Protein rich foods have always been the hottest thing in the market. The gym goers swear by it and the athletes stick to it religiously. It is certainly the much talked about, and maybe a little-understood component of our meals. This is primarily because of not knowing what constitutes a protein rich meal.
Protein, a macronutrient, which is required in a large amount in comparison to vitamins and minerals, is the vital component of every cell in the body. It’s important for bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, blood, and hair.
Further, protein benefits in – speedy recovery after exercise, reducing muscle loss, building lean muscle, weight maintenance, and satiation.
So, here is a top protein rich food options for Indian diet.
How much protein is good for you?
The recommended dietary allowance for protein is modest 0.8g per kg of body weight. This statistics has been a cause of a lot of confusion. Please note that this is a minimum amount of protein that you need to meet your basic nutritional requirement that is for carrying out basic function. This amounts to just 10% of your total calorie intake, while ideally, you should target 10- 35% of daily calories from protein.
Protein Rich Food Category #1 – Poultry:
1. Chicken Breast
Your best bet among the Poultry foods. With less saturated fat (less than 1.5%), chicken is best for building lean muscle. Lean muscle = muscle that is built without any simultaneous fat addition to your body. Chicken breast is also an excellent source of niacin and a good source of choline, selenium, and pantothenic acids.
Interestingly, studies show that organic country chickens have around 30% more omega 3 (good fatty acids) than those specifically bread in poultries and farms!
Pro-eating tips: Dark cuts, such as thighs, tend to be a little higher in calories and fat. Remove the skin, which has higher fat content, before consuming.
A low calorie, low fat and high protein food giving you the most bang for your buck. The egg white is home to half a dozen vitamins and minerals including vitamin D, B6, B12, zinc, iron, and copper. The yolk is rich in cholesterol and fat-soluble vitamins like Vitamin A, D, E and K. Perfect for a solid breakfast.
Pro-eating tips: Eat boiled eggs, and if you are consuming more than 2 eggs, then avoid egg yolk.
Check out a complete Egg based diet here.
3. Turkey Breast:
Turkey is the leanest animal protein rich food that you’ll find. It’s rich with selenium and vitamin B. Eating turkey breast can boost your daily intake, as the average man and woman are advised to eat around 50g of protein a day.
Pro-eating tips: It’s advised to eat turkey meat for dinner rather than breakfast, as turkey has high levels of the amino acid tryptophan which is known for making you sleepy.
Protein Rich Food Category #2 –Meat:
Meat, taken from the hindquarters of beef, though takes time to digest but, is worth the protein inherited. Also, it is the richest natural food containing creatine. Creatine enhances your ability to exert more strength in high-intensity workouts and endurance training. But, you are advised to limit your intake to less than twice a week, given that beef also has high cholesterol.
Pro-eating tips: Cooking methods such as stews, soups and meat pies, which retain the fluid portion, provides the highest protein content.
2. Pork chops:
Meat taken from the ribcage of Pork. Just like steak, you can expect high protein content from Pork. And in addition to protein, it is high in zinc that helps men develop their testosterone hormone. Beware that Pork is relatively high in saturated fat, a type of harmful fat that leads to high cholesterol and an elevated risk of heart disease.
Pro-eating tips: A rule to remember – when it comes to beef, pork or lamb, the leanest meat comes from the loin – sirloin, tenderloin etc. Also, anything that comes shoulder or belly (pork chops) will contain more fat. Trim the edges of pork chops to remove high-fat content around the edges.
3. Lamb Meat:
Lamb is a type of red meat, which has essential nutrients like zinc, iron, selenium and vitamin B12. Being rich in many vitamins and minerals and high-quality protein, lamb can be a sublime part of a healthy diet.
Pro-eating tips: Lamb should not be away from refrigeration longer than 2 hours after cooking, as this can promote the growth of harmful bacteria.
4. Goat Meat:
Goat Meat has low fat, calorie, and cholesterol, which makes it a healthy alternative to beef and chicken. Around 46 percent of most people’s daily value of protein is fulfilled by 100 gram serving of goat meat.
Pro-eating tips: When cooking the meat, make sure to cook it at a low heat to ensure a smooth, tender finish for the meat.
Protein Rich Food Category #3 – Sea Food:
1. Tuna Fish:
Researchers heavily favor Seafood when asked for best sources of lean protein. With little fat and cholesterol, they make up an excellent choice for proteins and also a powerhouse of other vitamins (Vitamin A, B, D) and minerals. Besides, there are a lot of delicious recipes in the Indian Cuisine for cooking to anybody’s taste!
Pro-eating tips: When buying tuna steaks, look for those that have been trimmed neatly, with firm, dense red or dark red flesh and a meaty aroma. You should also avoid one with strong discoloration around the bone, or which have dull cast.
Though it is not a predominant Indian food, Salmon deserves a mention solely for its high protein content. Salmon also has Omega 3S, Astaxanthin, Vitamin D, and electrolytes, which are good for fitness. It poses olfactory memory (memory of the sense of smell), a reason why this intelligent fish is considered a “brain food”.
Pro-eating tips: Wild salmon have fewer pesticide residues, hence makes it preferred for consumption. Go for fresh salmon – fresh salmon has smooth, moist skin. You should rely on your sense of smell to identify fresh salmon. If you don’t plan to eat fresh salmon within in few days, the store in the refrigerator.
Meat from anchovies will make a healthful addition to your diet. It contains all the benefits of an oily fish. Apart from high protein content anchovies are a good source of iron, carbohydrates, sodium, vitamins A and B, potassium, calcium, and phosphorous.
Pro-eating tips: Anchovies are usually purchased in cans, and canned anchovies have high salt content. To remove some of the salt from anchovies, soak in milk or cold water for an hour.
Shrimps are a type of seafood, which are consumed worldwide. They are primarily made of protein, 100 grams of serving has 24 g of high-quality protein. Apart from protein, it’s loaded with a high variety of nutrients like selenium, vitamin B12, choline, and iodine.
Pro-eating tips: Shrimps is a shellfish and it’s s among the most common food allergens. Apart from it, shrimps are high in cholesterol, which makes it unhealthy for heart patients.
Pomfret is a popular choice of seafood amongst many and apart from its good taste, it is nutritious too. 100 grams of Pomfret fish contain 17.1 g of protein, apart from Omega-3 and Omega-6, thereby making it a high protein content food item.
Pro-eating tips: Pomfret is best cooked as roasted or grilled and best to be eaten during lunch or dinner.
Halibut happens to be the world’s largest flat fish and also, a popular choice of seafood in Indian cuisines. 100 grams of Halibut fish contain 14 g of proteins. It is best cooked as baked for 12-15 minutes.
Pro-eating tips: As like other fishes, it is best consumed as part of lunch or dinner.
7. King Fish (Surmai):
Also known as the Indo-Pacific Mackerel, it is one of the most popular seafood in India and abroad. 100 grams of Mackerel contains about 25 g of proteins, making it one of the highest protein content seafood.
Pro-eating tips: King fish are best cooked as baked or deep fried.
Crabs are another popular seafood and can be cooked in various ways. 100 grams of crab contains 18 g of proteins. It should be kept in mind that not all crabs have edible meat.
Pro-eating tips: One should be careful as to which parts of the crab to be cooked depending upon the type of crab.
Oysters are the common name given to a number of different families of mollusks found in marine or brackish habitats. Depending upon its place of habitat Oysters’ protein content can vary from 9-19 g per 100 grams of Oysters.
Pro-eating tips: Oysters can be cooked fried, baked, roasted or grilled. People tend to consume oysters raw but it can cause serious health issues in people with liver disease, diabetes or a weakened immune system.
10. Bengal Carp(Catla):
One of the most popular freshwater fish, also locally known as Catla forms a part of traditional Indian cuisines. 100 grams of Catla contain 17.5 g of protein
Pro-eating tips: Catla may contain a high level of mercury, so it is advisable that pregnant women and small children should avoid these.
Protein Rich Food Category #4 – Supplements
1. Whey Protein Powder:
Whey protein is a mixture of proteins obtained from liquid Whey, the by-product of cheese production. It is one of the two proteins found in milk, with the other being Caesin. Whey protein is absorbed faster than other proteins, thereby making it ideal to act as a supplement. Whey contains 25 g of protein per scoop.
Pro-eating tips: Whey is best taken in the morning, as it gets absorbed faster than other forms of protein which make it ideal when you wake up.
Check out about whey protein in details here.
2. Casein Protein:
Casein is one of the two types of proteins found in milk and also known as “slow” protein. It has a slower rate of digestion in comparison to Whey. Casein powder has 24 g of protein per scoop.
Pre-eating tips: Casein is regarded as complementary to whey and best taken before bed.
Protein Rich Food Category #5 – Dairy
Cow’s milk and buffalo’s milk is the most preferred source of protein and. We now have a great variety of forms to choose from- skimmed, whole, fat, low fat etc. Taking milk early in the day helps the body to absorb the protein better. But it should not be taken with any other concentrated protein source like meat for reasons concerning digestion. (Milk being liquid and gets digested in the duodenum and not stomach).
Pro-eating tips: Avoid hot milk, it might cause acidity. You can add flavours for taste.
The curd is more of a solid than a liquid product. An essential part of the dry matter of curd is comprised of proteins, but it also contains carbohydrates, fats, and minerals. Curd improves digestion, helps boosts immunity, and is healthy for your heart. It’s particularly boon for lactose intolerant.
Pro-eating tips: In the daytime, have curd without sugar, while at night add sugar or some black pepper. It will assist in digestion and calm your digestive system.
Also called Cottage Cheese, paneer is the staple source of protein in most Indian households. Besides tasting delicious, it has great protein content and calcium along with fat-cutting properties. Also, it digests and releases energy slowly, not letting the blood sugar level spike.
Pro-eating tips: Avoid frying. You should eat paneer raw or with just sprinkle of black pepper and salt.
Though they are more than 2000 varieties of cheese, all of them are rich in protein. So it’s okay to be a cheesehead! Cheese has fewer carbs unlike milk and curd and makes a good low-carb, high protein food. The only con is that it has high saturated fats that you should guard against.
Pro-eating tips: Soft cheese is better as it has higher water content, thus low calories. Parmigiano Reggiano, low in fat content, is best for you. White Feta, made from goat’s milk, has low-fat content and is good for lactose intolerant people.
5. Soy Milk:
Soy milk is a complete plant-based protein, 100 gram serving of soy milk has 3.3 g of protein. Apart from protein, it is rich with other nutrients such as riboflavin, calcium, and vitamins A, D and B12
Pro-eating tips: Soy milk contains less fat, fewer calories, and lower cholesterol in comparison with cow’s milk, which makes it a better option.
6. Coconut milk:
Milk derived from the grated and squeezed coconut. It has around 2 gm of protein per 100gm of the milk and is used in the preparation of desserts. Highly nutritious in vitamins and minerals, this is a great food to be included in general cooking.
Pro-eating tips: In general, the coconut will have a layer of thicker cream on the top and thinner milk on the bottom. Remove the cream, which has high-fat content. Coconut milk must be refrigerated if not used immediately, as it will spoil otherwise.
Check out more health benefits of Coconut here.
Protein Rich Food Category #6 – Pulses & Grains
1. Chana (Chickpeas):
Or White Chana as it is referred to in the Indian households is a source of high protein for vegetarians. A cup of boiled Chana contains around 260 calories and 13 grams of dietary fibre in addition to 20gm of protein. You can boil and make it into a stew or an important component of your evening salad. Excellent source of potassium and sodium too. Chickpeas also help to decrease the risk of heart disease and are good for diabetes.
Pro-eating tips: Always rinse and drain the chickpeas to get rid of most of the sodium before you use them. It’s a good addition to a fresh salad.
2. Rajma (Kidney Beans):
Rajma contains 6 grams of protein for every 100 grams along with 8 other vital amino acids. Another member of the legume family, with origins from Central America and Mexico, kidney beans/ Rajma exists in red, white, cream, black or spotted colours and has antioxidant properties. Slightly boiled Rajma is said to have weight loss properties.
Kidney beans are also an excellent source of molybdenum. They are a very good source of folate, dietary fiber, and copper.
Pro-eating tips: While buying kidney beans, always look for any signs of moisture or insect damage. Further, the beans should be whole and not cracked. Avoid canned kidney beans that contain extra salt and additives.
3. Lentils (Dal):
Coming from the family of split pulses, lentils (Masoor dal, Urad dal, Toor dal) have considerably high protein. When dal is combined with rice or wheat (roti), it provides amino acids in the right proportion making it a complete protein like Soybeans. However, studies show that boiling, like in cooked dal and sambar, reduces the protein content to a large extent.
Pro-eating tips: Lentils should be best taken in form of soups, stews, and salads. Green lentils are the best choice for salads.
We have three types of Oats- Steel Cut (resembles rice, takes the time to cook), Rolled (flat, steamed, cooks faster) and Instant (completely precooked and dried). No matter which type of Oats you choose, they contain at least 10% protein.
Pro-eating tips: Avoid sweetener such as maple syrup, honey or agave, these sweeteners all count as added sugar. Instead, add sweetness with a spoonful of sugar-free applesauce or banana puree.
5. Barley, Millets:
Another cereal with decent protein content and a great variety of vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants. It is one of the oldest consumed grains. Sprouted barley is high in maltose and fermented barley is made into beer.
Pro-eating tips: First a casual one, do buy millet intended for human consumption, as the millet sold for pet food still has the indigestible outer hull. For Barley – add to your soups and stews to make it healthy. In salads use chilled cooked barley as a dressing.
Germinated seeds are also an excellent alternative to cooked foods and they are no way behind in protein content. Sprouts are easily digestible, regulate blood sugar, blood pressure, blood cholesterol and keeps your skin healthy. Make sure to properly wash them and clean them before sprouting though.
Pro-eating tips: Wide collection of seeds, legumes, nuts, and grains can be sprouted, so be sure to try all and see which type of sprouts you like the most. The sprouts need to be very fresh, and carefully refrigerated and handled.
7. Hemp Seeds:
Other than being a great protein source, hemp seeds can fight heart disease, obesity, and metabolic syndrome as they’re rich in fibre and omega-3s
Pro-eating tips: Added to any baked food to increase the protein content and fibre.
Chia seeds contain all nine essential amino acids. They go fantastic with smoothies, puddings as they form a gel when combined with water or milk.
Pro-eating tips: Added to any baked food to increase the protein content and fibre.
9. Quinoa Seeds:
Quinoa seeds are technically seeds but are considered as pseudo grains since they are often used and prepared like grains. It is also gluten-free. 100 grams of Quinoa contains 4.4 g of proteins. It is one of the only plant foods that supply complete proteins, thereby offering all essential amino acids in a balanced manner.
Pro-eating tips: Before cooking quinoa, it should be given a quick rinse in a mesh strainer to wash away the bitter soapy flavored coating called saponin. Quinoa stays its plump, fluffy self with the same slightly chewy texture, even after time in the fridge so cooking it on one weekend can provide us with a week’s worth of base for tantalizing meals.
10. Pumpkin Seeds:
Pumpkin seeds have rightly been regarded as one of the world’s healthiest foods. They can be consumed raw or roasted. 100 grams of Pumpkin seeds contain 19 g of proteins.
Pro-eating tips: Pumpkin seeds can be consumed by mixing them with other food items. Apart from that, they are best consumed on their own as mid-afternoon munchies or snacks.
Protein Rich Food Category #7 – Vegetables
Though spinach is loaded with a lot of minerals especially iron, it is also a source of protein, albeit in little quantity. Instead of taking it as a singular source of protein, you could combine it with other protein rich foods. So next time you have Palak paneer or Palak paratha or Palak chole, don’t hold back!
Pro-eating tips: Fresh, uncooked leaves, washed and packaged may begin to turn black at the edges or along fold lines. Tear off the blackened part and use the remaining leaf.
Broccoli contains more protein per calorie than even meat, although that means you’ll have to eat a lot of it, unlike meat. Apart from proteins, it also houses vitamin K and calcium. It is particularly recommended for children, old people, and pregnant women.
Pro-eating tips: Look for broccoli with bright green heads. Chose one with compact clusters and firm, strong stems and stalks.
Called the queen of herbs in Ayurveda, it is also considered a good source of plant protein in the vegetable world. It is also rich in vitamin K and potassium. You can try asparagus curries along with your chapattis or rice.
Pro-eating tips: Size isn’t an indicator of asparagus quality. Chose asparagus that has bright green or violet-tinged spears with firm (not limp) stems. Make sure the tips are closed and compact.
It is also called “meat without bones” as it is a veggie-packed heavily with protein. Soybeans are the source for both Soy milk and Tofu, and you should properly cook it before consumption (it is poisonous otherwise). In its raw form, Soybean acts as anti-coagulant in the blood and prevents mineral absorption. So it should be boiled, cooked or let sprouted for keeping the risk levels at a minimum.
Pro-eating tips: Look for large beans as they generally contain more protein, which results in a higher yield. However, huge beans do not necessarily mean better tofu. Use the nutritional label to differences between fat and protein content.
We should thank the Chinese for this invention. Soymilk is left to curdle, become coagulated and later compressed into a cake (Tofu), packing around 10 gram of protein per 100 g. It is the only veggie source that rivals the meats in providing all 9 essential amino acids and hence called the complete protein! Tofu’s protein can also be made more digestible if it is fermented.
Pro-eating tips: Good tofu has elasticity (it breaks when it bends) and is more chewy than chalky (chalky tofus are often made with thinner soymilk and more coagulant). Good tofu should be springy and not crumbly.
Check out protein rich vegetarian foods here.
6. Brussel Sprouts:
Brussel sprouts must be included in one’s regular diet as they provide fantastic health benefits such as cholesterol lowering, DNA protection, and cancer protection. It is important to remember not to overcook the Brussel Sprouts as that would lead to loss of both taste and nutritional value. 100 grams of Brussels Sprouts contain 3.4 g of proteins.
Pro-eating tips: Brussels sprouts should not be overcooked and can be eaten as part of salads, with beets, roasted, shredded or wrapped in bacon, etc.
Protein Rich Food Category #8 – Fruits
Banana is one of the most common fruits consumed by everyone due to its easy availability and low price, not to mention its taste. It is best consumed as part of morning breakfast or as evening snacks. 100 grams of banana contains 1.1 g of proteins.
Pro-eating tips: The best time to consume bananas is during breakfast or as snacks later during the day
Technically a single-seeded berry, it is a popular fruit. Avocado contains 2 g of proteins per 100 grams of fruits. Like other fruits, it should be consumed during the morning as breakfast or as snacks later in the day.
Pro-eating tips: Avocados should be stored in a light-proof, airtight container.
Guava is a common tropical fruit found in India. 100 grams of Guava contains 2.6 g of proteins, making it one of the high protein content fruits. Consumption of guavas help slow down the absorption of sugar in the blood and is thus, helpful for diabetic individuals.
Pro-eating tips: Guavas should be consumed fresh before losing any of their nutritious value.
Muskmelons are known for their health benefits and as such, widely consumed. 100 grams of muskmelon contains 0.8 g of proteins.
Pro-eating tips: Muskmelon can be consumed fresh, as snacks or desserts.
Delicious and nutrient-rich pomegranates are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. It contains higher levels of antioxidants than any other fruits. Apart from high nutrition content pomegranate has 1.7 g per 100 grams of serving.
Pro-eating tips: To make peeling easier, soak the pomegranate in cold water for 5 to 10 minutes.
The nutrient list of blackberries is quite long, many of which are found in huge quantities in just one serving, such as fiber, manganese, vitamin C, and vitamin K. Apart from high nutrition content, 100 grams of blackberry has 1.4 g protein.
Pro-eating tips: Overeating can cause nausea and even vomiting in people with sensitive stomachs.
Check out this to explore more on how to buy best fruits.
Protein Rich Food Category #9 – Dry Fruits
1. Peanut Butter:
Peanut butter provides muscle-building protein and healthy fats. Don’t assume this butter to be equally risky as other butter. It’s good for your health as it is high in nutrition value, fibre, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.
Pro-eating tips: You can eat peanut butter, and mix with Yoghurt and banana for a perfect post-workout diet.
Inside the soft, easily digestible flesh, dates hold a mine of nutrients and essential fibre. Each date contains around 0.2 g of protein and no fat or cholesterol. They are an instant source of energy although a large part of the calories come from sugars.
Pro-eating tips: Dates can be wrinkled, but they shouldn’t feel hard. Look for plump looking, glossy-skinned dates. Avoid dates that have crystallized sugar on their skins. A little is okay, but the lesser, the better it is.
Pistachios are often consumed either whole, roasted or salted and are also added to several dishes. 100 grams of Pistachios contains 20 g of proteins. The best way to consume Pistachios is to roast them without salt.
Pro-eating tips: Pistachios should not be consumed in excess as the side effects would outweigh the advantages of consuming them.
Like Pistachios, Almonds are eaten raw, roasted or salted and also find themselves part of several culinary dishes. 100 grams of almonds contains 21 g of proteins.
Pro-eating tips: The best way to eat almonds is to soak them overnight in water and peel the skin in the morning.
Peanuts have various uses in our food items ranging from peanut oil, flour, dry or boiled to being part of various dishes. 100 grams of peanuts contains 26 g of proteins.
Pro-eating tips: Peanuts can be consumed any time of the day.
100 gms of walnuts contains 15 gms of proteins. Apart from high protein content, they are rich in manganese, copper, and biotin. The optimum amount of walnuts that should be consumed daily on is 1 or 2.
Pro-eating tips: Walnuts can be consumed before a meal and at night time.
100 gms of cashews contains 18 gms of proteins. When compared to other nuts cashew has the lowest fat. They are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
Pro-eating tips: The best time to consume Cashew is during the evening and should be avoided during the night.
8. Brazil Nuts:
Brazil Nuts also know as an anti-cancer superfood. They are an excellent source of protein, 100 grams of serving has 16 g of protein. Apart from high-protein content, they are loaded with a high variety of nutrients like selenium, fiber, copper, thiamine, and magnesium.
Pro-eating tips: Brazil nuts have a high content of selenium in it, so it should only be used in small amounts. Eating just one to two Brazil nuts per day can be all you need.
Check out the benefits of 7 different types of nuts in details here.
Protein Myths and FAQ
Do men need more protein than women?
Yes, protein requirement depends on age, gender, and sex. Broadly speaking you should take 10%-35% of daily calories intake in form of protein. This roughly translates into 56gm of protein in a day for men and 46 gm of protein for a woman.
Will a high protein diet not let me lose weight?
As per experts, in short, high protein diet helps in weight loss. Protein moves slowly through your digestive system, making you feel full. In addition, your body burns more calories in digesting protein. Protein also keeps the hunger pangs away by keeping your blood sugar level steady.
However, there is no agreement among researchers on the long-term effect of high protein, low carb diet. Our suggestion will be to continue with balanced with protein between 10-35%.
Is too much protein unhealthy?
Eating more protein generally is not an issue, however, it might lead you to consume more calories, which can lead to weight gain. Also, some protein rich foods have high saturated fats, leading to high cholesterol and heart disease.
Should women avoid soy protein?
There is no danger of eating soy. In fact, eating soy can even lower the chances of breast cancer. Soy protein, which is low-fat options instead of high-fat, animal-based protein.
Can I take protein infrequently instead of daily?
Our bodies don’t store protein the way they store carbs and fats. Hence, you should consume protein consume daily.
How to check if I am not eating enough protein?
Strict vegetarians, vegans, and older people should know the signs of too little protein – recent weight loss, tired muscle, and drop in muscle strength.