Keto, paleo, Atkins – whatever the newest diet craze is, they usually have one thing in common: high protein. While the legitimacy in the details of each diet can be hit or miss, a food lifestyle that prioritizes protein is important for anyone looking to maintain a healthy weight.
Protein is one of the big three macronutrients – the other two being fat and carbohydrates – that can specifically help with a healthy diet. For one, protein increases levels of appetite-reducing hormones that can make you feel fuller and eat fewer calories. For another, protein can help with muscle repair and building. Increasing protein intake can boost metabolic rate, which increases the number of calories you burn during the day.
The most protein-rich foods tend to come from animal products, so to avoid mentioning them would mean this list would exclude some of the most protein-dense foods. However, for those who have dietary restrictions, we included a variety of protein-rich foods to help you find the best diet that works for your lifestyle.
And if you’d like an idea of how much protein to include in your diet, check out this protein calculator from the United States Department of Agriculture to start – but, as always, check with your doctor for a more accurate assessment.
Yogurt and cheese
Greek yogurt packs more protein punch than plain yogurt, bringing in an average of 9 grams per 100 ounces. Other dairy products, like milk and cheese, can range from 8 to 19 grams.
Time to go under the sea for this one. Salmon has 19 grams of protein per three ounces. Trout, herring, and sardines are also high in this macronutrient. Even if you don’t have access to affordable fresh fish, canned tuna has 20 grams per three ounces.
In cultures from all over the world, beans (usually along with rice) are a staple of any meal, and with good reason. These relatively inexpensive legumes all have protein, though the exact amount varies on the type of bean. Kidney beans, black beans, and chickpeas (also known as garbanzo beans) are all rich in protein, usually around 15-20 grams per half a cup.
This soy curd isn’t just for vegetarians. A half a cup of tofu can have 11 grams of protein. Many Southeast Asian cultures incorporate tofu in their cuisine, adding a little variety to this white food.
Nuts and legumes
Almonds have 6 grams of protein per one-ounce serving, but be careful; nuts are calorically dense, and eating too many at once can be too easy. Try setting aside one handful to watch your portion size, or else add them in with a salad. Pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts have approximately 4 grams of protein per serving. Peanuts top the list at 7 grams per one-ounce serving.
Lean poultry generally has fewer calories than red meat, making chicken a popular part of an athlete’s diet. A three-ounce serving has 27 grams of protein. Serve it grilled with some spices instead of fried or overly sauced and it’s a healthy option.
While it can be tempting to go for second helpings at Thanksgiving, just one serving of turkey should be enough for your protein needs. Three ounces have 26 grams of protein.
Whey is a protein in milk that forms as a byproduct when making cheese. If you’ve ever opened a cup of yogurt to find a watery film over it, that’s whey. Many athletes, especially bodybuilders, mix in whey protein powder with smoothies and other beverages to amp up their protein intake. These protein powders have varying nutritional components, but most have 25-30 grams of protein per scoop. For vegan alternatives, try hemp or soy protein powders, which usually have just as much protein.