What Foods Are High in Protein?

Medically Reviewed on 10/1/2021
protein foods
High protein foods include both animal products and plant products, such as dairy, seafood, meat, tofu, lentils, chickpeas, and more.

Protein is a macronutrient that is essential for building body tissues and repairing their wear and tear, as well as serving as a source of energy.

High protein foods

Animal products

  • Dairy products, such as Greek yogurt and cottage cheese
  • Poultry, such as turkey and chicken breast
  • Eggs
  • Red meat, such as lean beef
  • Fish and seafood, such as tuna, sardines, and salmon
  • Shrimp
  • Milk

Animal-based proteins are considered complete proteins because they contain all essential amino acids.

Plant products

  • Tofu and soy products
  • Beans, such as kidney beans and soybeans
  • Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, pumpkin seeds, and peanuts
  • Nut butter, such as peanut butter
  • Ezekiel bread
  • Oats
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Quinoa
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas

Plant-based proteins are incomplete proteins because they may lack at least one essential amino acid. So, people who consume strict vegetarian or vegan diets must consume a wide variety of plant foods in combinations to get adequate essential amino acids. However, a few grains (soy, quinoa, etc.) are high protein foods, which are good alternatives to meat and other animal products.

What is a protein?

Proteins are composed of amino acids. There are about 20 distinct amino acids that bind together in various combinations. They are used by the body to create new proteins, such as muscle and bone, as well as other substances, such as enzymes and hormones. Protein is utilized as a source of energy and is required for the formation of antibodies, which build good immunity.

While the body can synthesize 11 nonessential amino acids, there are nine essential amino acids that the body cannot produce. These nine amino acids must be obtained from the diet for the body to function properly.

The reference daily intake for protein is 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men. However, the requirement may differ with people. Fitness enthusiasts take more proteins to develop muscle mass.

What are protein supplements?

Protein supplements are available in several varieties, including powders that may be combined with milk or water, premixed, ready-to-drink smoothies, and bars. Whey and casein, two proteins separated from milk and soy protein, are the most often utilized forms of protein in these supplements. Soy is a preferable alternative for vegans or those who are allergic to dairy.

Intake of protein supplements may not be suitable for people with renal disease or who have undergone surgery on their digestive system. Sometimes, the active ingredients in those supplements may interfere with prescription medicines.

What are the symptoms of protein deficiency?

Not getting enough protein in the diet leads to protein deficiency, which is mostly seen in vegetarians and vegans with the following symptoms:

  • Wasting and shrinkage of muscle tissue
  • Slowing down of growth in children
  • Increased risk of bone fractures
  • Kwashiorkor, a severe form of malnourishment seen in children with severe protein deficiency (often seen in developing countries)
  • Edema (buildup of fluids, particularly in the feet and ankles)
  • Fatty liver or accumulation of fat in the liver, which may lead to liver failure. This is one of the symptoms in children with Kwashiorkor
  • Hair thinning, hair loss, brittle nails, flaky skin, and depigmentation
  • Increased appetite and calorie intake, which leads to weight gain and obesity
  • Increased risk and severity of infections because proteins deficiency impairs the immune system

What are the benefits of protein?

Evidence has shown that a protein-rich diet has many health benefits, including:

  • Protein is essential to maintain and repair body tissues, as well as promote growth in children
  • Aids in weight loss by reducing fat while increasing muscle mass and strength because proteins make people feel fuller for longer and reduce intake of other foods
  • Improves the immune system
  • Maintains good health of essential organs, such as the heart and kidneys
  • Provides a speedy recovery post-workout
  • It is required for a healthy immune system
  • Can help you feel satiated and keep food cravings at bay
  • The health and quality of the skin, nails, and hair is maintained by proteins even when on a diet or during certain deficiencies

Though proteins are essential to the body, protein intake should always stay within reference to the daily recommended intake. Even athletes and fitness enthusiasts have a guideline regarding the amount of protein to be consumed. A high-protein diet increases strain on the kidneys and liver which eventually decreases their functionality. It can also often cause bloating, gases, and digestive issues as well. Make sure to have a high fiber diet and lots of water with proteins.


According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer

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Medically Reviewed on 10/1/2021
Zelman KM. Top 10 Protein Foods. https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/top-10-protein-foods

Harvard T.H. Chan. Protein. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/protein/

Science Direct. Protein. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/nursing-and-health-professions/protein