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20 of the Best Sources of Protein

20 of the Best Sources of Protein

You’ve probably heard people (like us) talk about the benefits of consuming enough protein in your diet. And it’s for good reason! Our muscles, collagen, skin, hair, and organs are all made of protein, so it’s a really good idea to get about 25 to 30 grams of protein at every meal. But what are the best sources of protein?

Now…it’s impossible to single out any one protein source. Different kinds of proteins provide different nutrients and fit into different diets, from vegan or pescatarian. But if you’re looking for some help with crafting your grocery plan, you can use this list that calls out many of the best sources of protein to help you reach your goals.

Looking for an easy way to get some extra protein? Try the Openfit Plant-Based Protein Shake here!

Plant-Based Protein

Pea Protein Powder

best protein sources - pea protein powder

One of the best sources of plant protein is pea protein powder. Many find this protein easier to digest than other protein powders, and it’s medium absorbing so it can keep you fuller for longer. Mix it with water for an afternoon snack, or blend it with some tasty add-ins for an even more filling smoothie.

Try it in the Openfit Plant-Based Protein Shake, which also includes fiber and essential vitamins and minerals!

Per scoop: 140 calories, 20 grams protein

Extra Firm Tofu

best protein sources - firm tofu

There are a few different types of tofu with different amounts of protein per serving, and extra firm tofu as one of the higher amounts. And bonus: tofu is a complete protein! (That means it has nine essential amino acids in the amount your body needs.)

Look for organic tofu to assure that it’s GMO-free. And for the best tasting tofu, press your protein for at least 30 minutes or a few hours before cooking. Here’s how:

  • Place the tofu on a cutting board.
  • Cover with paper towels and then put something heavy on top, such as a large cookbook or pot filled with canned goods.
  • Once it’s drained, marinate the tofu for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
  • Then cook it up for a high-protein vegan snack!

Per 3.5 oz: 83 calories, 10 grams protein

Tempeh

best protein sources - tempeh

Made from fermented soy, tempeh has a heartier texture than tofu and you don’t have to worry about pressing it. You can slice or crumble tempeh and use it in sandwiches, on salads, as a replacement for crumbled ground beef, in pasta dishes, and more. Marinate the tempeh first, as plain tempeh can have a slightly yeasty or bitter flavor. Again, look for organic tempeh to assure it’s GMO-free.

Per 3.5 oz: 195 calories, 20 grams protein

Edamame

best protein sources - edamame

This Japanese restaurant appetizer is also great by itself, with grains, in salads, and even in savory oatmeal. You can find shelled edamame in the freezer aisle; just boil it for about 5 minutes, and it’s ready.

Per ½ cup shelled: 94 calories, 9 grams protein

Lentils

best protein sources - lentils

These legumes are not only a good source of vegan protein, they also provide a good dose of fiber (about 7.5 grams per half cup cooked) to help keep your digestive tract happy and your stomach feeling full. Plus the iron (40 percent of the daily recommend intake for men and 18 percent for women per cooked half cup) helps support muscle metabolism and transports oxygen throughout the body.

Here’s how to cook them perfectly, every time.

Per ½ cup cooked: 110 calories, 9 grams protein

Black Beans

best protein sources - black beans

Also a good source of fiber (6 grams per half cup), black beans are great to combine with a grain such as rice or quinoa so you have a complete protein. Try them in this easy-to-prep Southwestern Salad recipe.

Per ½ cup canned: 78 calories, 5 grams protein

Hemp Seeds

best protein sources - hemp seeds

Contrary to their name, hemp seeds are actually a nut! And they may be tiny, but they pack in a ton of benefits. Hemp seeds are made up of nearly 80 percent fat and have about a 3:1 ratio of omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids, which can benefit health.

Per 3 tablespoons: 166 calories, 9 grams protein

Buckwheat

best protein sources - buckwheat

Another misnomer here — don’t be fooled by the name of buckwheat, because it isn’t really a wheat. In fact, it’s even gluten-free! Use this nutty-tasting grain in place of quinoa or rice, and try the flour in baked goods.

Per ½ cup cooked: 292 calories, 11 grams protein

 

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Poultry

Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast

best protein sources - boneless skinless chicken breast
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It’s the stereotypical dinner for both bodybuilders and those looking to lose weight for a reason: chicken breast is one of the best sources of lean protein and it’s a blank slate when it comes to tastes. Marinate it, coat it, dip it, drizzle it in a sauce—there are so many ways to pack in flavor. And there’s an equally long list of ways to cook chicken breast so you never grow bored.

Per 3.5 oz cooked: 165 calories, 31 grams protein

Skinless Turkey Breast

best protein sources - turkey breast

Turkey isn’t just for Thanksgiving! This protein source is great any time of year. Plus, it’s super versatile — layer it on sandwiches, use it to bulk up salads, or add it into soups.

Per 3.5 oz cooked: 147 calories, 30 grams protein

Eggs

best protein sources - hard boiled eggs

Although eggs are most often sold next to the milk and cheese, they aren’t dairy! They fall into the poultry category of protein sources, probably because they come from chickens. Eggs are high in nutrients and they’re extremely versatile.

Enjoy them in recipes like omelets, scrambles, breakfast cups, and burritos, or learn how to make healthier deviled eggs for a snack.

Per 2 large, hard-boiled: 155 calories, 12 grams protein

 

Red Meat

Pork Tenderloin

best protein sources - pork tenderloin

That’s right, pork is red meat. Choose “loin” or “chop” cuts, which are lean options. And if you really want to max out your protein, tenderloin has more protein per calorie than basic pork loin.

Per 3.5 oz cooked: 143 calories, 26 grams protein

Lean Beef

best protein sources - lean beef

Beef is not the devil; it’s a source of protein, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12. The trick is to select lean beef. You should aim to buy beef that’s 95% lean or more. From there, stick to no more than three portions per week, for a total of 12 to 18 oz cooked weight per week.

Per 4 oz, raw: 155 calories, 24 grams protein

 

Seafood

Tuna

best protein sources - canned tuna

Canned, water-packed tuna is excellent for desk lunches as well as quick dinners. Use it in salads, pasta dishes, tacos, fish cakes, and, of course, sandwiches. As a bonus, it’s inexpensive and super if you’re cooking for one.

Per 3.5 oz cooked: 86 calories, 19 grams protein

White Fish

best protein sources - white fish

Options like tilapiacodflounder, and pollock all provide about 15 to 25 grams of protein per 90- to 120-calorie serving.

Per 3.5 oz cooked: 96 calories, 20 grams protein*

*average of the four listed above

Salmon

best protein sources - salmon

Salmon is fattier and has less protein per calorie compared to white fish. However, it’s higher in omega 3s, the fatty acids linked to brain and heart benefits.

Per 3.5 oz cooked: 182 calories, 25 grams protein

Shrimp

best protein sources - shrimp

These crustaceans are a source of astaxanthin, a carotenoid that comes in bright shades of red, orange, and yellow. Astaxanthin has antioxidant properties and may support brain, heart, eye, and skin health. Try out this protein source in a simple recipe for 4-Ingredient Garlic Shrimp With Zucchini Noodles.

Per 3.5 oz cooked: 87 calories, 17 grams protein

Dairy

Plain Low-Fat Greek Yogurt

best protein sources - greek yogurt

Remember when Greek yogurt was the new kid on the block? Now many of us have long forgotten “regular” yogurt and only reach for this thick, creamy, tangy version, that’s also much higher in protein. Opt for the plain version and then add in your own flavor and sweetness — it’ll likely end up being way lower in added sugar than what you would buy!

Per 6 oz: 124 calories, 17 grams protein

Low-Fat Cottage Cheese

best protein sources - cottage cheese

In the 1980s, cottage cheese was mostly a “diet food.” Today we know it’s a tasty, nutritious snack and way to add creamy flavor to recipes. If you don’t like it plain, try these 18 cottage cheese recipes for everything from mini frittatas to enchiladas to cheesecake.

Per ½ cup: 92 calories, 12 grams protein

Low-Fat Milk

best protein sources - lowfat milk

Although more research suggests that full-fat dairy is A-OK, low-fat milk gives you more bang for your buck: it has 40 fewer calories per cup and slightly more protein compared to whole milk.

Per cup: 110 calories, 9 grams protein

brittany risher

About

Brittany Risher is an accomplished content strategist, editor, and writer specializing in health, mental health, and mindfulness content. After earning her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from Northwestern University, she worked at Men's Health, Prevention, Women's Health, Shape, and Greatist before going freelance three years ago. Today she works with brands and publications, helping them create content that engages their audience and builds brand loyalty. Considered a "Swiss Army knife for content," Brittany helps with all things content, from editorial strategy and project management to editing and writing. Her clients include Sonima, Men's Health, Women's Health, SELF, Elemental, ZocDoc, Yoga Journal, Everyday Health, My Fitness Pal, and Centennial Media. Follow her on Twitter.

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