Foods containing Protein

There are many foods containing proteins. Below is a comprehensive list of these foods.

What are proteins? Each particular protein is characterised by a group of amino acids arranged in a special sequence.


There are many sequence combinations and many different proteins as there are 20 major different types of amino acids. Each protein has a different role in the body. Eight of the amino acids (nine for children) are considered “essential” or “indispensable” amino acids, as the body can’t make them. These amino acids must be consumed from the diet. The body can produce the other twelve amino acids and are therefore classified as “non-essential” or “dispensable”.

Indispensable Amino Acids:

  • Histidine (in children)
  • Isoleucine
  • Leucine
  • Lysine
  • Methionine
  • Phenylalanine
  • Threonine
  • Tryptophan
  • Valine 


Dispensable Amino Acids


  • Alanine
  • Arginine
  • Asparagine
  • Aspartic acid
  • Glutamic acid
  • Cysteine
  • Glutamine
  • Glycine
  • Proline
  • Serine
  • Tyrosine 


When protein is digested, it is broken down into amino acids and incorporated into new proteins in the liver. Protein synthesis can only occur when all required amino acids are present. This means the essential amino acids become the restricting factor.

Most Westerners consume enough protein within their diet, therefore supplements are not required. Excess dietary protein is used as energy when Carbohydrate intake is low or is stored as fat (especially when from a high fat source).


Another side effect from a high protein diet is that calcium absorption and retention is reduced. This is due to the kidneys working harder to excrete the extra nitrogen.


Major Functions of Protein in the Body

Protein is a necessary part of all body cells. Most people realize that protein is found in muscles, however few recognize it is also found in the kidney, heart and liver, in skin, hair, nails, bone and teeth. Protein is always needed in larger quantities during times of growth, especially during times of childhood, adolescence, and pregnancy.


Protein is also needed for fluid balance, blood clotting, hormone and enzyme production, and immune function. The body constantly breaks down proteins and recreates new ones. Requirement is 3.5 – 4.5g/kg/day (200-300g/day). Dietary intake needs to account for about 1/3 of this, and the remaining protein synthesis comes from recycled amino acids.

Complete protein foods are those that contain all essential amino acids. These are mainly animal based products, with the exception of soy beans:



  • Low fat dairy products
  • Fish and seafood
  • Beef, lamb, veal, pork
  • Skinless poultry
  • Eggs
  • Soybeans 



 For people following a balanced diet, these foods containing proteins provide about 2/3 of daily protein intake.

“Incomplete proteins” come from foods lacking one or more of the essential amino acids. These tend to make up 1/3 of dietary protein intake. Examples of these foods include:


  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Cereals
  • Bread   



Therefore, it is unlikely that meat eaters would consume a diet deficient in amino acids. Lacto-ovo vegetarians (consume no meat, chicken or fish, but do eat dairy products and eggs) and in particular vegans (no meat, chicken or fish, dairy products, or eggs) need to ensure a wide variety of the above listed foods are eaten to obtain all essential amino acids.



How much protein is in Foods



Each of the following foods containing protein has 6g protein.

20g Meat cooked
20g Poultry (chicken, turkey, duck, etc.) cooked
30g Fish cooked or tinned
25g Shellfish cooked
25g Offal (liver, tripe, kidney, brains, etc.) cooked
50g Soft cheese (ricotta, cottage, cream cheese, etc.)
1 Egg (55g)
40g Nuts
25g Peanuts
90g Legumes (dried beans and lentils) cooked

Each of the following foods containing protein has 3g protein.



100ml Whole milk
75ml “Rev” or “Skinny” milk
50ml “Physical” milk
100ml Soy milk (full or light) 4 Tbsp Custard (from powder and whole milk) 3 Tbsp Custard (from egg and whole milk) 1 scoop Ice cream (average) 50g Natural yoghurt (full cream) 40g Natural yoghurt (low fat) 70g Fruit yoghurt (full cream) 50g Fruit yoghurt (low fat)


Each of the following contains 3g of protein

1 slice bread
1/2 average muffin
1 small Scone
1 average Crumpet
1/2 average Bread roll
1/2 average Croissant
4 “Thin Captains”
4 “Sao”
4 “Low Salt Vitaweets”
4 Crispbreads
3 Rice Cakes
3 “Teddy Bears”
4 Cream biscuits
2 sheets Filo
6cm slice Pie (not including filling)
1 Party pie (not including filling)
5cm slice Sponge cake
1 slice Plain cake
1 doughnut
3 “Weet-Bix
2 Tbsp Muesli
1 medium bowl “Weeties”
200g Porridge (cooked with water)
60g Dry Rolled Oats
2/3 cup Cooked rice (120g)
1 large Cooked Potato (120g)
1/2 cup Cooked Pasta (75g)
30g Plain Flour



 The recommended daily intake of protein for an adult is 0.75 – 1g/kg/day. The average Westerner already consumes more than this recommendation. The figures show that a 65kg female consuming 120g cooked meat or chicken (very small serve!), 200g of yoghurt, 200ml reduced fat milk, and 4 slices of bread daily would consume at least 66 grams of protein daily.

There would also be extra protein absorbed from other foods.



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