How Much Protein Is in Chicken, Fish, Beans, and Other Protein-Rich Foods?

Protein is a vital component of any diet. Whether your goal is weight loss, building muscle, or improving overall health, it's important to include protein-rich foods in your diet. Knowing the amount of protein in chicken breast, beans, steak, fish, and other foods can help you structure your meals optimally.

Why You Need Protein

We all need protein to ensure our bodies function optimally. Protein is required to support muscles, the immune system, and the brain. Your body requires adequate protein to obtain essential amino acids. Dietary protein is also needed to make several proteins in the body, like hemoglobin and antibodies.

Although very rare, if you become protein deficient, you may experience muscle wasting, poor wound healing, and a compromised immune system. Protein deficiency can make you more vulnerable to infections, some of which may be serious or difficult to treat.

A diet with plenty of protein-rich foods can help you maintain a healthy weight. Since your body takes longer to digest these foods, you'll feel satisfied longer when you eat foods with protein as opposed to those with a higher percentage of carbohydrates.

How Much Protein You Need

Most people do well consuming about 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) of body weight. Once you know how much protein you need, you can build a meal plan that incorporates the high-protein foods you like best. While chicken, fish, and red meat may be the most obvious dietary protein sources, if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, you can get protein from plant sources like beans, nuts, and seeds.

These guidelines are general. The amount of protein in each food source can vary, especially according to how they're prepared and cooked. You can use this method of counting servings in place of counting grams.

One ounce of lean beef, pork, skinless poultry, fish, or shellfish provides about 7 grams of protein. For other protein-containing foods, the following serving sizes are roughly equivalent to 1 ounce of meat. The USDA recommends at least two of these ounce-equivalents each day:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 ounce nuts or seeds
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup cooked beans, green peas, or tofu
  • 1/2 cup hummus

Chicken and Turkey

Turkey
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Chicken and turkey are excellent sources of lean protein. A 4-ounce portion of chicken or turkey (about the size of a deck of cards) provides about 35 grams of protein.

Lean poultry is an excellent protein source because it contains less fat and calories with a higher ratio of protein per serving compared to some other meats.

Here's how many grams of protein can be found in a typical serving of the different parts of a chicken or turkey (skinless):

  • Chicken breast (6 ounces): 54 grams
  • Turkey breast, roasted (4 ounces): 34 grams 
  • Chicken thigh (1.8 ounces): 13.4 grams
  • Chicken drumstick (1.5 ounces): 12 grams
  • Chicken wing (0.7 ounces): 6 grams
  • Turkey breast (lunch meat; 1 slice/0.7 ounce): 3.6 grams 

Beef

Steak
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Most cuts of beef have around 7 grams of protein per ounce; however, the exact amount can vary depending on how much fat the cut contains.

  • Steak (6 ounces): 42 grams
  • Hamburger patty (4 ounces): 28 grams
  • Beef chuck pot roast (3 ounces): 28 grams
  • 85% lean ground beef (3 ounces, broiled): 22 grams
  • Deli-style roast beef (2 ounces): 17 grams

If you are looking to limit saturated fat consumption, you can trim visible fat from beef and buy lean or extra lean ground beef. The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 120 calories (13 grams) from saturated fat at a 2000-calorie-per-day diet.

Fish

Shrimp
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Fish and shellfish are a major source of protein around the world. When cooked, most types of fish have around 6 grams of protein per ounce. Cold-water, fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines also provide beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.

  • Tilapia (6 ounces): 45 grams
  • Tuna (per 6-ounce can): 40 grams
  • Sardines, canned in oil (3.8 ounces): 22.7 grams
  • Halibut (3 ounces): 19 grams
  • Salmon (4 ounces): 18.2 grams
  • Shrimp (3 ounces): 18 grams

If you're pregnant, plan to become pregnant, or are preparing meals for children, choose seafood with lower levels of mercury.

Pork

Pork
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Pork has about the same protein content as beef and poultry. As with other types of meat, ask for lean cuts and remember that the way you cook and serve meat, as well as your portion size, all affect its nutritional value. For instance, whether you fry or grill it or additional toppings like breading and sauces will impact overall calories and macronutrient content.

  • Pork loin or tenderloin (4 ounces): 26 grams
  • Pork chops (average size): 24 grams
  • Ground pork (3 ounces cooked): 22 grams
  • Ham (3-ounce serving): 18 grams
  • Canadian-style bacon or back bacon (1 slice): 5 to 6 grams 
  • Bacon (1 slice): 3 grams  

Keep in mind that cured pork products like bacon and prosciutto and some deli meat can have high amounts of salt. Highly processed pork products like hot dogs can also have hidden sugar.

Eggs and Dairy

Cheese
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

While they're typical breakfast favorites, eggs and dairy products can add protein to other meals, too. Whether you cook them up with the yolk or just the whites, eggs also offer more than protein: They're a good source of micronutrients like choline, selenium, and B-complex vitamins.

If you tolerate lactose, dairy products present versatile ways to add some protein to your diet—though they also add fat. If you're trying to keep your fat intake low, opt for dairy products made with low-fat or nonfat milk, or have smaller portions of the full-fat version.

  • Cottage cheese (1 cup): 25 grams
  • Yogurt (1 cup): 8 to 12 grams—check labels
  • Hard cheese, such as parmesan (1 ounce): 10 grams 
  • 2% low-fat milk (1 cup): 8 grams
  • Medium cheese, such as cheddar or Swiss (1 ounce): around 7 grams
  • Egg (one large): 6 grams
  • Soft cheese, such as mozzarella or Brie (1 ounce): around 6 grams

Beans and Soy

Pinto beans
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Beans are a staple source of protein for vegan and vegetarian diets. Compared to animal protein sources, beans are lower in some essential amino acids. However, as long as you eat a variety of plant-based proteins, you are unlikely to become deficient.

You can get creative with tofu, a protein source derived from soy. Tofu can be added to smoothies and shakes, tossed in a salad, or used as a meat substitute in just about any cooked dish, from noodle bowls to nachos.

  • Soybeans (1/2 cup cooked): 14 grams
  • Tofu (1/2 cup): 10 grams
  • 1/2 cup of cooked beans (black, pinto, lentils): 7 to 10 grams
  • Peanuts (1/4 cup): 9 grams of protein
  • Split peas (1/2 cup cooked): 8 grams 
  • Soy milk, unsweetened (1 cup): 7 grams

Tofu is suitable for many dietary needs and preferences. It's low-carb, gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan.

Nuts and Seeds

Sunflower seeds
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

As with beans, nuts and seeds are high in protein and can give a boost to vegan or vegetarian diets. Note that the amount needed to supply a protein equivalent is less for nuts and seeds than for beans.

In addition to protein, most nuts and seeds provide polyunsaturated fats, fiber, minerals (such as magnesium and calcium), and phytonutrients.

Nuts and seeds are among the most versatile options for protein, as they can be eaten on their own or added to a meal. You can add nuts to your morning cereal or yogurt, sprinkle some seeds in a smoothie, or use both as non-meat protein sources for salads and stir-fries.

Protein Powders

Protein powder can be made from whey and casein (both found in milk), egg, soy, rice, hemp, and peas. The amount of protein and carbohydrate in different protein powder brands will vary depending on the source, so be sure to check the labels carefully.

Many protein powders are marketed to bodybuilders and athletes. Protein powders are not regulated, so they may contain toxins and/or additives. Look for a USP, NSF, or Consumer Labs seal to assure the ingredients in the product are safe and the label is accurate.

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Article Sources
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