What is Lean Protein? Choosing the Right ‘Lean’ Protein Foods

What is Lean Protein? Discover the types of lean, protein-rich foods you should be choosing daily. A lean protein-packed diet is a powerful way to fuel your body, and understanding the variety of foods that fall into this category is key to a healthy, balanced lifestyle.


Have you ever heard the term “lean protein” and wondered what it meant? Lean protein is simply a type of protein that is low in fat. According to the USDA, a serving of 28g of lean protein contains only about 2-3g of fat.

Lean protein is a type of protein low in fat

It is particularly beneficial for muscle growth and repair, making it a favorite among bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts. Lean proteins are also heart-healthy and weight-friendly due to their low-fat and low-calorie content.

2 Sources of Lean Protein

Animal Sources of Lean Protein

Meat from various animals, such as chicken, turkey, and lamb, are excellent sources of lean protein:

  • Chicken Breast: 100g contains 109 calories, 22g of protein, and 1.6g of fat (including 0.4g of saturated fat)
  • Pork Loin: 100g contains 110 calories, 21g of protein, and 2g of fat (less than 1g of which is saturated fat)
  • Beef Sirloin: 100g provides 150 calories, 22g of protein, and 6.5g of fat (including 2.5g of saturated fat)
  • Lamb Sirloin: 100g contains 115 calories, 20g of protein, and 4g of fat (with 1g of saturated fat)

Animal sources of lean protein

These meats can be prepared in a variety of ways, including grilling, roasting, or stir-frying with sauces, and served with vegetables and whole grains. They can also be added to soups, salads, or sandwiches for a nutritious meal.

Seafood Sources of Lean Protein

Seafood is another great source of lean protein, offering numerous health benefits:

  • Shrimp: 100g contains 85 calories, 20g of protein, and less than 1g of fat.
  • Lobster: 100g contains 75 calories, 17g of protein, and less than 1g of fat.
  • Cod: 100g provides 80 calories, 18g of protein, and less than 1g of fat.
  • Salmon: 100g contains 140 calories, 20g of protein, and 6g of fat (with less than 1g of saturated fat)
  • Tuna: 100g has approximately 100 calories, 22g of protein, and less than 1g of fat.
  • Oysters: 100g offers 80 calories, 9g of protein, and 2g of fat (including 0.5g of saturated fat)

Seafood sources of lean protein

For fish like cod and sole, try steaming, grilling, or baking to prevent dryness. Oysters are best served raw with lemon, cocktail sauce, or vinegar, while shrimp can be prepared in a variety of ways, including grilling, stir-frying, or boiling.

Other Sources of Lean Protein

There are also plant-based and dairy sources of lean protein that are highly nutritious:

  • Eggs: A large egg contains 70 calories, 6g of protein, and 5g of fat (including 1.5g of saturated fat). Egg whites provide 17 calories, 3.6g of protein, and no fat.
  • Greek Yogurt: 200g of Greek yogurt has 140 calories, 20g of protein, and 4g of fat (including 2.5g of saturated fat)
  • Tofu: 100g of tofu contains 90 calories, 9g of protein, and 4g of fat (with no saturated fat)
  • Lentils: 100g of lentils have 115 calories, 9g of protein, and 0.3g of fat (with no saturated fat)

Other sources of lean protein

Eggs are incredibly versatile and can be boiled, fried, scrambled, or added to salads, sandwiches, or sauces. Greek yogurt can be used in salads, as a marinade for meat, or in desserts, paired with fruits.

Tofu can be fried or stir-fried, but for a healthier option, try eating it plain, adding it to salads, or using it in stuffed dishes or steamed dishes. Lentils are great boiled or steamed, and can be added to rice dishes, soups, or salads.

In conclusion, lean protein is an important part of a healthy diet, and there are numerous delicious and nutritious options to choose from. We hope this article has provided you with some valuable insights.

Sources: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Broadcasting and Electronic Information Bureau

Frequently asked questions

Lean protein refers to a source of protein that is low in fat, especially saturated fat, and typically comes from animal sources. Examples include chicken, turkey, fish, and certain cuts of beef.

Protein is essential for maintaining and building muscle, and lean protein sources offer additional health benefits. They are lower in calories and fat, helping with weight management and reducing the risk of heart disease and other health issues associated with high-fat diets.

When selecting lean proteins, opt for white meat over dark meat in poultry, and choose fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and tuna. For beef, look for cuts with ‘loin’ or ’round’ in the name, as these tend to be leaner. Also, consider plant-based sources like beans, lentils, and tofu, which are naturally lean and provide additional nutritional benefits.

The recommended daily protein intake varies depending on age, gender, and activity level. Generally, adults should aim for 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. However, active individuals and those looking to build muscle may require up to 2 grams per kilogram. Spread your protein intake throughout the day for optimal benefits.

While lean protein is important, overconsumption can lead to health issues. Excess protein can put strain on the kidneys and may contribute to dehydration and weight gain if consumed in excess of calorie needs. A balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrients is key to maintaining overall health.