What is Protein?
Protein is a macronutrient. It is one of the three nutrients found in food that the body needs in large amounts. It is essential for the maintenance and building of body tissues and muscle.
Proteins are made of small compounds called amino acids. Hundreds of amino acids exist in nature, but the human body only uses 22 of them.
The body can produce all but nine of the amino acids it needs. These nine are called essential amino acids. They must come from food.
All foods contain differing combinations of amino acids. In general, animal proteins like meat, dairy, and eggs contain all the essential amino acids.
Plant-based proteins from foods like beans, grains, nuts, and soy are rich in some amino acids but may lack others. A well-balanced diet with a variety of foods can provide sufficient protein for the body's needs.
Does protein help with weight loss?
Protein helps to make you feel full after eating, so including a protein-rich food at each meal can help those people who are trying to lose or maintain their weight.
However, excessively high protein diets are not recommended, especially those omitting other food groups, such as breads and cereals or dairy products. Weight gain is a result of the energy taken in being more than the energy burnt off through metabolism or activity, irrespective of the source of the energy (kilojoules/calories).
Groups with increased protein requirements
This grain is packed with important vitamins and minerals like
magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and folate—plus it’s a protein powerhouse. Unlike many other meat-free sources of protein, quinoa
has all nine essential amino acids your body needs, making it a
Protein amount: 8 grams per cup
You may have snacked on edamame while waiting for a sushi dinner, but
there’s good reason to upgrade it from appetizer to entrée. These Japanese
favorites pack tons of protein into every cup, plus, these green beans have as
much fiber as four slices of wheat bread.
Protein amount: 16 grams per cup (shelled)
Prep tip: Go full steam ahead. Instead of boiling edamame, which can release the soy’s nutrients into the pot of water, steam the pods! Gently cooking the edamame in this way may help preserve all its nutrients.
You know the saying, "Good things come in small packages"?
Well, we’re pretty sure they’re talking about chia seeds. These tiny seeds
contain a substantial amount of protein, and these whole-grain all-stars are
considered to be a gold mine when it comes to brain-boosting omega-3s and fiber
content. But that’s not all. Chia seeds could give your multivitamin a run for
its money; one serving contains iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc.
Protein amount: 9.4 grams in 2 tablespoons
Prep tip: Folding them into your diet can be a snap. From jams to smoothies, these tiny black and white seeds can be added to almost anything Buy the seeds in bulk and mix them into any dish that might need a protein punch.
When it comes to vegetarian favorites, lentils are the George Clooney of
the group: They’ve been around forever, but that doesn’t make them any less
desirable. And for good reason: These flavorful beans are packed with B
vitamins, folate, as well as fiber (1 cup accounts for more than half of your
daily needs) and—yes, you guessed it—protein. And just like good ole George,
lentils have a significant effect on your heart. Research shows that adding
beans to your diet could help to lower your blood pressure and improve overall
Protein amount: 18 grams per cup
Prep tip: Resist the urge to add salt or any other acidic items to your lentils until after the beans are done cooking. That way the lentils stay perfectly crunchy and avoid any potential mushiness.
Low in calories, high in protein, and oh-so-creamy, Greek yogurt
sometimes sounds like it’s too good to be true. One 100-calorie serving of the dairy dish
can contain up to 18 grams of protein. Thanks to its luscious texture, Greek
yogurt makes a perfect swap for high-calorie, high-fat pantry mainstays like
mayo or sour cream.
Protein amount: 29 grams per cup
Prep tip: Not all Greek yogurts are created equal. Be wary of flavored containers that could be packed with sugar. Several varieties contain almost 20 grams of the sweet stuff, so before you buy, check the label
Regular full-fat yogurt (24% of calories) and kefir (40%).
The thing vegetarians love about tempeh? The texture. This soybean-based
ingredient is firmer than traditional tofu, which makes it a great stand-in for
meat in sandwiches, burgers, and stir-fries. In addition, it’s a protein hero.
A half cup of this Indonesian favorite contains 15.4 grams of the
Protein amount: 31 grams per cup
Prep tip: On its own, tempeh tends to be quite bland, but like its cousin tofu, it takes really well to a good marinade. A quick brush of soy sauce will do wonders to heighten the flavors of your meat-free dish.
If the last time you ate peanut butter on a regular basis were the days
of recess and trading lunches, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Just two
tablespoons of the nutty spread contains 8 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber,
and it's brimming with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. And of course,
peanut butter's just plain delicious.
Protein amount: 32.5 grams per ½ cup
The little chickpea (also known as the garbanzo bean) has one impressive
résumé. Not only are they a protein powerhouse, these legumes are also brimming
with hunger-fighting fiber. The best part of all? Research has shown that
including ¾ cup of these beans on a daily basis can help cut your LDL or bad
Protein amount: 14 grams per cup
One minute they’re a healthy, wholesome powerhouse and the next, they're
deemed cholesterol-packed bad guys. So, here’s the bottom line: When eaten in
moderation, eggs are not only okay to eat—they can do wonders for your health.
They rich in the protein department, low in calories, and chock full of the
brain-boosting nutrient choline. Plus, some research suggests that eggs may
help increase HDL, the good cholesterol.
Protein amount: 7 grams per large egg
Almonds are a popular type of tree nut.
They are loaded with important nutrients, including fiber, vitamin E, manganese and magnesium.
Protein content: 13% of calories. 6 grams per 1 ounce (28 g) serving, with 161 calories.
Other High-Protein Nuts
Pistachios (13% of calories) and cashews (11% of calories).
Chicken breast is one of the most popular protein-rich foods.
If you eat it without the skin, the majority of the calories in it come from protein.
Chicken breast is also very easy to cook, and tastes delicious if you do it right.
Protein content: 80% of calories. 1 roasted chicken breast without skin contains 53 grams, with only 284 calories.
Oats are among the healthiest grains on the planet.
They are loaded with healthy fibers, magnesium, manganese, thiamin (vitamin B1) and several other nutrients.
Protein content: 15% of calories. Half a cup of raw oats contains 13 grams, with 303 calories.
5. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is a type of cheese that tends to be very low in fat and calories.
It is loaded with calcium, phosphorus, selenium, vitamin B12, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and various other nutrients.
Protein content: 59% of calories. A cup (226 g) of cottage cheese with 2% fat contains 27 grams of protein, with 194 calories.
Other Types of Cheese That Are High in Protein
Parmesan cheese (38% of calories), swiss cheese (30%), mozzarella (29%) and cheddar (26%).
Milk is highly nutritious, but the problem is that a huge percentage of the world's adults are intolerant to it.
However, if you tolerate milk and enjoy drinking it, then milk can be an excellent source of high-quality protein.
Milk contains a little bit of almost every single nutrient needed by the human body.
Protein content: 21% of calories. 1 cup of whole milk contains 8 grams of protein, with 149 calories.
Broccoli is an incredibly healthy vegetable, loaded with vitamin C, vitamin K, fiber and potassium.
Broccoli is also loaded with various bioactive nutrients believed to help protect against cancer.
Calorie for calorie, it is high in protein compared to most vegetables.
Protein content: 20% of calories. 1 cup of chopped broccoli (96 grams) contains 3 grams of protein, with only 31 calories.
9. Lean Beef
Lean beef is very high in protein, and also tastes delicious.
It is loaded with highly bioavailable iron, vitamin B12 and numerous other nutrients.
Protein content: 53% of calories. One 3 ounce (85 g) serving of cooked beef with 10% fat contains 22 grams of protein, with 184 calories.
If you're on a low-carb diet, feel free to eat fatty cuts of beef instead of lean beef.
Tuna is a very popular type of fish.
It is low in both fat and calories, so what we're left with is mostly just protein.
Like other fish, tuna is also very high in various nutrients and contains a decent amount of omega-3 fatty acids.
Protein content: 94% of calories, in tuna canned in water. A cup (154 g) contains 39 grams of protein, with only 179 calorie
Whey Protein Supplements
When you're pressed for time and unable to cook, a whey protein supplement can come in handy.
Whey is a type of high-quality protein from dairy foods, shown to be very effective at building muscle mass, and may help with weight loss.
Protein content: Varies between brands, can go over 90% of calories, with 20-50 grams of protein per serving.
Lentils are a type of legume.
They are high in fiber, magnesium, potassium, iron, folate, copper, manganese and various other nutrients.
Lentils are among the world's best sources of plant-based protein, and are an excellent food for vegetarians.
Protein content: 27% of calories. 1 cup (198 g) of boiled lentils contains 18 grams, with 230 calories.
Other High-Protein Legumes
Soybeans (33% of calories), chickpeas (19%) and kidney beans (24%).
Pumpkins contain edible seeds called pumpkin seeds.
They are incredibly high in many nutrients, including iron, magnesium and zinc.
Protein content: 14% of calories. 1 ounce (28 g) contains 5 grams of protein, with 125 calories.
Other High-Protein Seeds
Flax seeds (12% of calories), sunflower seeds (12%) and chia seeds (11%).
16. Turkey Breast
Turkey breast is similar to chicken breast in many ways.
It consists mostly of protein, with very little fat and calories. It also tastes delicious.
Protein content: 70% of calories. One 3 ounce (85 g) serving contains 24 grams, with 146 calories.
17. Fish (All Types)
Fish is incredibly healthy, for various reasons.
It is loaded with various important nutrients, and tends to be very high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Protein content: Highly variable. Salmon is 46% protein, with 19 grams per 3 ounce (85 g) serving, with 175 calories.
Shrimp is a type of seafood.
It is low in calories, but loaded with various nutrients, including selenium and vitamin B12.
Like fish, shrimp also contains plenty of omega-3 fatty acids.
Protein content: 90% of calories. A 3 ounce (85 g) serving contains 18 grams, with only 84 calories.
19. Brussels Sprouts
The Brussels sprout is another high-protein vegetable, related to broccoli.
It is very high in fiber, vitamin C and other nutrients.
Protein content: 17% of calories. Half a cup (78 g) contains 2 grams of protein, with 28 calorie
Other sources include: