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The 10 Best Foods Highest in Protein

Written by Daisy Whitbread, MScN
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The 10 Best Foods Highest in Protein

Protein is a macronutrient necessary for the proper growth and function of the human body. A deficiency in protein leads to muscle atrophy and impaired functioning of the human body in general.

Those looking to build muscle might benefit from increased protein intake, but they should be aware of the risks. Excess protein may cause a strain on the liver and kidneys, and may also increase cancer risk, particularly with protein from animal sources.

How much protein do you need?

The recommended daily intake of protein is between 46-56 grams for most adults, with pregnant and lactating women needing up to 72 grams of protein per day. Athletes or other people looking to build muscle mass may also want to consume more protein. The Daily Value (%DV) for protein is set at 50 grams per day, this number is meant to help compare foods and is a general number that works for most people.

Healthy high protein foods include lean chicken, lean pork, fish, lean beef, tofu, beans, lentils, low-fat yogurt, milk, cheese, seeds, nuts, and eggs.

Below is a list of healthy protein foods sorted by common serving size, use the protein nutrient ranking to sort by 100 gram or 200 calorie serving sizes. For more information, see the lists of vegetarian protein, high protein fruits, and high protein vegetables.

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Top 10 Protein Food List

1Lean Chicken Breast
A roast chicken

More Poultry High in Protein

-124% DV in a whole chicken leg
-108% DV per 6oz of lean ground turkey
-102% DV in a 6oz turkey breast
-64% DV in a chicken thigh
-49% DV in a chicken drumstick

See all meats high in protein.
2Lean Pork Chops
A pork chop

More Pork Products High in Protein

-102% DV in 6oz of broiled pork tenderloin
-88% DV in 6oz of ground pork
-79% DV in 1 cup of diced lean ham

See all meats high in protein.
Tuna Fillet

More Fish High in Protein

-92% DV in a 6oz tilapia fillet
-90% DV in a 6oz salmon fillet
-82% DV in a 6oz cod fillet
-45% DV in 3oz of canned tuna
-39% DV in 3oz of cooked shrimp

See all fish and seafood high in protein.
4Beef (Skirt Steak)
A steak on a plate

More Lean Red Meat High in Protein

-96% DV in 6oz of roast lamb sirloin
-90% DV in 6oz of lean ground beef
-50% DV in 3oz of roast beef

See all meats high in protein.
5Firm Tofu
A block of tofu

More Soy Foods High in Protein

-67% DV in 1 cup of tempeh
-44% DV per cup of cooked soybeans
-28% DV in a 16oz glass of soymilk

Note: The amount of protein in tofu can range between 4.8g (10% DV) to 17.3g (35% DV) per 100 gram serving (or a little less than 1/2 cup). See the nutrition comparison of 10 common tofu brands. To find more, use the detailed nutrient ranking of all vegan foods high in protein.

More Beans High in Protein

-35% DV per cup of large white beans
-31% DV per cup of pinto beans
-31% DV per cup of kidney beans

See the top 10 beans and legumes high in protein.
7Low-Fat Yogurt
Plain yogurt with raspberries

More Dairy High in Protein

-33% DV per 16oz glass of skim milk
-31% DV per 16oz glass of whole milk

See more vegetarian sources of protein.
8Grated Parmesan
Parmesan Cheese

More Cheese High in Protein

-18% DV per oz of non-fat cheddar
-16% DV per oz of low-fat Swiss cheese
-15% DV per oz of mozzarella

See more vegetarian protein foods.
9Seeds (Squash and Pumpkin Seeds)
Squash and Pumpkin Seeds

More Nuts and Seeds High in Protein

-14% DV per oz of peanuts
-12% DV per oz of almonds
-12% DV per oz of pistachios

See the 16 nuts and seeds highest in protein.
-7% DV in 1 egg white
-34% DV in 1 cup of chopped hard-boiled eggs

See All 200 Foods High in Protein

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A printable list of the top 10 foods highest in protein.

High Protein Foods by Nutrient Density (Most Protein per 100 Grams)

#1 Spirulina115% DV (57.5g) in 100grams
#2 Dry Roasted Soybeans87% DV (43.3g) in 100grams
#3 Grated Parmesan Cheese83% DV (41.6g) in 100grams
#4 Lean Veal Top Round73% DV (36.7g) in 100grams
#5 Lamb Shoulder Roast71% DV (35.5g) in 100grams
#6 Lean Chicken64% DV (32.1g) in 100grams
#7 Non-fat mozzarella63% DV (31.7g) in 100grams
#8 Pork Chops62% DV (31g) in 100grams
#9 Tuna60% DV (29.9g) in 100grams
#10 Squash and Pumpkin Seeds60% DV (29.8g) in 100grams

High Protein Isolates and Powders (Non-Commercial)

#1 Soy Protein Isolate12% DV (6.2g) in 1 tblsp
#2 Gelatin12% DV (6g) in 1 tblsp
#3 Egg White Powder12% DV (5.9g) in 1 tblsp
#4 Spirulina (Dried Seaweed)8% DV (4g) in 1 tblsp
#5 Non-fat Milk Powder5% DV (2.7g) in 1 tblsp
#6 Dried Whey Powder2% DV (1g) in 1 tblsp

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View more food groups with the nutrient ranking tool, or see ratios with the nutrient ratio tool.

Data Sources and References

  1. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 28.
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