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What Are the Best Sources of Lean Protein?

By S. McCumber
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The best sources of lean protein include eggs, fish, chicken, turkey, beans and certain cuts of pork and beef. Lean protein is highly recommended as a food source because it is low in saturated fats and aids in creating a feeling of fullness long after it is eaten. There are several variations of each source.

Eggs are one of the most common sources of lean protein. An egg contains about 7 grams of protein and is low in fat. The fat content can be further reduced by separating the yolk from the egg white and eating only the egg white. A morning meal of egg whites has been shown to help with weight loss, partly because the protein-rich serving helps stave off hunger longer than meals with less protein.

Fish is another popular source of lean protein that has many benefits. Salmon, herring, cod and tuna contain generous amounts of protein. A standard serving of salmon, for example, has about 20 grams of protein. In addition to protein, many types of fish contain the heart-friendly unsaturated fat omega-3. Many experts recommend two servings a week of this nutritious protein source.

Chicken and turkey are both low-fat, high-protein meats that offer a variety of cuts and preparation methods. A single chicken breast averages about 30 grams of lean protein. Chicken and turkey are often ground up and used as a leaner replacement in recipes calling for ground beef. Chicken and turkey legs, often called drumsticks, also are good sources of protein, but are not as a lean a cut as the breast.

Pork is another excellent source of lean protein. A pork chop generally contains around 22 grams of protein and can be prepared many ways. Pork tenderloin is a popular cut of meat that also is high in protein and very lean. Just 4 ounces of pork tenderloin averages 29 grams of protein.

While beef contains a large amount of protein, many cuts are high in fat. Some cuts of steak can contain twice as much protein as other cuts, but they also can contain twice the amount of saturated fats. The best source of lean protein from beef is the sirloin cut. Ground sirloin is often used to make hamburgers and is used in assorted recipes.

There are sources of protein other than eggs and meat. Beans are an excellent protein source and come in a wide variety of types that are used in many dishes. Soybeans, kidney beans and chick peas all contain anywhere from 7 to 14 grams of protein per serving. Soybeans are the best source of lean protein of the bean variety and are often eaten steamed or in the form of tofu — a soybean curd used as a meat replacement. Tofu averages 20 grams of protein per serving.

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