Protein Sources

Protein Sources

Written on 06/20/2022
Jamie Gilliam


Where Do You Get Protein?

50 Protein Sources For a Healthy You 

Please note: if you suffer from certain medical conditions, you may need to limit or avoid certain sources of protein containing dairy, gluten, soy, etc. 

credit: Trifecta

Ultimately, the best protein sources provide high amounts of protein and beneficial nutrients per calorie (pure protein sources and lean protein sources). 

These options are your best bet to hit your daily protein macro goals and achieve higher protein intake regularly. 

However, there are still some serious benefits to other proteins that provide a mixed macro ratio. While they may not be the most protein dense overall, they can still contribute nutrition and health benefits. 

Not to mention, your overall diet is not designed to be pure protein, and finding macro balanced foods and meals that match your nutrition needs is an efficient way to get better balance overall. 

This is especially true for vegans and plant-based eaters who rely on plant based proteins that tend to also be a source of fat or carbohydrates. 

It is a balancing act, figuring out ratios will work best for you.

12 Pure Protein Foods

Certain foods are so rich in protein content, that they come pretty close to being considered pure protein in our diet. This mainly includes white fish, shellfish, and some game meats.

The options below are packed in protein, with little to no carbohydrates or fat, making them great options to boost your protein for the day without adding extra calories or unwanted carbs.

Pure proteins include the following: 

  1. Halibut
  2. Venison
  3. Skinless Chicken Breast
  4. Tilapia
  5. Haddock
  6. Tuna
  7. Cod
  8. Crab
  9. Shrimp
  10. Basa
  11. Red Snapper
  12. Egg Whites

Pure Proteins

12 Lean Proteins

Lean proteins are essentially protein options that are lower in fat. This matters because fat is calorically dense and can add a significant amount of calories to your food choices if you aren't paying attention. 

When looking at animal proteins in specific, opting for lean is also a way to cut out more saturated fat from your diet, with the exception of fatty fish that provide a valuable source of omega-3 fatty acids. Increased intakes of saturated fat may contribute to increased risk factors for heart disease.

Some of the best sources of lean proteins include low fat and fat free dairy, skinless poultry, grass-fed meat, game meat, and a few low carb plant based foods. 

Here are twelve lean options to reach for:

  1. Lean Beef
  2. Lean Bison
  3. Seitan 
  4. Lean Pork 
  5. Lamb (certain cuts)
  6. Edamame
  7. Fat Free/Low Fat Greek Yogurt
  8. Skinless Chicken Thigh
  9. Low Fat Cottage Cheese
  10. Tofu
  11. Turkey
  12. Low Fat Cheese

Lean Protein foods

8 Proteins High in Healthy Fats

Even though they aren't as protein dense, or often as low in calories, nutritionally speaking, higher-fat proteins can be just as good for you as low-fat protein options. It all depends on your personal nutrition needs and dietary goals.

Because fat is more calorically dense - providing twice as many calories per gram as other macronutrients - you can get more calories in a smaller portion size. Which is why a little healthy fat, like plant based fat from nuts and seeds, can be a great addition to help add calories when trying to gain muscle. 

But this also doesn't mean eating high fat foods will make you fat! Some fatty foods can be satiating - keeping your appetite in check when trying to cut calories. Fat can also  slow the absorption of protein and carbs. This may be beneficial if you are looking for long-lasting energy. 

Additionally, fatty proteins from fish and plant based sources are associated with heart health benefits and support good nutrition overall.

Quality proteins that are higher in fat and lower in carbs include nuts, seeds, nut butters, fatty fish, full fat dairy, and some meat alternatives.

High fat proteins work especially great for keto dieters or those looking to gain muscle. 

Here are eight options to try:

  1. Mackerel 
  2. Herring
  3. Salmon
  4. Sardines 
  5. Chia Seeds 
  6. Beyond Meat
  7. Whole Eggs
  8. Peanuts

High Fat Protein foods

While many nuts and seeds may seem like they have a higher carbohydrate content at first glance, their net carbs are actually low when consider their high fiber content. 

10 High Carb Proteins

Proteins that also tend to provide a source of carbohydrates include most plant based sources and some dairy, like milk. 

The best of these options are also rich in fiber, reducing total net carb counts and providing potential health advantages like supporting heart health and proper digestion.

These choices tend to work great for pre and post nutrition as they provide a good balance of fuel and muscle support.

Here are eight options to try: 

  1. Black Beans
  2. Lentils
  3. Green Peas
  4. Chickpeas
  5. Protein Pasta
  6. Quinoa
  7. Buckwheat
  8. Cereal
  9. Milk
  10. Soy Milk

High Carb Proteins

8 Protein Supplements

Protein supplements and protein powders are an easy way to get an extra protein boost.

If using protein powder for muscle building purposes post workout, research suggests that 20 grams or more of just about any complete protein is sufficient.

Whey, soy and casein are often all popular choices. Caisen, unlike whey, is a long-acting protein – meaning it is absorbed more slowly over time. And some research suggests that casein may be effective in promoting muscle growth when taken before bed.

But these should be utilized as supplements instead of replacement for a healthy diet. It’s recommended to get more nutrients from foods where you can.

Whole food proteins provide more volume and might be more satiating than in liquid or powder form. In other words, you probably won't feel as full adding a 20-gram protein scoop to your drink or food, compared to a 4-ounce portion of meat or fish.

When it comes to which is best, most options come close to pure protein, with slight variations in carb and fat content. 

Protein Powder Supplements