What Foods are Highest in Protein Content?
Protein from food is king, and knowing which ones to eat for maximum protein gains is a useful tool.
But not all foods were created equal when it comes to their protein content, with some offering a much higher protein content, and a better protein / calorie pay off than others.
Let’s take a closer look at which foods you should opt for to get more protein into your diet.
Why do we need protein?
Protein is a hugely important part of our daily diets, both in keeping us healthy; and in helping us to reach our fitness goals. This essential nutrient plays a role in a whole host of bodily functions, from building tissue, muscles, and organs to hormones, neurotransmitters and antibodies.
Foods high in protein can also aid weight loss and assist in muscle tone and gain - so if you’re training towards your fitness goals, it’s important to ensure you’ve got plenty in your meal plan!
How much you need varies depending on your lifestyle and goals (we go into that in more detail here), but as a baseline most people will need around 0.8 - 1g of protein per 1kg of body weight per day.
With all the benefits protein rich foods can offer, it’s clear that you need to include plenty in your diet. But how? Here are 10 of the top protein rich foods to help you make sure you’re eating enough of this essential nutrient.
There’s a good reason why eggs are a popular choice for those looking to up their protein intake: they’re chock full of it! Egg whites in particular are a great source, as they’re almost 100% protein.
Plus, this versatile food can be made into a delicious meal in mere minutes: think omelettes, poached eggs, scrambled eggs...the list goes on, with plenty of great post-workout snacks that take no time at all to whip up.
Why not try baked eggs? You can add in beans and top with yoghurt for a super high protein meal which tastes delicious to boot.
Per 100g: 12.5g (around 6g in one large egg)
Percentage from calories: 33% in a whole egg
Easy to cook with and incredibly versatile, chicken breast is also packed full of protein! This popular meat is a great way to get this essential nutrient into your diet, with tons of simple recipes for lunch and dinner, as well as on the go snacks.
Recipe idea: The options are endless: forego the takeout for a healthy chicken curry, add it into a protein rich salad, or use leftovers to make chicken wraps.
Tip: Eat this high protein food without the skin to get the highest calories / protein payoff.
Per 100g: 31g
Percentage from calories: 75%
Similar to chicken, turkey breast is easy to cook and can be used in a multitude of recipes. As with chicken, eat it without the skin to get the most of your calories from protein - and reduce its saturated fat content to boot. Turkey is also rich in B-vitamins and selenium - a mineral which boosts your immune system.
Recipe idea: as well as being a festive staple, turkey is also great minced. Why not use it to try making homemade turkey burgers or a turkey based chilli?
Per 100g: 28g
Percentage from calories: 82%
We have it in our tea and on our cereal, and there’s always a pint or two in the fridge. But did you know that as well as being a bit of a staple, milk is also a fantastic source of protein!
It’s high in calcium, phosphorus and riboflavin (vitamin B2); as well as being a fantastic post-workout drink thanks to its ability to boost rehydration and muscle protein synthesis, and aid recovery time.
If you’re lactose intolerant or follow a plant based diet, soy milk is a good alternative.
Recipe idea: add milk to your protein shake supplement for an extra protein boost.
Per 100ml: around 3.5g in whole cow’s milk
Percentage from calories: 21% in whole cow’s milk
Yoghurt is a protein rich food which can be used in a variety of ways, and goes well in both sweet and savoury dishes.
Not all are equal though, so you’ll want to look for greek or skyr yoghurt; or a specifically high protein yoghurt when you do your shop. It’s also rich in nutrients such as calcium, potassium and phosphorus.
Add it into smoothies, top with banana and honey, use it as an alternative to milk on your breakfast cereal, or try out a savoury yoghurt bowl.
Recipe idea: Make your own high protein frozen yoghurt at home - you could even add in some protein powder to up your protein levels even more.
Per 100g: 13g (Skyr yoghurt), 10g (fat-free Greek yoghurt)
Percentage from calories: 69% in Greek yoghurt
As well as being high in protein, lean beef is also a good source of iron, vitamin B12, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids. Make sure to look out for specifically lean cuts, as these contain less fat and a higher protein / calorie payoff.
Its uses are plentiful: minced lean beef is great in chilli and bolognese meals; lean beef stir fry strips can be used in (you guessed it) a stir fry with plenty of vegetables; while lean beef burgers are also on the menu.
Per 100g: 31g (lean beef steak)
Percentage from calories: 53%
If you’re looking for a reliable high protein food, fish is a good way to go! Not all are created equal though, so for the highest protein content you’ll want to look at white fish such as pollock, cod and halibut; as well as tuna and salmon.
Eaten without batter or coating, this delicious food offers varying amounts of protein but many types boast 80%+ calories from protein.
Recipe idea: Healthy at home fish & chips, healthy fish curry, tuna pasta bake...the options are endless! Dried fish is also a great option as a quick and easy high protein snack.
Per 100g: Variable depending on the fish. Tuna contains 29g; Halibut 23g; Shrimp 23g; Tilapia 26g; and Cod 19g.
Percentage from calories: Variable depending on the fish. Tune contains 90% of calories from protein; Salmon is 22%; Shrimp is 97%; while white fish such as Halibut, Tilapia and Cod contain 81%, 82% and 89% respectively.
Whether you’re dairy intolerant, vegan, or vegetarian, soya is a great way to incorporate more protein into your diet, as well as being rich in fibre, vitamins and minerals to boot.
Fortified tofu is a brilliant meat alternative which is also high in iron and calcium, while soya based drinks such as soy milk are a protein rich recovery aid.
Recipe idea: Why not try a healthy tofu stir fry, or a soy milk smoothie?
Per 100g: Variable depending on the food product. 16.6g in boiled Soybeans.
Percentage from calories: Variable, but 33% of calories in boiled Soybeans are from protein.
Cashew, peanut, pumpkin, sunflower...nuts and seeds boast high protein levels, as well as offering additional nutrients, such as fibre and magnesium. Eat them raw (unsalted and unsweetened) and they’re a great on the go snack for an easy protein boost.
Got a bit more time? They’re also super easy to add into your diet! Aside from snacking on nuts and seeds, you can also add them to stir fries; sprinkle them on your porridge; or chuck ‘em into a smoothie.
Per 100g: Variable. Pumpkin seeds contain 22% of calories from protein, and 19g/100g. Flax and sunflower seeds come in at 12% of calories from protein, while chia seeds offer 11% of calories from protein.
Percentage from calories: Peanuts offer 18% of calories from protein, and 25.8g/100g. Almonds come in at 15% of calories from protein, with pistachios offering 13% and cashews at 11%.
A fantastic source of protein, as well as being vegetarian and vegan friendly, beans and legumes are a super affordable way to get a number of essential nutrients into your diet. They also boast high levels of iron, fibre and B-vitamins.
Recipe idea: Try a healthy moroccan chickpea stew for a spicy midweek meal. Kidney beans are delicious in a vegetarian chilli, while lentils make a great dahl.
Per 100g: Lentils 9g, kidney beans 9g, and chickpeas 8.4%
Percentage from calories: Lentils 31% of calories, , kidney beans (27%), and chickpeas (19%).
+1: Whey protein supplements
Whether you're strapped for time or looking for a post workout boost, sometimes we need an extra helping hand when it comes to getting enough protein into our diets.
Whey protein supplements are best used when following a good exercise regime, and looking to tone up, lose weight or build muscle. They’re a great way to up your protein intake, with different options available according to your health and fitness goals.
Variable, but usually 90% or more calories from protein; and around 20g - 50g per serving.
Note: protein content may vary depending on the product, and the figures given in this article are a guide only. Always check the label to be sure.