Getting enough protein on a daily basis is essential for your overall health. Healthy sources of protein include eggs, nuts, lean meats, fish, dairy, and certain grains.
What we think of as “protein” is actually a large category of molecules. They give structure and support to your cells and are necessary for immune function, movement, chemical reactions, hormone synthesis, and more (
They’re all made up of tiny building blocks called amino acids. Nine of these are considered essential, meaning your body needs them but can’t make them on its own, so you need to get them in your diet (
How much protein you need to consume per day depends on factors like your:
- body size
- activity levels
- pregnancy status
Some people need more protein than others. However, it’s important that everyone get optimal amounts of protein for them by eating protein-rich foods regularly.
Not only is protein essential for your health, but it’s also the most filling macronutrient. Consuming it can keep you feeling full and satisfied, which supports a healthy body weight (
The current recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for protein is set at 0.36 grams of protein per pound of your body weight (0.8 grams per kg). Keep in mind that this reflects the minimum amount of protein required to meet your body’s needs (
However, most active people, older adults, and people who are pregnant or breastfeeding require much more than that.
For example, experts suggest that physically active people need 0.54–0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight (1.2–2 grams per kg) per day (
Fortunately, hitting your protein requirements can be easy if you include plenty of protein-rich foods in your diet.
Here are 16 delicious foods that are high in protein.
Whole eggs are among the most nutritious foods available.
They’re a good source of protein that’s easy to absorb, and they’re also an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and antioxidants.
For example, whole eggs are packed with selenium and vitamins B12 and A. They’re also rich in choline, a nutrient that’s especially important during pregnancy and breastfeeding because it plays critical roles in growth and development (
Keep in mind that egg whites are almost pure protein, but whole eggs that include the yolk provide many more nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and healthy fats.
If you’re concerned about the cholesterol in egg yolks, it’s important to note that lots of research has debunked the idea that they’re bad for you.
On the contrary, many studies have shown that whole eggs are incredibly healthy for most people and may actually help prevent chronic diseases (6).
Almonds are a nutritious tree nut rich in essential nutrients like fiber, vitamin E, manganese, and magnesium (
They’re also high in plant-based protein.
Eating almonds may benefit your health in several ways, including by lowering heart disease risk factors like high LDL (bad) cholesterol and high blood pressure (
Try adding some almonds to plant-based meals, like grain bowls and salads, for a boost of filling protein and fiber.
If you’re looking to add more nuts to your diet, also consider pistachios and cashews. Both of these healthy nuts are also packed with protein.
Chicken breast is an excellent choice if you’re trying to bump up your protein intake. In addition to protein, chicken provides a variety of B vitamins, plus minerals like zinc and selenium (
Chicken breast is also very versatile and easy to cook. It can taste delicious in a wide range of dishes.
Try adding sliced chicken breast to salads, stir-fries, and soups to make these dishes more filling.
Cottage cheese is a type of cheese that is low in fat and calories, yet high in protein.
It’s rich in calcium, phosphorus, selenium, vitamin B12, riboflavin (vitamin B2), and various other nutrients (
Plus, research suggests that cottage cheese is just as filling as eggs, making it an excellent choice for a satisfying meal or snack (
For example, you can pair it with cut-up fruit for a high protein breakfast on the go.
Greek yogurt, also called strained yogurt, is a very thick type of yogurt that’s high in protein.
It has a creamy texture and is a good source of many nutrients like calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin A, selenium, and zinc (
Its slightly tart flavor pairs well with both sweet and savory dishes, making it a versatile kitchen ingredient. Try adding Greek yogurt to smoothies, soups, salad dressings, and baked goods, or just enjoy it with a bit of fruit and a sprinkle of crushed nuts for crunch.
When you’re buying Greek yogurt, opt for products that have no sugar added.
Dairy milk contains a little of nearly every nutrient that your body needs.
It’s a good source of high quality protein, and it’s high in vitamins and minerals, like calcium, phosphorus, and riboflavin (vitamin B2) (
Many people with lactose intolerance can’t tolerate milk and other dairy products, and they avoid many dairy-containing foods (
Fortunately, there’s a variety of lactose-free products now on the market, including lactose-free milk, cheeses, and yogurts.
Nondairy milk alternatives, like cashew milk and coconut milk, can be a good substitute for milk in many cases, but they’re usually much lower in protein and don’t contain the same nutrients.
If you drink dairy milk, including lactose-free milk, it can be a good choice to increase your protein intake.
Lentils are among the richest sources of plant-based protein you can eat, making them an excellent choice if you’re following a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Plus, they’re loaded with other nutrients too, including fiber, folate, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, and manganese (
Studies show that people who regularly consume lentils and other legumes have a lower risk of developing health conditions like heart disease and fatty liver disease (
Lean beef is a rich source of protein. It’s also high in bioavailable iron, zinc, selenium, and vitamins B12 and B6 (
Red meat can be a part of a healthy diet, but it’s best to moderate your intake. Consuming high amounts of red meat has been linked to a higher risk of developing certain health conditions, including colorectal cancer (
Try cutting back on red meat and eating plant-based protein, fish, and poultry more frequently.
Fish is an excellent source of protein and provides a number of important vitamins and minerals, like iodine, selenium, and vitamin B12 (
People who include a lot of fish in their diet tend to have a lower risk of health conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes (
Plus, fatty fish like salmon and herring are high in omega-3 fats, which have powerful benefits for your overall health, including supporting heart health (
We think of quinoa as a grain, but it’s actually a seed, which is why it’s categorized as a pseudocereal. Quinoa is very popular in the wellness world.
It’s rich in fiber, folate, copper, iron, and zinc, and it’s higher in protein than many grains (
Quinoa is often referred to as a complete protein because it contains all nine of the essential amino acids that your body can’t make on its own. However, it actually contains insufficient amounts of certain amino acids, like lysine (
For this reason, experts argue that quinoa should be considered a “nearly complete” protein (
This may be of interest to you if you’re following a vegetarian or vegan diet and looking to make sure you’re getting all nine essential amino acids.
Regardless, quinoa is a good source of protein and is delicious in dishes like grain bowls, soups, and porridges.
When you’re pressed for time and unable to prepare a meal, protein powder can come in handy.
You can easily add protein powders like whey and pea protein to shakes, smoothies, energy balls, yogurt, and more to increase the protein and fullness factor.
There’s a protein powder for nearly every taste preference and dietary restriction.
Pea protein and whey protein are both excellent choices for those looking for a convenient way to increase their protein intake.
Whey protein powder provides about 16.6 grams of protein per scoop (28.6 grams), while pea protein provides 15 grams of protein per scoop (20 grams) (
Note that the protein content per scoop differs between products, even when the scoop size is the same. Check the label of the products you’re interested in for their specific protein content.
Ezekiel bread is different from most other breads.
It’s made of organic and sprouted whole grains and legumes, including millet, barley, spelt, wheat, soybeans, and lentils.
Compared with other breads, like white bread, Ezekiel bread is high in protein, fiber, and various important nutrients.
Try making a protein-rich sandwich by topping Ezekiel bread with turkey, lettuce, tomato, and a bit of hummus.
Pumpkin seeds are incredibly delicious and highly nutritious.
For example, they’re a great source of minerals like iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc. Plus, they’re loaded with plant-based protein and fiber (
Try adding pumpkin seeds to salads, baked goods, oatmeal, or yogurt, or mix them with unsweetened dried fruit and almonds for a convenient snack.
Turkey breast is similar to chicken breast in many ways.
It consists mostly of protein, with very little fat and a low number of calories. It’s also high in a number of vitamins and minerals, including selenium, zinc, and vitamins B12 and B6 (
Turkey breast is delicious on salads and sandwiches, and you can also add it to soups and grain dishes to increase the protein content of your meals.
Shellfish, including shrimp, oysters, clams, and scallops are excellent sources of protein.
Plus, shellfish contain healthy fats and a number of vitamins and minerals, including selenium, zinc, vitamin B12, and iron (
All types of shellfish are high in protein. You can enjoy them in recipes like salads, pastas, and stir-fries.
A 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of cooked clams provides 21.8 grams of protein, while the same serving of shrimp provides 20.4 grams of protein (
Although people commonly think of peanuts as nuts, they’re actually legumes.
Peanuts and peanut butter are packed with nutrients, like protein, folate, magnesium, and vitamin E (
Eating peanuts and peanut butter may help make you feel full due to their high protein content. In fact, studies show that adding peanut butter to a high carb meal may help reduce blood sugar spikes after the meal (
For example, putting peanut butter on a slice of bread can help you feel more satisfied and may help keep your blood sugar more stable after you eat.
Getting enough protein on a daily basis is essential for health.
People’s protein needs vary. However, experts recommend most active people consume 0.54–0.9 grams of protein per pound of their body weight (1.2–2 grams per kg) per day (
Fortunately, there are many high protein foods to choose from, including animal and plant-based sources.
Try adding a few of the high protein foods on this list into your diet to help meet your daily needs.
Just one thing
Try this today: Experiment by adding a source of protein to every meal and snack to make sure your food is as filling as possible.
For example, pair an apple with a spoonful of natural peanut butter, or add some beans and a hard-boiled egg to your salad.
Not only will this help you meet your protein needs, but it will help keep you feeling full and satisfied between meals.