15 Best Protein Sources for a Lean Body

Getting enough protein is crucial for building and maintaining lean muscle mass. Protein is an essential macronutrient that helps repair and rebuild muscle tissue, especially after exercise. Choosing protein sources wisely is important not just for muscle building, but also for overall health. Let’s look at 15 of the best protein-rich foods to help you achieve a lean, toned physique.


are often called nature’s multivitamin. They contain high-quality protein and all nine essential amino acids. Just one large egg provides about 6 grams of protein. Eggs are also rich in choline, an important nutrient for brain health and metabolism. Try making an omelet with veggies or hard-boil eggs for an easy on-the-go snack.

Greek yogurt:

is strained to remove excess liquid, resulting in a creamy, rich product packed with protein. One serving provides 15-20 grams of protein. Greek yogurt has the added benefits of probiotics for gut health and calcium for strong bones. Eat it plain or use Greek yogurt as the base for overnight oats or smoothies.

15 Best Protein Sources for a Lean Body
Cottage cheese:

is soft, mild, and an excellent source of protein. Just one cup of cottage cheese provides 28 grams of protein. The casein protein in cottage cheese digests slowly, making it a great pre-bedtime snack. Cottage cheese is also packed with calcium and goes well with both sweet and savory flavors.

Chicken breast:

is one of the most popular lean protein options. A 3-ounce cooked chicken breast contains about 26 grams of protein. Chicken is also an excellent source of vitamin B6 and niacin. Chicken breast can be prepared in endless healthy ways, from simple grilled or baked to stir-fries, salads, and sandwiches.

15 Best Protein Sources for a Lean Body
Lean Beef:

puts of beef like sirloin are packed with protein, providing around 25 grams per 3-ounce serving. Beef is also rich in iron, zinc, and B vitamins. When choosing beef, select leaner cuts and keep portions in check. Lean beef can be sautéed, grilled, or added to dishes like stew, tacos, or chili.


is made from condensed soy milk, creating a versatile vegan protein source. A 3-ounce serving of tofu provides about 10 grams of protein. Tofu can be blended into smoothies, scrambled as a substitute for eggs, or crumbled for use in stir-fries, soups, and veggie burgers.


though small, lentils contain substantial plant-based protein with about 9 grams per half-cup cooked serving. Lentils are also high in fiber, keeping you feeling fuller for longer after meals. Try using lentils in soups, stews, salads, and veggie burgers. They require no soaking and cook quickly.


are immature soybeans, often found steamed or boiled in the pod. One cup of edamame contains a whopping 17 grams of protein. Edamame also provides fiber, folate, and plant-based iron. Snack on whole pods, add shelled edamame to rice dishes and salads, or blend into hummus.


is considered a powerhouse fish, providing about 22 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving. It’s also rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon can be grilled, baked, or pan-seared and included in everything from seafood tacos to rice bowls. Canned salmon also makes a quick, shelf-stable option.


contains more protein than most grains, with 8 grams per cooked cup. This gluten-free seed is also high in fiber, magnesium, and manganese. Quinoa has a light, fluffy texture and can be used to make gluten-free porridge, added to salads and bowls, or enjoyed as a side dish.


are technically legumes but high in plant-based protein, with 7 grams per ounce. They’re also packed with unsaturated fats and fiber to promote satiety. Peanuts can be eaten raw, cooked into dishes, processed into peanut butter, or ground into flour. Look for natural peanut butter without added sugars.

15 Best Protein Sources for a Lean Body

also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas provide about 5 grams of protein per half-cup serving. They are also excellent sources of fiber and folate. Chickpeas can be eaten cooked, blended into hummus, or added to salads, soups, and veggie burgers. Drain and rinse canned chickpeas to remove excess sodium.


provide 6 grams of protein per ounce. They’re also loaded with vitamin E, manganese, magnesium, fiber, and healthy monounsaturated fats. Enjoy almonds raw as a snack or add slivered almonds to oatmeal, yogurt, or salads for extra crunch and nutrients.


is well known for its high protein content, with about 8 grams per cup. Choose unsweetened varieties like skim milk or unsweetened almond milk. Milk also provides calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus. Use milk to make protein-rich smoothies or pair it with whole grain cereal.

Protein Powder:

like whey, casein, egg white, and plant-based varieties are concentrated sources of protein. Just one scoop provides around 20 grams of protein. Protein powder can be mixed into smoothies, yogurt, oatmeal, or simply water or milk. Choose unflavored varieties without added sugars.

Eating adequate protein while following an overall balanced diet and staying active is the key to maintaining and building lean muscle. Aim to include a few servings of these high-protein foods per day to benefit your fitness goals and health.

15 Best Protein Sources for a Lean Body

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