Protein is an essential macronutrient that serves many functions in the body.
The recommended amount of protein is 0.37 grams per pound of body weight, or 0.8 g/kg (1).
However, physically active individuals need 0.6–0.9 grams per pound, or 1.4–2 g/kg (1, 2).
Research shows that high-protein diets also help with weight loss.
The simplest way to increase your protein intake is to eat more high-protein foods.
That being said, not all high-protein foods are equal. Some of them are extremely high, almost nothing but protein and water.
Here are 10 foods that are almost pure protein, as in 80% of calories or more.
1. Chicken Breast
Chicken is one of the most commonly consumed high-protein foods.
The breast is the leanest part. Three ounces (85 grams) of roasted, skinless chicken breast will provide you with about 27 grams of protein and 140 calories.
Some studies show that eating chicken on a high-protein diet can help you lose weight. However, the same benefits are also seen with beef as the main protein source.
A chicken’s nutrient profile is often affected by its diet. Pasture-raised chickens have higher antioxidant and omega-3 levels.
Besides protein, chicken is also a great source of niacin, vitamin B6, selenium and phosphorus.
Protein content in 100 grams: 31 grams (80% of calories).
Chicken breast is a very popular source of protein, with a 3-ounce breast providing 27 grams. It is also a great source of B-vitamins and minerals.
2. Turkey Breast
Turkey is a low-fat source of protein. The breast is the leanest part of the bird.
Three ounces (85 grams) of roasted, skinless turkey breast contain about 24 grams of protein and 115 calories.
Turkey is also high in niacin, vitamin B6, selenium, phosphorus and zinc.
It also contains high amounts of tryptophan. This amino acid helps synthesize serotonin, an important neurotransmitter.
Protein content in 100 grams: 30 grams (95% of calories).
3. Egg Whites
Like most other animal foods, eggs have high-quality protein because they contain all the amino acids.
Most of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants in eggs are found in the yolk. However, the egg whites contain at least 60% of the protein.
A one-cup (243-gram) serving of egg whites gives you 26 grams of protein and only about 115 calories.
Protein content in 100 grams: 11 grams (91% of calories).
4. Dried Fish
Dried fish is a tasty snack that comes in many varieties.
For a high-protein, low-fat option, choose cod, halibut, haddock or flounder.
Just one ounce (28 grams) of dried fish can provide 18 grams of protein.
Dried fish has many benefits. For example, it is also loaded with vitamin B12, potassium, magnesium, selenium and other nutrients.
Protein content in 100 grams: 63 grams (93% of calories).
Shrimp are a great food to include in your diet.
They’re not only high in protein but also low in calories, carbs and fat. Three ounces (85 grams) of shrimp contain 17 grams of protein and only 90 calories.
Shrimp are rich in vitamin D, niacin and vitamin B12. They also contain iron, phosphorus, copper and selenium.
What’s more, shrimp contain antioxidants such as astaxanthin, which reduces inflammation and oxidative damage.
Protein content in 100 grams: 20 grams (82% of calories).
Tuna is very low in calories and fat, which makes it an almost pure-protein food.
Three ounces (85 grams) of raw yellowfin tuna can pack about 20 grams of protein, with only 92 calories.
It’s also a good source of B-vitamins, plus minerals like magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.
Tuna also has antioxidant properties due to high amounts of selenium. 3.5 ounces (100 grams) contain 52% of the daily value.
Additionally, tuna is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which fight inflammation.
Tuna tends to contain some mercury, but its high selenium content helps protect against mercury toxicity. Eating canned tuna once a week is likely safe.
However, pregnant and nursing women should not eat raw, boiled or grilled tuna more often than once per month.
Protein content in 100 grams: 23 grams (92% of calories).
Halibut is another fish that is a great source of complete protein. A half fillet (159 grams) of halibut will give you 42 grams of protein and 223 calories.
Alaskan halibut is also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which makes it an effective anti-inflammatory food.
Halibut is also high in selenium. In addition, it has good amounts of vitamins B3, B6 and B12, as well as minerals such as magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.
However, due to high mercury levels, you shouldn’t eat halibut often.
Whenever possible, buy halibut fresh from a local fish market.
Protein content in 100 grams: 27 grams (81% of calories).
Tilapia is a popular, relatively inexpensive fish.
It is a white, freshwater fish that’s a great source of protein yet low in calories and fat.
Three ounces (85 grams) of tilapia can pack up to 20 grams of protein with only 110 calories.
Tilapia has raised some controversy because it has a higher omega-6 to omega-3 ratio than other types of fish, at about 1:1.
Nonetheless, the amount of omega-6 in a serving of tilapia is not nearly enough to be a cause for concern.
Tilapia is also a great source of B-vitamins and minerals such as selenium, phosphorus and potassium.
Protein content in 100 grams: 26 grams (81% of calories).
Cod is a coldwater fish with a delicious, flaky white meat.
This fish is packed with protein. It’s also low in calories and has little fat. Three ounces (85 grams) have about 20 grams of protein with only 90 calories.
Cod is a great source of vitamins B3, B6 and B12, as well as omega 3 fatty acids — all of which provide benefits for heart health.
Additionally, cod contains selenium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium.
Protein content in 100 grams: 23 grams (93% of calories).
Alaskan pollock is an excellent, mild-flavored fish.
Also known as walleye pollock, this white fish is packed with protein.
Three ounces (85 grams) contain 20 grams of protein and about 100 calories.
Alaskan pollock is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. It also contains large amounts of choline and vitamin B12, as well as many other nutrients.
Interestingly, pollock also has one of the lowest mercury contents of any fish.
Protein content in 100 grams: 24 grams (89% of calories).
All the foods listed here are more than 80% protein.
Many have other health benefits as well, due to their high content of omega-3s, vitamins and minerals.
Because these foods are so high in protein, they are also incredibly filling despite being low in calories.
For this reason, they are also among the most weight loss friendly foods you can eat.