12 Healthy High Protein Foods to Add to Your Diet

High Protein Foods

Protein is a type of nutrient that is commonly found in animal products, nuts and legumes. Composed mainly of amino acids, this macronutrient is essential because they are the building blocks of muscle mass. It is found in every cell of the body and play an integral role in the body’s function.

When protein is ingested, it is broken down and distributed to different parts of the body. It plays many important roles including transporting molecules, repairing cells, making new cells, promoting growth, protecting the body from viruses and more.

Without the right amount of protein, the body can experience weakened functioning and be susceptible to problems like loss of muscle mass, malnutrition and more. The Dietary Reference Intake is 0.8 grams of protein per kilo of your body weight. That is about 56 grams/day for a typical sedentary man and 46 gramsday for the typical sedentary woman. This figure can change depending on the age and health status of the individual.

Whether you are trying to meet the daily requirement or trying to lose weight, eating the right amount of protein every day is essential to maintain good health. Here are the top 10 healthy high protein foods to add to your diet:

1. Eggs

Eggs are one of the most popular sources of protein. Whole eggs are not only nutritious, they are also versatile and can be easily used in countless of dishes. One large egg contains about 6 grams of protein and 78 grams of calories.

The yolk of an egg carries the bulk of the nutrition as it has the vitamins and minerals, while the egg whites are high in protein but doesn’t contain much else. The egg white makes up most of the protein content of the egg, with about 4 grams.  

While the egg whites are high in protein, they are low in calories, which make it a great choice for those who want to lose weight. You will be able to get the protein you need, without the unnecessary cholesterol.

2. Chicken Breast

Anyone who has tried to eat healthy knows that chicken breast is one of the best sources of healthy protein. This is one of the most popular kinds of meat for those who want to lose weight.

Cooked whole chicken breast without the skin contains about 54 grams of healthy protein and 284 calories. While there are still calories in this part, the amount is significantly lower than other cuts like thigh and leg.

Chicken breasts are an example of white meat – a kind of meat that is believed to be healthier than dark meat like steaks. Because they contain less saturated fat, they are healthier for the heart.

The taste of this meat is also very versatile and they are often used in many healthy dishes including salads and pastas.

3. Beef

Meats such as beef are an excellent source of high-quality protein. Red meat contains high levels of fat but is also high in essential vitamins such as iron and zinc. To avoid unhealthy fat, it is best to go with fresh and lean beef.

One serving of a 3.5 ounce or 100 gram ground beef contains about 26 grams of protein and 217 calories. Protein from animals is considered as high quality because they contain the nine essential amino acids.

A beefy diet can help maintain muscle mass and improve exercise performance. Protein is especially important for those who have an active lifestyle. Carnosine, a compound found in meat, helps in reducing fatigue during exercise.

4. Broccoli

Many people mistakenly think that protein can only be sourced in animal meat. This nutrient is also present in a lot of vegetables. Broccoli is known to be one of the vegetables that contain a high protein content. One cup of broccoli contains 3 grams of protein and 31 calories.

Because it is a cruciferous vegetable, it contains a lot of flavonoids and other healthy compounds that has anti-inflammatory benefits. It also contains glucosinolates – a compound that is believed to reduce the risk of cancer. Aside from these, broccoli also contains folate, potassium, manganese and vitamin C.

This vegetable can be eaten roasted, baked or sautéed but its healthy compounds are more potent when it is steamed.

5. Tuna

Seafood is one of the best sources of healthy protein. Tuna is a popular fish choice because of its high-protein content and healthy properties. One can of tuna has 42 grams of protein that’s complete with the essential amino acids.

This fish comes in different varieties like bluefin, yellowfin, albacore and skipjack. Regardless of the variety, tuna is high in omega-3 fatty acids – a healthy type of fat that has been associated with many benefits.

Regular consumption of omega-3 can reduce inflammation, fight autoimmune diseases, help prevent cancer, improve bone health and more.

It also contains so many different vitamins and minerals including calcium, potassium, zinc, choline, selenium and B-vitamins. Take note, however, that canned tuna can be high in sodium just like other canned goods. Fresh tuna is a much healthier option.

6. Almonds

If you want to snack on something healthy instead of those oily potato chips, grab some almonds. Every 1-ounce serving of almonds (that’s more or less 23 pieces) contains 6 grams of protein and 164 calories. One serving also has 3.5 grams of fiber and 75 milligrams of calcium.

Almond nuts are also rich in both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. While it has 14 grams of fat, two-thirds of this is monounsaturated, so it is healthy for the heart. Monounsaturated fatty acids are known to reduce blood pressure and decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Aside from heart-healthy fatty acids, almonds are also loaded with antioxidants, which are powerful agents to fight degenerative diseases associated with aging including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and more.

Most of these compounds are concentrated on the skin or the brown part. If you want to get the full nutrition of almonds, it is best to eat them with the skin.

7. Tofu

A favorite among dieters and vegetarians, tofu is one of the best sources of protein. This popular food is made from soybeans and is naturally gluten-free. Every 100 grams of tofu provides 8 grams of protein. Packed with nutrients, it is no surprise why this is a go-to food choice for many health enthusiasts.

One of the most important compounds present in tofu is isoflavones – a type of phytochemical that is produced in bean plants. This healthy element is believed to have several benefits including reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer and stroke.

Isoflavones are also phytoestrogens. When absorbed in the body, they attach to the estrogen receptors of the system and produce a similar effect to estrogen. Because of this, a soy-based diet is believed to help reduce hot flashes and improve symptoms of menopause.

8. Quinoa

Considered a superfood, quinoa is one of the most popular health foods of today. This grain crop is a pseudo-cereal that is rich in nutrients and also high in protein. It is a favorite among vegans and vegetarians because of its nutrient content. It is also naturally gluten-free, which makes it perfect for people with gluten intolerance.

For every 1 cup of cooked quinoa, you can get 8.14 grams of protein. Because it contains all the nine essential amino acids, it is considered a complete protein. It is also relatively low in calories and fat, making it a great food choice for those who want to lose weight.

Quinoa is also high in fiber, with 5 grams per 1 cup serving. Soluble fiber is known to help reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels. A diet in high fiber can help individuals with diabetes and also aid in weight loss.

9. Lentils

Lentils are mini-sized legumes that are packed with protein, fiber and nutrition. They are a cousin of beans and come in different types like green, red and yellow, black, beluga and brown. For every ½ cup of serving of brown lentils, there are 9 grams of protein, 8 grams of fiber and only 115 calories.

These highly nutritious disc-shaped legumes are rich in B vitamins, zinc, potassium and magnesium. Additionally, they also contain large amounts of polyphenols that have strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

It is also associated to lowering the risk of heart disease. Regular consumption of lentils can increase the good cholesterol in the body and also decrease the bad cholesterol. They are also very easy to cook and have a versatile taste that go well with meat, dairy and other food.

10. Yogurt

Yogurt is a dairy product that is high in protein, containing 12 grams for every 7 ounces. Greek yogurt, one of the more popular varieties, has higher protein content, with about 22 grams per 7 ounces. Because of the feeling of fullness and high protein found in thick yogurt, it helps in regulating appetite and delay hunger.

Made by the process of fermentation, yogurt also contains lactic acid and probiotics. These healthy bacteria are usually added during the culture process or after pasteurization. Live cultures can be found in high quality yogurt that have not been heated or pasteurized.

Some of the most common good bacterias in yogurt are Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillus. These probiotics improve digestion and has been proven to help ease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome or IBS.

Additionally, eating yogurt on a regular basis can also strengthen the immune system, thanks to the trace minerals in them. Magnesium, selenium and zinc are healthy minerals that have been known to boost immune system health.

11. Ricotta Cheese

Another dairy product that is known for its high protein content is cheese. This popular food has been around for a long time and come in different kinds of textures and flavors.

Cheese goes through many different steps before it turns into the final product. It all starts with heating milk, activating its beneficial bacteria, adding enzymes and then aging. Aging usually takes about 2 months, although some kinds of cheese take longer.

Ricotta cheese is one of the kinds of cheeses that have the highest protein but is also very healthy. This Italian cheese is made from the leftover watery parts of different milks from cheese production. It is more of a creamy curd than cheese.

A half-cup serving of Ricotta cheese contains 12 grams of protein, 180 calories and 12 grams of fat. The whey protein in Ricotta has essential amino acids that are beneficial to the immune system. Whey also helps regulate blood pressure and reduce high cholesterol levels.

Other kinds of cheeses that have high protein include Parmesan, Swiss and Pecorino. These three, however, also have the highest fat content.

12. Beans

Beans are one of the best alternatives to meat. They are often considered as meat alternatives because of their high protein and calorie content but they are actually still plant foods or legumes. This is a unique kind of food, often considered a superfood, because of all the healthy nutrients it has. A 1-cup serving of cooked black beans contains 15 grams of protein and 227 calories.

The exact nutrients differ depending on the kind of bean variety but all of them are high in iron, magnesium, folate and protein. Aside from these minerals, beans are also known for being high in fiber. There is about 15 grams of fiber in a 1-cup serving of cooked beans.

Because of its high fiber and water content, beans can make you feel full a lot faster, which make them great for those who are dieting. You can easily cut calories but still feel full.

Remember…

Whether you are trying to lose weight, gain muscle mass or want to eat healthier, you need protein in your daily diet. It is important to be aware of the calorie and fat content of your meals to make sure that you are getting a healthy serving. Knowing what kind of nutrients and health benefits that come with your meals can also help you determine the best kind of meal plan that your body needs.