Protein is one powerhouse nutrient. It helps keep you full, and your body uses it to help grow and maintain muscles, blood vessels, skin, hair and nails. Plus, protein also plays a key role in synthesizing hormones and enzymes in your body.
Protein is found in a variety of foods, including meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, beans, nuts and whole grains. According to the USDA Dietary Guidelines, women need 46 grams of protein and men need 56 grams of protein (but this does vary depending on how many calories you eat each day). Learn exactly how much protein you need to eat every day. Your protein needs are also dependent on your age, activity level and whether you are pregnant or have any chronic diseases.
If you eat a balanced diet, you are likely getting the daily required amount without much difficulty. A standard 3-oz. chicken breast has about 26 grams of protein in it, which is more than half of what's recommended for women. But despite the fact that most people get enough protein, it remains a popular macronutrient to eat. It helps keep you full (read: less hangry) and powers up your muscles.
To make it easier for you to eat up, we looked at what a serving of protein looks like and how much you're getting from different sources.
Related: Top Vegetarian Protein Sources
3 ounces cooked = 26 grams of protein
Chicken breast is a popular protein for a reason. It cooks up beautifully in different dishes and is very versatile. It's a crowd-pleasing way to add more protein to salads, stir-fries, pastas, sandwiches and more.
Recipe to Try: Lemon-Sopressata Chicken
4 ounces cooked = 27 grams of protein
Salmon is one of the healthiest fishes you can eat. It's loaded with omega-3 fatty acids which are good for your heart, brain and skin. Check out our ultimate guide on how to cook salmon to help you prepare this protein-rich fish.
Recipe to Try: Seared Salmon with Pesto Fettuccine
4 ounces cooked = 26 grams of protein
Shrimp aren't so "shrimpy" when it comes to their protein content. Just a few ounces deliver a solid amount of protein. Try them over noodles or zoodles (made with zucchini), in tacos or go classic with shrimp cocktail.
Recipe to Try: Shrimp Pad Thai Salad
1 large egg = 6 grams of protein
Eggs are a healthy vegetarian proteins source. And while lots of protein junkies reach for egg whites, there is protein and healthy nutrients in the yolk too (so don't leave it out!). Learn all our expert tips for making perfect hard-boiled eggs and don't forget to "put an egg on it" and add this power protein to grain bowls, salads and more.
Recipe to Try: Soy-Sauce Eggs
½ cup cooked = 8 grams of protein
Beans are a great plant-based and vegan protein source. While they are lower in protein than something like a chicken breast they also deliver fiber. Fiber helps you stay satisfied, keeps your digestive system healthy and can help you lose weight.
Recipe to Try: Black Bean, Mango & Kale Wheat Berry Salad
3 ounces cooked = 23 grams of protein
Pork is an excellent source of many nutrients, including thiamin, niacin and riboflavin and vitamin B6, and a good source of zinc and potassium. If you're confused by what to buy at the store check out our clean-eating buyer's guide to pork.
4 ounces canned (drained) = 22 grams of protein
The humble can of tuna delivers a protein punch. This is a cheap and easy protein to always keep stocked in your pantry.
Recipe to Try: Tuna Salad Sandwich with Sweet Relish
3 ounces cooked = 25 grams of protein
Steak is a favorite protein of lots of people. You don't need to take down a giant T-bone steak to get your protein fill, 3 ounces delivers about half your daily value.
Recipe to Try: Montreal-Style Hanger Steak with Sweet Potato Frites
½ cup = 11 grams of protein
Tofu is another plant-based vegan protein. If you think you don't like it, you may not be cooking it right. Check out our guide to cooking tofu so you'll actually like it.
Recipe to Try: Tofu, Snow Pea & Carrot Wild Rice Salad
2 Tbsp. = 7 grams of protein
This humble lunch staple (PB & J anyone?) is actually a healthy plant-based source of protein. Nut butters also deliver heart-healthy fats and fiber. Spread peanut butter on toast, add it to smoothies or try a fun energy ball recipe.
Recipe to Try: Peanut Butter-Oat Energy Balls
1 cup = 12 grams of protein
Depending on which type of yogurt you pick, the protein content will vary slightly. There is even more protein in Greek yogurt—23 grams per cup. Yogurt also delivers probiotics to help keep your gut healthy.
Recipe to Try: Fig & Honey Yogurt
½ cup cooked = 4 grams of protein
Quinoa is a grain that also happens to give your meals a protein boost. While 4 grams isn't quite as much as some of the other protein-packed foods on this list, it's not shabby for a ½ cup or whole grains.
Recipe to Try: Mediterranean Chickpea Quinoa Bowl
1 cup lentil soup = 8 grams of protein
Like black beans, lentils are another vegan protein option. They are great in soups, curries, salads and can even give your smoothies a protein boost.
Recipe to Try: Slow-Cooked Moroccan Lentil Soup
Some original reporting by Sharmin Sampat