High-protein foods list: 4 protein-rich foods to help meet your needs

April 03, 2018

If you’ve been keeping an ear out for nutrition and wellness tips, you’ve surely heard rumblings about the potential benefits of eating more protein, within a higher-protein eating plan. And for good reason.

While most people do meet minimum protein requirements, research has shown that diets higher in protein along with exercise may help with weight management and healthy aging. Depending on your health and wellness goals, increasing the amount of protein you eat -- and spreading it out over the day -- may be right for you.

Some experts recommend eating 20-30 grams of high-quality protein per meal to help build a higher-protein diet. Based on research in athletes and older adults, 10-15 grams of that per meal of essential amino acids, including 2-3 grams of leucine, helps rebuild muscle that is broken down and rebuilt continually throughout the day, regardless of activity level.

Adding protein to your diet can be simple – and delicious. Use the high-protein foods list below to vary your protein-rich food choices and perhaps find new options to help you meet your daily protein and nutrient needs.

4 High-Protein Foods

To learn more about each food’s portion size, calories and essential amino acids, click here. 

  1. Greek Yogurt (15 grams protein/6 oz. serving): Greek yogurt, on average, contains more protein (15 grams/6 oz. serving of Greek yogurt vs. 6 grams/ 6 oz. serving of regular yogurt) and about 14 percent less lactose (milk’s naturally occurring sugar) than regular yogurt (7 grams of total sugar/serving Greek yogurt vs. 8 grams of total sugar/serving regular yogurt), although this can vary depending on the brand.
  2. Salmon (19 grams protein/3 oz. serving): An excellent source of protein, salmon is also known for its omega-3 fatty acid content.
  3. Whey Protein Powder-Isolate (~20 grams protein/scoop): Whey is one of the best sources of certain amino acids, such as leucine (~2.5 grams per 20 grams protein), which is associated with rebuilding muscle, so incorporating whey protein powder-isolate into a smoothie can be a great post-workout choice or a quick breakfast on-the-go.
  4. Low-Fat Cottage Cheese (14 grams protein/half-cup serving): Low-fat cottage cheese can be a great addition to meals and snacks for those looking to just get more protein per serving.
  5. While the four examples above are certainly high-protein foods, some – but not all – protein-rich foods contain what’s called “high-quality protein,” which provides all of the essential amino acids the body needs each day to maintain muscles.

    For example, low-fat yogurt (which has 6 grams of protein/6 oz. serving) and fat-free milk (which has 8 grams of protein/cup) not only contain many essential nutrients but are good examples of foods that contain high-quality protein. Click here to learn more about protein in foods.