The Best High-Protein Foods

Meat is a high quality protein.
Meat is a high quality protein. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Protein in foods consists of amino acids, which are also known as the "building blocks" of protein. Amino acids are needed for building and repairing body tissues, including muscles, skin, vital organs and glands. The average person needs 50 to 65 grams of protein daily. Two to three servings of foods high in protein each day is enough for most adults, says MedlinePlus. Protein is found in many foods. You can easily obtain adequate amounts of protein by eating a varied, nutritionally-balanced diet.

Meat, Poultry and Fish

Meat, poultry and fish are complete proteins, or high quality proteins, because they contain all nine essential amino acids -- essential amino acids must be obtained from the diet because the body is unable to make them. A 3 oz. serving of lean, ground beef contains about 22g of protein, half a skinless chicken breast contains 27g and half a fillet of cooked salmon contains around 39g of protein. Meat and poultry can be high in fat, for example, a 6 oz. steak contains 38g of protein and 16g of saturated fat, notes the Harvard School of Public Health. Choose lean, moderately-portioned cuts of meat and skinless poultry.

Dairy Products and Eggs

Dairy products and eggs are also complete proteins. One hard-boiled egg provides around 6g of protein, a 1 oz. serving of cheddar cheese contains 7g, 1 cup of reduced-fat milk provides 8g and an 8 oz. serving of low-fat, fruit yogurt contains 10g of protein. Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products to reduce fat intake.

Beans, Peas and Lentils

Although beans, peas and lentils are high in protein, plant proteins are incomplete proteins because they lack at least one essential amino acid. Soybeans are an exception, according to MedlinePlus. A 1-cup serving of soybeans provides around 28g of protein, 1 cup of kidney beans contains 13g and 1 cup of pinto beans provides 15g of protein. A 1-cup serving of lentils contains about 18g of protein and 1 cup of split peas provides 16g. Beans, peas and lentils are heart-healthy meat substitutes – they contain no cholesterol, minimal fat and are full of fiber.


Grains only provide small amounts of protein, but when combined with other plant foods they can form a complete protein. Combinations such as rice and beans, corn and beans and wheat cereal deliver all the essential amino acids needed for good health, says MedlinePlus. Vegetarians can meet their protein requirements and get all the essential amino acids by eating a variety of plant proteins.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts and seeds are good sources of protein. A 1 oz. serving of almonds or pistachio nuts contains around 6g of protein and 1 oz. of walnuts contains 4g. A 1 oz. serving of pumpkin and squash seed kernels provides 8g of protein and 1 oz. of sunflower seeds contains 5g. Nuts and seeds are also full of vitamins, minerals and healthy fats.

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