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Eating Protein


Protein is one of the major nutrients. It provides the body with energy (calories). Your body needs protein to build and repair cells. It is also part of important enzymes and hormones as well as antibodies that support the immune system.

Protein is made of building blocks called amino acids. The human body needs 20 different amino acids to function properly. Some amino acids are made by the body. But 9 of them (the essential amino acids) must come from food. Soy foods and animal sources of protein (milk, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, and seafood) contain all the essential amino acids in the amounts our bodies need.

Most plant foods contain some of the essential amino acids in varying amounts. Beans have some amino acids, and grains have other amino acids. Eating these different types of food throughout the day will provide your body with the protein it needs.

Foods that contain protein

Protein is found in a variety of foods. High-protein foods include lean meat, poultry, and fish.

Protein isn't just found in meat. If you are looking for other types of protein, try some of the following foods:

  • ¾ cup (175 mL) of cooked beans, peas, or lentils is about 12 g of protein.
  • ¾ cup (175 mL) of tofu [about 2 ounces (150 g)] is about 10 g of protein.
  • ¼ cup (175 mL) of hummus is about 8 g of protein.
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) of nuts or seeds is about 8 g of protein.
  • 2 eggs is about 12 g of protein.
  • 2 Tbsp (30 mL) of peanut butter or other nut or seed butter is about 8 g of protein.

Other sources of protein include cheese, milk, and other milk products. You can also buy protein bars, drinks, and powders. Check the nutrition label for the amount of protein in each serving.


Current as of: March 1, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Rhonda O'Brien MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator