41 High-Protein Foods

These protein-rich foods are essential for building muscle and aiding recovery.

Whatever your aim is when it comes to fitness, the hard work doesn’t end when you leave the gym or step through your front door after a run or cycle. If you’re not backing up your exercise with a similar level of commitment in the kitchen, you’re going to find it very hard to get the results you want.

One key dietary consideration for active people is their protein intake, because protein plays a vital role in building muscle. When you exercise you cause microscopic tears in your muscles, and to repair those tears so the muscles grow back bigger you need the amino acids that you get from protein. And even if you’re not smashing out workouts every day of the week, protein is a vital nutrient because of its role in building and maintaining body tissues.

The NHS recommends that men eat 55.5g of protein a day and women 45g, but if you are very active you’ll want to increase that amount significantly. Endurance athletes don’t need as much protein as strength-focused athletes but should still aim to eat 0.5-0.6g per lb of bodyweight every day, while strength athletes should shoot for 0.5-0.8g per lb of bodyweight daily.

Fortunately, protein is not an especially hard macronutrient to get enough of, whatever your requirements, and in the UK we generally eat way more of it than we actually need to. According to the National Diet And Nutrition Survey, adults consume about 45-55% more protein than required each day. The reason for that isn’t that everyone in the country is seeking to bulk up – it’s that protein is found in significant amounts in a wide variety of delicious foods that we’re already eating regularly.

Of course, many people choose to supplement their protein intake with shakes and bars, and many common types of food are now available in forms fortified with extra protein. Protein-enriched bread, pasta, porridge and even water is now available, for those desperate to up their intake of the muscle-building nutrient.

However, it is always better to get your protein from natural foods rather than supplements, because food contains a whole lot more than just protein. It’s full of other nutritional goodies like vitamins, minerals and fibre. And given that in the UK we are hardly struggling to hit our protein requirements, taking supplements is likely to be unnecessary for most of us.

To help you hit your protein goals we’ve compiled an extensive list of foods that are especially high in the macronutrient. Below you’ll find the foods ranked by their protein content per 100g, then broken up into different food groups – meat, seafood, meat alternatives, eggs and dairy, and nut, seeds and legumes. Have at it.

41 High-Protein Foods

 

Meat

Beef jerky

Protein content: 30-40g

Keep some of these dried, cured pieces of lean beef in your gym bag for a meaty hit of protein that doesn’t require firing up the grill. Different brands have different levels of protein – and make sure you check the label for added sugar and the salt content, because both can be alarmingly high.

Turkey

Protein content: 30g

A turkey supper shouldn’t just be for Christmas: the festive bird contains more protein per gram than most other meats including its greatest feathered rival – chicken.

Chicken

Protein content: 24g

The classic lean protein source. Chicken contains vast amounts of protein while being very low in fat, especially if you opt for skinless breasts.

Beef

Protein content: 20-24g

Different cuts have different levels of protein but you can rely on beef to bring in plenty of muscle fuel in whatever form you take it. Opt for leaner cuts to avoid eating too much saturated fat.

Lamb

Protein content: 20g

Those sweet little lambs you see frolicking in the fields every spring? They’re also excellent sources of protein. That’s how Mary got so hench.

Pork loin

Protein content: 17-20g

Pork comes in all manner of glorious varieties, but if you’re eating it to increase your protein intake stick to the stuff at the healthier end of the scale, which is pork loin, not pigs in blankets (around 15g of protein per 100g, if you’re wondering).

Seafood

Tuna steak

Protein content: 32g

The “chicken of the sea” is rich in omega 3 fatty acids, among other valuable nutrients, as well as protein. It’s far more meaty and flavoursome than the canned version (with a price to match).

Canned tuna

Protein content: 25g

A cupboard well-stocked with tuna canned in spring water will see you through all manner of hardships. It’s packed with protein and virtually fat-free.

Salmon

Protein content: 24g

As well as plenty of protein, the pink flesh of salmon contains loads of omega 3 fatty acids that make it great for a range of things from eye health to reducing the risk of heart disease.

Sardines

Protein content: 21g

This fish is remarkably cheap if you buy the canned kind and it contains omega 3 fats as well last protein. Make sardines your new favourite toast topping.

Cod

Protein content: 20g

This fish is low in fat, but full of flavour. Naturally we’d advise avoiding battered versions due to the extra fat they contain.

Mackerel

Protein content: 20g

Both the fillet and canned versions of this oily fish are great picks for a quick and tasty protein hit. Try not to pair them with chips, though, or you’ll blow your daily salt intake out of the water.

Mussels

Protein content: 18g

Mussels – a famously popular foodstuff in Belgium. Belgium – home of “The Muscles From Brussels”, Jean-Claude van Damme. Coincidence? At 18g of protein per 100g of mussel meat, we think not.

Prawns

Protein content: 15-18g

Quick to prepare and easy to fit into a variety of recipes, prawns are a worthy addition to every shopping list, whether you opt for the finest fresh king prawns or a hefty sack of frozen small ones.

Meat Replacements

Seitan

Protein content: 25g

This meat alternative is made from wheat gluten, which gives it a texture that’s satisfyingly chewy, unlike softer soy products like tempeh and tofu. It’s also packed with protein, although amounts vary pretty dramatically in the seitan foods and snacks you’ll find on shop shelves, so make sure to check each label for a definitive protein count.

Tempeh

Protein content: 20g

Tofu is not the only soy product in town and tempeh actually outdoes its more famous cousin in terms of its protein and fibre content.

Quorn mince

Protein content: 14.5g

You can’t talk meat-free without mentioning Quorn. As well as containing a solid portion of protein, this mince alternative is high in fibre and low in fat.

Tofu

Protein content: 12g

Sure, we trash-talked tofu when bigging up tempeh, but it’s also a good source of protein. Tofu is also far more widely available than tempeh.

RECOMMENDED: The 30 Best Vegetarian Sources Of Protein

Eggs And Dairy

Parmesan

Protein content: 32g

No-one’s saying that eating 100g of parmesan in one sitting is a smart idea, but if you did the protein content would be a big upside.

Edam

Protein content: 27g

Take a tip from the Dutch next time you hit the cheese counter for a tasty treat that’s high in protein. Just make sure you also embrace the Dutch love of cycling too, so you work off the high amounts of saturated fat.

Cheddar

Protein content: 25g

Britain’s favourite cheese brings plenty of protein to the table. That includes the lower-fat versions, if you’re trying to keep your saturated fat intake down.

Stilton

Protein content: 24g

Don’t be shy of the cheeseboard, that’s what we’re learning here. Just behind the mighty cheddar comes stilton, which contains a stiltload of protein at 24g per 100g. All the usual qualms about cheese remain – lots of saturated fat and salt being the biggest concerns – but we’re not sure there’s a tastier way to up your protein intake than a slice of blue.

Mozzarella

Protein content: 18g

One way to look at this is to shriek with joy and assume that pizza is now on the protein-packed menu. Another way, and let’s be honest a better way, is to slice some mozzarella onto a salad rich with greens to up its protein tally.

Eggs

Protein content: 13g

One of the finest ways to up your protein intake at breakfast time, a couple of medium eggs will easily net you over 10g of the stuff.

Cottage cheese

Protein content: 10g

You can get versions of cottage cheese with added protein nowadays, but even the standard stuff contains a good portion. Compared with other cheese it’s also relatively low in fat and salt.

Greek yogurt

Protein content: 10g

As well as protein, Greek (not Greek style) yogurt is packed full of healthy bacteria and enzymes that will do wonders for your digestive health.

Nuts, Seeds, Legumes And Grains

Pumpkin Seeds

Protein content: 30g

Ever wondered why pumpkins look so swole? It’s because they’re full of pumpkin seeds and you should be too, because along with their impressive protein content, pumpkin seeds offer other nutritional riches in the shape of magnificent magnesium and zincy zinc.

Peanuts

Protein content: 25-28g

The underground legume is a fabulous source of protein, and if you steer clear of the roasted and salted varieties, it’s a fairly healthy snack. In peanut butter form you’ll get around 4g of protein per tablespoon.

Almonds

Protein content: 21g

Along with their high protein content, almonds are also high in fibre and a great source of vitamin E, which is needed to maintain healthy skin and eyes.

Pistachios

Protein content: 20g

Find a friend because this is a prime fist-bump opportunity. Perhaps the tastiest nuts of all are plump with protein. Sure, they’re also pretty fatty and if you opt for the roasted and salted versions, salty as heck, but still, pistachios are on the list.

Cashew nuts

Protein content: 18g

Any open packet of mixed nuts is quickly picked clean of all the cashews. Is that because they are the tastiest of nuts or because they’re high in protein? It’s probably the taste thing, but they’re protein-rich too.

Chia seeds

Protein content: 17g

The most in-vogue seed around is chock-full of fibre and protein, and most of the fat it contains is of the “good” unsaturated variety.

Walnuts

Protein content: 15-17g

Along with a solid amount of protein, walnuts are a good source of omega 3 fatty acids, and they look like little brains. Which is a benefit in our book.

Brazil nuts

Protein content: 14g

Fun fact: brazil nut trees can grow to 50m in height and live for up to 1,000 years. They can be so tall that when the fruit ripens and drops it reaches speeds of up to 80km/h on the the way to the ground. Still thinking about protein? The nuts contain protein.

Edamame beans

Protein content: 13g

These tasty beans can be bought frozen to consume at your convenience and add a shot of fibre, vitamins and minerals to your diet alongside the protein. If you find them a tad bland try livening them up with fresh lemon juice, smoked paprika and a pinch of salt.

Oats

Protein content: 10g

You can get souped-up versions of oats that have even more protein crammed into them, but the bog-standard supermarket own-brand versions aren’t light on the stuff. No breakfast is complete without them.

Lentils

Protein content: 7-9g

Whatever your favourite type of lentil is, you can be sure it’s adding some extra protein to your plate. Use them to thicken meaty stews and bulk up salads.

Chickpeas

Protein content: 7g

One of the earliest cultivated legumes – dating back 7,500 years in the Middle East – chickpeas are particularly rich in folate, a B vitamin that helps to support and maintain a healthy nervous system. Blend with lemon, fresh garlic and tahini for an easy and delicious homemade hummus.

Kidney beans

Protein content: 8g

A 120g serving (half a regular can) provides an impressive 7.4g of fibre, which plays a key role in healthy digestive function, as well as 8.3g of protein. Don’t confine these tasty beans to chilli con carne – they’re great in curries, stews and salads too.

Peas

Protein content: 6g

It may seem the most basic, bland, at-least-the-children’ll-eat-them legume there is, but a few spoonfuls of peas adds a useful amount of protein to your plate.

Quinoa

Protein content: 5g (cooked)

Quinoa’s protein stats look more impressive when you look at its uncooked numbers, but at 5g for 100g – not a mad amount of quinoa, compared with chomping down 100g of parmesan for example – it’s a good way to get some extra protein on your plate, especially if you’re not a meat-eater.

Written by Nick Harris-Fry for Coach.

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