Looking for the best source of 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. In these tough economic times, a thick cut of filet mignon is not an everyday option for most guys. 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.
Cost: For less than $2.00 you can get a dozen eggs, which will give you a whopping 72 grams of protein–now that’s a deal. And for about a buck and a half more you can go organic for an even healthier protein option.
Value: 36 grams/dollar
2. Canned Tuna
If you still want your meat, (and its high protein content) but can’t afford 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.
Cost: Tuna is definitely among the cheapest of all lean protein sources. If you don’t mind the chunk light (aka dark meat) you can get it for under $1.00 a can. Upgrade to the higher quality solid white tuna and you’re looking at about $1.50. Whichever you choose, you’ll be sure to get to your daily amount of protein.
Value: 30 grams/dollar
3. Peanut Butter
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.
Cost: On average, an 18-oz. jar of peanut butter will set you back about $3.00. For an extra $2.00, consider almond butter. It has a higher-quality protein than peanut butter and is less allergenic.
Value: 38 grams/dollar
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.
Cost: For the average price of $30, you can get a 2-lb. container of 100% whey protein powder. It doesn’t get much cheaper than that for one of the purest protein sources available.
Value: 23 grams/dollar
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.
Cost: Super cheap. A can of protein-rich, black beans for example goes for about a buck in most supermarkets. Add another buck if you want to go organic.
Value: 26 grams/dollar
6. Plain Greek Yogurt
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.