11 Healthy and Nutrient Dense High Protein Foods


A Platter of Protein Foods: Cheese and Salmon.Protein is the single most important macronutrient.

We can get our energy requirements from either carbohydrate or fat, but sufficient protein intake is essential to our health.

The importance of protein is not limited to building muscle but also making essential hormones and cellular repair.

Put simply; proteins are building blocks for our entire body.

Furthermore, protein has a significant impact on satiety levels. As a result, diets rich in protein are associated with fewer food cravings and more weight loss (1, 2).

This article provides a list of eleven high protein foods, all of which are healthy and nutrient-dense.

1. Beef (85% Lean) 

Beef is Full of Protein and a Good Source of Minerals.

Amount of Protein: 36.5g per 5oz serving
Protein Density: 43.2% of calories

Beef provides approximately 25.9g protein per 100g (3).

The protein density of beef very much depends on the fat content.

While there’s nothing to fear about animal fat, the protein content increases at the leaner end of the scale.

In addition to being high in protein, beef is incredibly rich in minerals and provides several other beneficial compounds for our health.

One of these is creatine, which may help to increase strength and endurance (4).

Overall, beef has a lot of nutritional value, and it’s one of the healthiest foods in the world.

Key Point: Beef is very dense in protein, and contains a wealth of beneficial vitamins and minerals. While surprising to some, red meat is a healthy food with many health benefits.

2. Pork Chops (Boneless)

Pork Chops Are One of the Best High Protein Foods.

Amount of Protein: 37g per 5oz serving
Protein Density: 53.6% of calories

A boneless pork chop supplies around 26.6g protein per 100g (5).

Bone-in pork chops are also great, but the protein content will naturally fall on a per-100g basis.

Despite many people believing fruit and vegetables are the defacto source of vitamins and minerals, meat is incredibly nutrient-dense too.

Pork is no exception, and it is particularly high in selenium, zinc, phosphorus and the B-vitamins.

Similar to beef, pork is a kind of red meat because it contains a large amount of myoglobin.

Myoglobin is a protein responsible for the red color of meat. It is present in large quantities in beef, lamb, and pork, and in minimal quantities in poultry.

Key Point: Pork chops are protein-rich and contain lots of beneficial nutrients. They taste great too!

3. Eggs

Eggs Are an Excellent Source of Protein.

Amount of Protein: 18.9g per 3-egg serving
Protein Density: 35.2% of calories

Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods on the planet.

On a per-100g basis, they contain roughly 12.6g protein (6).

Not only are eggs a nutrient-dense protein, but they’re also one of the most nutritious foods high in fat.

Eggs contain almost every micronutrient, and they are an especially good source of vitamins A, D, and B-vitamins, as well as selenium and phosphorus.

Despite being a public health concern in the past due to their cholesterol content, the dietary guidelines no longer view dietary cholesterol as “a nutrient of concern” (7).

In fact, a systematic review of randomized controlled trials shows that even 12 eggs per week “has no adverse effect on cardiovascular risk factors” (8).

For extra tasty fried eggs, try frying them in some tallow – it makes them taste completely different (in a good way!)

Key Point: Eggs could be called a natural multivitamin, since they contain almost every vitamin and mineral in varying amounts. They are certainly one of the healthiest high-protein foods.

4. Chicken Breast

Picture of a Sliced Protein-Rich Chicken Breast.

Amount of Protein: 32.5g per 5oz serving
Protein Density: 84% of calories

Chicken breast is boring, right?

A skin-on roast chicken or perhaps some oven-baked drumsticks? They’re much more exciting, but chicken breast wins the battle on protein density.

Per 100g, chicken breasts come in at 23.1g protein (9).

To make them taste a little more exciting, try the following;

  • First, make four deep diagonal cuts along the length of the chicken breast
  • Second, stuff these cuts with butter, salt, and mashed garlic
  • After this, liberally sprinkle some cajun seasoning and black pepper on top
  • Lastly, bake it!

The above is how I like to prepare chicken breasts when I have them, and they always taste great.

Other white meats such as turkey and other poultry are also reasonably high in protein.

Key Point: Chicken breasts are a low-calorie, nutrient-dense and high-protein food. They also taste delicious providing you don’t eat them plain.

5. Cottage Cheese

Cottage Cheese in a Bowl With a Spoon.

Amount of Protein: 12.6g per 4oz serving
Protein Density: 45.3% of calories

Note: Although whole (full-fat) dairy is healthier, low-fat cottage cheese beats it for protein-density at 69%.

Cottage cheese provides around 11.1g protein per 100g (10).

While not well-known in some parts of the world, cottage cheese is a high-protein and relatively low-fat dairy food.

It offers a decent amount of vitamins and minerals, being particularly high in calcium, selenium, and phosphorus.

As a result of its protein content, cottage cheese has a similar impact on satiety to eggs (11).

Key Point: Cottage cheese is a healthy source of protein which is more protein-dense than regular cheese.

6. Wild Salmon

A Filled of Wild Alaskan Salmon.

Amount of Protein: 39g per half fillet serving
Protein Density: 55.7% of calories

Wild salmon is rich in protein and provides 25.4g per 100g.

Compared to farmed salmon, the Alaskan wild variety is less fatty and therefore contains fewer calories, making it more protein-dense (12, 13).

Alaskan salmon is one of the healthiest foods in the world, and it is a major supplier of omega-3 fatty acids.

Also, the fish contains substantial amounts of selenium, phosphorus, potassium, and B vitamins.

Randomized trials demonstrate the impressive health properties of salmon.

In particular, frequent doses of salmon improve plasma levels of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, reduce cardiovascular risk factors, and enhance sleep and daily functioning (14, 15, 16).

Key Point: Wild salmon is an excellent high-fat source of protein. It is also rich in omega-3 and a host of beneficial micronutrients.

7. Quark

A Tub of Quark With the Lid Being Peeled Open.

Amount of Protein: 12g per 100g serving
Protein Density: 69.6% of calories

Quark is a kind of fermented fat-free soft cheese that has been increasing in popularity over recent times.

Per 100g, it provides 12g protein (17).

As you can see from the protein density score, quark is the most protein-dense of all dairy foods.

Coupled with this, it is also very low in carbohydrates and contains no fat at all. If you’re wanting to increase the amount of protein in your diet without upping calories too much, this makes it a perfect option.

As quark usually comes in a small tub, it is also an ideal option for a quick high-protein snack when you’re away from home.

Key Point: Quark is full of protein and very low in carbohydrate, protein, and calories. A typical tub of quark provides over 20g protein despite being well under 200 calories.

8. Canned Tuna

Can of Tuna With Lid Pulled Back and Tuna Chunks Showing.

Amount of Protein: 35.5g per 5oz can
Protein Density: 87.3% of calories

Firstly, all tuna products are good sources of protein.

A nice fatty tuna steak comes top in the taste department, but canned tuna wins on protein density.

Canned tuna provides approximately 25.5g protein per 100g (18).

Generally speaking, tuna is a fatty fish which offers a significant amount of omega-3 and fat-soluble vitamins. However, canned tuna is nutritionally inferior, containing almost zero fat.

On the positive side, this is why it is almost 90% protein in terms of energy.

Canned tuna has several other benefits too.

For one thing, it doesn’t require refrigeration. Also, it comes in a convenient ready-to-open can, meaning that you can eat it anywhere.

Key Point: Tuna in a can is quick, convenient, and it’s one of the highest protein options around.

9. Shrimp

Some Cooked Shrimps on a White Plate.

Amount of Protein: 28.5g per 5oz serving
Protein Density: 76.7% of calories

Shrimps are an extremely protein-dense type of shellfish packed with nutrition.

Per 100g, they contain 20.3g protein despite only having 106 calories (19).

This profile makes them one of the highest protein foods in the world.

However, it isn’t just protein that makes shrimp a healthy choice. Just like other seafood options, we can find many important nutrients in shrimp.

Especially, vitamin D, vitamin B12, selenium, and phosphorus are all present in significant concentrations.

Key Point: Shrimp is a low-calorie food which is very high in protein – and it’s very nutritious too.

Top it with some garlic-mint butter for a delicious condiment.

10. Octopus

Cooked Octopus Tentacle on a White Background.

Amount of Protein: 17g per 5oz serving
Protein Density: 86.7% of calories

While not particularly common in the Western world, octopus offers impressive nutrient density.

It’s also one of the best sources of protein, providing 14.9g on a 100g basis (20).

Although 14.9g might not sound particularly high, it’s certainly impressive when you consider that 100g octopus is only 82 calories.

In addition, octopus offers substantial amounts of vitamin B12, as well as selenium, copper, phosphorus, and iron.

Key Point: Octopus is one of the healthiest and most nutritious foods in the human diet, so it’s worth giving it a try.

11. Lamb (Ground)

A Block of Ground Lamb Meat (Mince).

Amount of Protein: 23g per 5oz serving
Protein Density: 23.3% of calories

As the third red meat on this list, lamb is another food high in both protein and fat – and it’s very nutrient-dense too.

Ground lamb offers around 17g protein per 100g (21).

Lamb also sports an impressive nutrient profile. It is a particularly good source of selenium, zinc, iron, phosphorus, and B vitamins.

Lamb also contains the most conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) out of all animal foods (22).

CLA is a type of naturally-occurring trans fat, but unlike synthetic trans fats, it has beneficial impacts on our health.

Food-based sources of CLA may have positive benefits on body weight and lipid levels (23).

The common condiment for lamb is mint sauce or jelly, but if you want to avoid the sugar then try garlic-mint butter.

Making this is surprisingly easy; all you need to do is melt some butter and add a small amount of mashed garlic and mint to it.

Key Point: Lamb is a healthy food full of nutrients. It’s also one of the best high-protein foods out there.

The Health Benefits of High Protein Foods

In the present day, far too many people aren’t consuming enough protein.

This deficiency is particularly the case for the female population and the elderly.

Due to fearmongering over meat consumption, cases of iron deficiency anemia are rapidly rising around the world – particularly in women (24).

Unfortunately, this can have some negative side effects on our health.

For instance, the rate of muscle loss typically speeds up as we age, and lean muscle mass typically declines from 50% in our prime years to 25% of total weight in those in their 70s (25).

What happens when we lose muscle?

Well, we become weak and fragile, and thus more prone to accidents and losing our mobility.

Along with a solid resistance training program, eating sufficient protein is one of the most important things we can do to maintain our muscle, strength, and by association, our health.

Final Thoughts

To sum up, all of the foods in this article are nutritious and high in protein.

Feel free to mix and match them because a bit of variety is always good to keep things interesting.

The main point is to make sure there’s a significant source of protein at each meal, and add whichever carbohydrate or fat sources you want.

  • Thanks Mike for this informative and helpful post.
    One question please: You mean beans known for their protein-rich compounds don’t belong to this list of first 11?


  • I love the fact that octopus made it onto this list!

    It’s easy to end up with the same foods time and time again but there are some unusual options for getting protein in too.

    That being said, I think I’ll stick to other options for my protein, thank you very much.

    • Wheat gluten is high in protein, but not many people would consider it healthy.

      Protein & Amino Acids
      Amounts Per Selected Serving %DV

      Protein: 75.2g

      Amounts Per Selected Serving %DV

      Vitamin A: 0%
      Vitamin C: 0%
      Vitamin D~ ~
      Vitamin E: 0%
      Vitamin K: 0%
      Thiamin: 0%
      Riboflavin 0%
      Niacin: 0%
      Vitamin B6:0%
      Folate: 0%
      Vitamin B12: 0%