Protein-Rich Foods (Other Than Meat)

Protein is a macronutrient, an essential nutrient required in relatively large amounts for human health. Protein is found in nearly all foods, including meats, poultry, fish, dairy products, starches and grains, vegetables, soy foods, nuts, beans, and some whole grains. Meats, eggs, dairy products and soy are complete protein foods (contain all essential amino acids). Proteins in plant foods (except soy) is incomplete (contain some essential amino acids). There are many foods, other than meat, that are high in protein.

Close-up of shelled peanuts. (Image: leungchopan/iStock/Getty Images)

Eggs, Cheese, and Milk

Eggs, cheese and milk are all protein-rich. In fact, like meat, they offer all of the essential amino acids necessary for human health, thus are complete protein foods. One whole egg, 1 cup of milk (skim, 2 percent, or whole), and 1 ounce of most varieties of cheese provide 8 grams of protein. Most of the protein offered in an egg is found in the white of the egg (about 1/3 of the protein is in the yolk). In addition, yogurt is a protein-rich dairy product, providing about 8 grams per 8-ounce cup. Pasteurized processed cheese products, such as cheese sauce or American cheese slices, typically provide less protein per ounce, about 5 grams.

Legumes and soy products

One ounce of peanuts offers 8 grams of protein while the same amount of peanut butter provides 7 grams of protein. Lentils, as well as other starchy beans, (such as kidney, pinto, navy, black beans, and chick and split peas) provide about 7 grams of protein per 1/2-cup serving. All soy products are excellent food sources of high-quality protein. One-ounce of raw soybeans offers 10 grams of protein. A 1/2-cup serving of mature boiled soybeans (without salt) provides about 14 grams of protein. Soy nuts are an excellent source of protein, providing 11 grams per ounce. Tofu and tempeh each provide about 5 grams of protein per ounce. The average veggie patty offers about 12 to 15 grams of protein (depending upon brand and size). Soy milk and yogurt are protein-rich. One cup of either provides 8 grams of protein (on average).

Nuts and Whole Grains

Some nuts are an excellent source of protein. Almonds are particularly protein-rich, providing 6 grams per ounce. Other nuts that provide between 5 and 6 grams of protein per ounce include Brazil nuts, cashew nuts, hazelnuts and walnuts. All whole grains (such as cereal and whole wheat bread) offer some protein, typically around 2 or 3 grams per serving. Some whole grains are significantly higher in protein, such as quinoa. A 1/2-cup serving of quinoa or a 1-cup serving of oat bran, cooked, provides about 8 grams of protein. A 1-cup serving of bulgur, cooked, provides 6 grams of protein. One cup of whole wheat spaghetti, cooked, offers 7 grams of protein. The same amount of long-grain brown rice, cooked, offers 5 grams of protein. Typically whole grains are higher in protein than refined grains (such as white flour products).

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