Athlete

  • Needs 0.8 grams of protein daily per pound of body weight

Most of us fall in the first category so all we need to do is multiply our weight (in lbs.) by 0.36 and we get the bottom range of the requirement. The goal is to consume more protein per day than that number.

Breakdown of this Guide

The last thing to mention is on using this guide. I’ve split up the lists below based on food types. For me this was an easier way to look through the different types of foods. I’ve added a table of contents above so you can jump to the food type quickly depending on which ones interest you the most.

The way I broke the types of foods were:

  • Top 15 Food Protein Sources
  • Meats
  • Fish & Seafood
  • Dairy & Dairy Products
  • Nuts & Seeds
  • Legumes / Beans
  • Vegetables
  • Other Vegan and Vegetarian Protein Sources

Hopefully this makes searching for the items easier.

Foods Highest in Protein

High Protein MealWhen it comes to the top foods in terms of protein we had to find a way where we could compare all the foods side by side equally. This isn’t the easiest task since all foods are different. To make things more complicated, they are served in different ways.

Some foods are measured by teaspoon or tablespoon. Others meanwhile are measured by cups. Then there are also those by weight or size.

From the different ways of comparisons, we figured that the best way to compare protein content in food is to use is nutrient density. Nutrient density refers to how much protein there is per amount of that food.

So in our data and tables below the main method of comparison will be the amount of protein per 100 grams of the food. This way we know we’re comparing all items at the same size, 100 grams. This will be the first column in the tables, though you can sort the tables based on what you want by clicking on the column headings.

15 Foods with Highest Protein Content

Here are the top foods in terms of how many proteins per gram of that food. It isn’t a surprise that a lot fo the foods that make the list are meats. Though it is good to note that different portions of the meats also contain varied amounts of protein. For example a chicken breast carries more protein than most of the other parts of that bird.

1. Spirulina

Protein per 100g Serving Size Protein per Serving Calories per Serving
Spirulina 58 g 3.5 oz. (100 g) 58 g 290

2. Dry Roasted Soybeans

Protein per 100g Serving Size Protein per Serving Calories per Serving
Dry Roasted Soybeans 40 g 1 cup (172 g) 68 g 776

3. Parmesan Cheese

Protein per 100g Serving Size Protein per Serving Calories per Serving
Parmesan Cheese 38 g 1 cup (100 g) 38 g 431

4. Pork (Cured, Bacon)

Protein per 100g Serving Size Protein per Serving Calories per Serving
Pork (Cured, Bacon) 37 g 1 slice (8 g) 3 g 43

5. Lean Veal (Leg)

Protein per 100g Serving Size Protein per Serving Calories per Serving
Lean Veal (Leg) 36 g 3 oz (85 g) 31 g 179

6. Lean Beef (Top Round)

Protein per 100g Serving Size Protein per Serving Calories per Serving
Lean Beef (Top Round) 36 g 3 oz (85 g) 31 g 162

7. Lamb (Shoulder)

Protein per 100g Serving Size Protein per Serving Calories per Serving
Lamb (Shoulder) 36 g 3 oz (85 g) 31 g 294

8. Non Fat Powdered Milk

Protein per 100g Serving Size Protein per Serving Calories per Serving
Non Fat Powdered Milk 35 g 1 cup (68 g) 24 g 244

9. Cuttlefish

Protein per 100g Serving Size Protein per Serving Calories per Serving
Cuttlefish 32 g 3 oz (85 g) 28 g 134

10. Non-fat Cheddar Cheese

Protein per 100g Serving Size Protein per Serving Calories per Serving
Non Fat Cheddar Cheese 32 g 1 cup (113 g) 36 g 180

11. Non-fat Mozzarella

Protein per 100g Serving Size Protein per Serving Calories per Serving
Non Fat Mozzarella 32 g 1 cup (113 g) 36 g 302

12. Chicken (Breast)

Protein per 100g Serving Size Protein per Serving Calories per Serving
Chicken Breast 30 g half breast 29 g 193

13. Dried Pumpkin Seeds

Protein per 100g Serving Size Protein per Serving Calories per serving
Dried Pumpkin Seeds 30 g 1 oz. (28.4 g) 8 g 153

14. Fish (Tuna)

Protein per 100g Serving Size Protein per Serving Calories per Serving
Fish (Tuna) 30 g 3 oz (85 g) 25 g 157

15. Turkey (Breast)

Protein per 100g Serving Size Protein per Serving Calories per Serving
Turkey Breast 30 g 1 unit (112 g) 32 g 212

16. Pork Loin (Chops)

Protein per 100g Serving Size Protein per Serving Calories per Serving
Pork Loin (Chops) 28 g 1 chop (82 g) 22 g 155

Things to consider

Some of our observations from the information we gathered are:

  1. Foods that have been dried tend to have a much higher protein content. This process boosts the protein power of many food items.
  2. Cheese offers a very high amount of protein in terms of nutrient density (per gram). So they can serve as alternatives to meats (beef, pork, chicken, seafood, etc.) on occasion.
  3. Whenever possible, go for lean meats. This provides you with more protein per gram. The lower amount of fat, the higher the protein per gram you get. The opposite is also true.


High Protein Meat Products

For most of us, this section along with the fish and seafood section next to this make up majority of our protein food sources. These are considered the best sources of protein because they are complete proteins, this means they contain all the essential amino acids needed by the body to stay healthy.

For this reason, animal protein is still the type of protein that’s recommended by most doctors and nutritionists.

While doing the research, I realized that all beef are not created equal, and the same is true for chicken, pork and the other meats, even fish. Each portion is different, contained different amounts of fat and also varied when it came to how much calories they contained. So I decided to make subsets for each of the food items when it made sense.

1. Beef (Lean, Top Round)

Protein per 100g Serving Size Protein per Serving Calories per Serving
Lean Beef (Top Round) 36 g 3 oz (85 g) 31 g 162

Tied for the top spot for meats with high protein content is beef, along with veal and lamb. Take note that they have to be lean. The more fat there is the lower the protein content goes. And when it comes to beef, lean top round tops the list.

Fat content is something to consider when it comes of beef and other meats specially if you’re getting them ground. For ground beef, getting 90% beef offers the most protein, though I would argue that 70% or 80% beef makes for better grilled burgers. But that’s not our goal here.

Below are some of the most popular cuts of meat along with the average amount of protein and calories for a 3 oz. slab of each. Notice that the top round (above), and New York Strip have considerably less calories than the T-Bone and Porterhouse which have more marbling.

2. Lean Veal (Leg)

Protein per 100g Serving Size Protein per Serving Calories per Serving
Lean Veal (Leg) 36 g 3 oz (85 g) 31 g 179

If you’re a fan of less traditional meats then veal is another good source of protein. Of the different parts, the veal leg contains the most protein per gram, followed by the shoulder. Veal is an excellent way to switch up your meals if you want to try something other than beef and pork.

3. Lamb (Shoulder)

Protein per 100g Serving Size Protein per Serving Calories per Serving
Lamb (Shoulder) 36 g 3 oz (85 g) 31 g 294

Also tied for the top spot in the meat category is lamb at 36 grams of protein for every 100 grams of lamb shoulder. However, do consider that a 3 oz. piece of lamb has considerably more calories than the lean beef and lean veal, something to watch out for if you’re watching your weight.

4. Chicken (Breast)

Protein per 100g Serving Size Protein per Serving Calories per Serving
Chicken Breast 30 g 3 oz. (85 g) 24 g 165

Tied for the next position are poultry products, chicken and turkey, with both chicken and turkey breasts coming in at 30 grams of protein per 100 grams of poultry. With both birds, the breast part contains the more protein because of the white meat, and less fat.

Chicken, turkey along with fish are among the healthiest meats to consider if you’re trying to eat clean. Do remember with chicken and turkey though, to remove the skin if you want to cut down on calories.

5. Turkey (Breast)

Protein per 100g Serving Size Protein per Serving Calories per Serving
Turkey Breast 30 g 3 oz. (85 g) 24 g 159

Delicious and healthy, they are great for sandwiches and holidays. Turkey meat is very lean making it a good diet choice. For each 3 oz. slice of turkey which is about the size of a small match box, we get 24 grams of protein and less than 160 calories.

6. Fish (Tuna)

Protein per 100g Serving Size Protein per Serving Calories per Serving
Fish (Tuna) 30 g 3 oz (85 g) 25 g 157

Technically, this should be tied with chicken and turkey since it has the same amount of protein for each 100 grams. But this figure isn’t true for all types of fish. It is only true for tuna, which is among the highest sources of marine protein, not to mention healthiest as it contains low calories and a healthy serving of Omega-3 fatty acids.

For a more detailed list of protein in fish, please refer to the fish and seafood section below.

7. Pork Loin (Chops)

Protein per 100g Serving Size Protein per Serving Calories per Serving
Pork Loin (Chops) 28 g 3 oz. (85 g) 23 g 161

For me, the most versatile of meats, pork also provides a good chunk of protein. Each 3 ounce cut of chops offer about 23 grams of protein with only 160 calories. And the great thing about pork is that it comes in many different ways and we can prepare it in different ways too. Below is a list of some of the most popular ways to cook pork along with how much protein and calories for each.

8. Tofu

Protein per 100g Serving Size Protein per Serving Calories per Serving
Tofu 8 g 1 cup (248 g) 20 g 188

Tofu per se is not a meat. It isn’t an source of animal protein either, so why did I bother to put it on the list here? Well, I just wanted to put it beside the meats because it is often compared or used by non-meat eaters as a way to get their protein.

This way it would be easy to quickly compare the protein content of tofu with the other common sources of protein from animals. It is also a way that we can see how 1 serving compares in terms of calorie count with the other meats.


Fish and Seafood that are High in Protein

FishIf you’re on a pescetarian diet or heart health conscious, then this section is probably one to look through more thoroughly. Fish is one of the best sources of complete proteins especially because they are good for our health.

For one, if you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll notice that the same 3 ounce serving of fish on average packs less calories compared to the average 3 ounces of beef, chicken, pork or veal.

The other important part about seafood is their fat. Typically fat is considered bad. And the fat in most meat (beef, pork, chicken, lamb, etc.) isn’t good since they are of the saturated fat variety. However, the fat in fish are good fats, primarily Omega-3 fats.

Omega-3 fats are the ones that help lower our cholesterol and triglyceride levels, they also help raise our good cholesterol (HDL) and lower our bad cholesterol (LDL) levels. So choosing omega-3 rich fish like salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel are beneficial for our health.


High Protein Dairy Products

CheeseAfter meats, including fish, the next top source of protein are dairy products. This included food items like milk, eggs, cheese, yogurt and even ice cream. We’ve listed them down in order below, which means that on average cheese gives us most protein per gram and milk, surprisingly the among the lower ones when it comes of dairy products.

Because dairy products are prepared in so many ways, we’ve decided to break down the different types for each food. This took a bit more time than the other food categories simply because I was amazed at the so many different types of cheeses. I had to look up the ones I’ve never heard of.

1. Cheese

Parmesan Cheese: 38 g of protein per 100 g, each ounce had 11 g protein, and 122 calories

From the stat line about, if you want to get the best protein punch per gram of cheese, then go with Parmesan cheese. It easily beats out some of the other types of cheeses, though if you compare the cheeses side by side with the meats above, you’ll notice, like I did that on a 100 gram basis, you almost get the same amount of protein in cheese with meats.

But before you get tempted to replace meat with cheese, remember that the calories of cheese easily outweighs those of meat. Plus with meat you can get lean portions which reduce the fat content, with cheese on the other hand it isn’t as easy to do so.

When looking at the calorie column below make sure to also look at the serving size. You’ll notice that a slice of cheese comes out to between 70 and 120 calories, so eating more than a slice can quickly add up compared to eating a 3 oz. piece of meat.

2. Eggs

It contains 6 g of protein in  each large whole egg

After cheese, eggs are the next in line in terms of protein density in the dairy family. This is one reason bodybuilders eat a lot of eggs. On average a large whole egg offers 6 grams of protein, most of which is contained in the egg whites.

But before you throw out the yolks consider that the egg yolk contains a lot of nutrients and minerals helpful to our bodies. Among them is vitamin E, D, B and A. Plus they contain iron and folate which help our bodies produce red blood cells.

Eggs have recently gotten a bad rap because they contain fat. And yes, while they do contain the unhealthy saturated fat, majority of the fat in eggs is healthy fat. In total eggs contain 5 grams of fat, of which 2 grams are monounsaturated fats (MUFA) and 0.7 grams are polyunsaturated fats (PUFA), while only 1.6 grams is saturated. So they’re more helpful than harmful.

But like olive oil, peanut butter and avocados, all of which have healthy fats, moderation is key. Because they all contain saturated fats eating too much eventually becomes more harmful.

With eggs, if you want the protein without the fat and calories, go with the egg whites, which only have 17 calories per large egg and 11 grams of protein. As for the whole egg, the healthiest options are poaching them and having them hard boiled. Scrambled, fried eggs and omelets on the other hand contain most calories for the same amount of protein.

One final note with eggs, if you want to choose healthier eggs, look for those that contain Omega-3. These should be labeled in their boxed. These eggs contain the healthy fat that is beneficial to our bodies.

3. Yogurt and Ice Cream

Plain Greek Yogurt (Non-Fat): 17 g of protein in one 170 gram container

Apart from cheese, the other interesting dairy product I came across was yogurt. Not because I’ve never tried yogurt before but because the difference in them. If you’re after the protein content, get Greek yogurt over the regular yogurt. They contain close to twice as much protein as regular yogurt.

Yogurt is a great, healthier way to enjoy something delicious with a lot less calories compared to ice cream. However, with yogurt, what I’ve discovered is that it is important to read their labels and differentiate them.

There are so many types of yogurts that you can end up picking the least healthy ones. Some basic tips are plain yogurt is healthier than the flavored ones. They have a lot less sugar in them. If you want the healthiest one, go for the low fat or non-fat yogurt. Some yogurt contain a good amount of saturated fat so do read the nutrient label.

4. Milk

Non Fat Powdered Milk: ¼ cup of dry milk equals 1 cup prepared; has 9 grams of protein

This was a surprise for me. I never expected milk to rank among the bottom when it came to protein content, at least in dairy products. Milk is great, delicious and nutritious. It contains a lot of vitamins and is best known for the calcium and vitamin D it contains that helps build bones.

Milk also makes for a good breakfast meal item or snack along with peanut butter. Together, a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of milk make up about a third of our day’s protein requirements.

When it comes to milk products, the processed versions pack more protein than the regular milk in fluid form. At the top is powdered milk followed by condensed and evaporated.

Each glass of milk however contains 8 grams of protein, no matter if it’s non-fat or whole milk. Though their calories differ significantly as you can see from the table above. So if you’re on a diet then you can save 65 calories by taking a glass of non-fat milk instead of the regular glass of whole milk.


Best Vegetarian and Vegan Sources of Protein

From this section on, the food items are all non-animal related and make for great protein sources for those on vegan and vegetarian diets. Although depending on what type of vegetarian you are, the fish & seafood as well as dairy sections above are great options too.


Nuts and Seeds with the Highest Protein Content

When it comes to plant-based sources of protein, seeds and nuts, on average are at the top of the list. On a pound per pound basis, they pack the most protein per gram of food. However, anyone who’s tried eating nuts and seeds will quickly realize that it’s difficult to base entire meal plans on them. This is why the beans and grains sections below are actually the most common sources of plant-based protein.


NutsThe great thing about nuts is that they make for great snacks. They’re easy to eat, extremely delicious and healthy too. Most nuts contain the healthy MUFA (monounsaturated fats) and PUFA (polyunsaturated fats) making them heart healthy. But like eggs, they also contain small portions of unhealthy fats.

This means we need to limit the amounts we eat regularly to get the benefits without overdoing it. In general, limiting nuts to an ounce a day has shown to be beneficial to health. Below, we’ve included the number of nuts/kernels for each type of nut per serving. This makes it easier to follow.

The number of nuts per ounce are different for each type because each type of nut weighs different from the other so we end up with more nuts in an ounce for some and less in others.


Seeds are another excellent source of protein for non-meat eaters. Just a little goes a long way in terms of protein content. Just like nuts, seeds are loaded with healthy fats, making them good for us. They also contain a good amount of fiber making them great for our digestive systems.

Incorporating seeds into our meals is as easy as sprinkling them over toast or adding them to our shakes or smoothies. They can be used for cooking as well as topped on over salads and other dishes.


High Protein Legumes / Beans List

If you’re looking for budget friendly sources of protein, beans are among the cheapest sources of protein around. Compared to meat, you get a lot more beans for the same price. Beans make for an excellent way for non-meat eaters to get sufficient protein daily.

BeansIn general the protein density of beans are similar in that you get around 9 grams of protein for almost all the varieties of beans. However, because they weigh differently, a cup of kidney beans does not look like a cup of white beans.

The other thing to consider about beans is that some beans are better for you if you’re watching your weight. Notice that a cup of chickpeas (garbanzo beans) only contains 164 calories while a similar cup of pinto beans contains close to 100 calories more, even if they both contain the same amount of protein.


Vegetables with Highest in Protein Content

VeggiesWhen speaking of protein, most of us wouldn’t even consider veggies in the conversation. However, a number of vegetables do contain protein. Among them are peppers, peas and mushrooms. Then you also have the greens rounding out the bottom.

The one thing I learned with protein in food is that the preparation method matters a lot. Also some items have higher amounts of protein when raw, while others after they’re cooked.

One way to get the most protein out of your food is to have them dried. Normally veggies like tomatoes, peppers and mushrooms don’t contain a ton of protein, but if you notice the table below sun dried tomatoes, and dried pepper all contain more than 10 grams of protein per 100 grams, making them good sources of it.


More High Protein Foods for Vegans and Vegetarians

I mentioned earlier that I started out this research trying to find vegetarian sources of protein for my once a week “no meat days”. Ironically, it ends up down here. But I still find it quite important because for anyone looking for ways to lessen the amount of meat they eat the foods listed below are additions to the nuts & seeds, beans/legumes and vegetables above.

What you’ll notice on the vegetarian protein sources below is that a lot of them are grains or grain related. Grains are very healthy foods and contain a good amount of protein in them. The one thing with grains is that aside from their ability to keep us full for a longer amount of time, which helps for losing weight, they also contain good amounts of fiber, making them healthy for our digestion.

Notice that more of the grains are of the unrefined variety. This in contrast to the refined ones, which are usually the “white” products, like white bread or regular spaghetti. These unrefined grains, like those used for whole wheat bread, oats and brown rice are healthier and also slow down digestion.

Last Thoughts

I’m finishing this up as I noticed that it has gotten quite long. Hopefully, the information above helps you find the foods you need for your recipes and dishes. Getting enough protein based on our daily requirements is something we all need to stay healthy. The lists above hopefully help see which ones you can add to your diet for more variety.

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