Beef up your intake of the muscle building nutrient without lightening your wallet.
Ian Cohen 1 / 8
Looking for the best high-protein foods? The choices are easy—lean red meat, poultry, fish and soy are among your best bets. Throw cost consideration into the mix, however, and suddenly things become less obvious. A wild Alaskan salmon steak is not an everyday option for most guys. (Plus, would you rather spend your dough on things you can't get in a supermarket?) But, that doesn't mean you need to be in an upper tax bracket to get your daily protein fix. It just means you need to find less expensive protein sources to include as a regular part of your diet. We've put together a list of protein-packed sources that won't put you in the poor house.
Loaded with high-quality protein and cheap, eggs certainly deserve mentioning. Just one egg provides 6 grams of protein (11% of the daily value). The composition of vital amino acids, branched chain amino acids and glutamic acid make egg protein the ultimate source for helping your muscles recover after a workout.
If you still want your meat, (and its high protein content) but don't want to shell out for the stuff behind the seafood or meat counter, here's your best option. A single, five-ounce can of tuna yields almost 30 grams of protein. However, studies have shown that mercury found in tuna can be harmful to your health. According to the FDA you can safely eat 5.6 ounces of Albacore tuna per week and 16.4 ounces of light tuna.
According to the peanut institute, the peanut contains more plant protein than any other legume or nut. It may not match the amount of protein in a giant turkey leg, but at eight grams per serving it provides an economical way for those on a shoestring budget to get their fill.
Perhaps the most cost-effective method to increase protein in your diet, whey provides the body with the ideal amino acid profile for muscle building, strength and recovery. Because whey is also fast digesting, it's well suited as a post-workout nutrition source when your body needs a quick fix of protein. However, because whey protein is isolated from whey, it contains lactose—the natural sugar found in dairy products. If you are lactose intolerant, your body will likely be unable to metabolize the lactose and show signs of allergies.
Everyone knows beans are typically low in cost and high in nutritious fiber, but they're also loaded with protein. Depending on the type of bean, protein amounts range from about 15 to 25 grams per cup. So chose the ones you like and go to town. One pitfall, if you've ever seen the movie Blazing Saddles, or have been in a poorly ventilated room with a bunch of guys after a barbecue, you know the potent effect beans can have on the digestive system.
With twice as much protein as regular yogurt, this European version is the smarter choice. While one eight-ounce cup of plain, low-fat yogurt will get you 11 grams of protein, the same size Greek yogurt will give you about 20 grams of protein. Plus it's richer, fattier (the good fat), more nutritious and lower in sugar.
Tempeh is the most nutritious of all soy products. Just 4 ounces of this fermented food provides 41% of the daily value for protein and only 3.7 grams of saturated fat. As an added advantage, the soy protein in tempeh tends to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of prostate cancer.