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Protein in common foods

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Why is protein important?

Getting enough protein can help you:

  • Build a healthy immune system
  • Keep your muscle mass and strength
  • Fight infection
  • Heal and get better faster

Protein foods are a good source of calories. Calories can help you gain or maintain weight.

How much protein do I need?

During cancer treatment your protein needs may be higher than usual. The average healthy adult needs 0.8 g of protein per kg of their body weight each day. For example, a 75 kg healthy adult needs 60 g protein each day (75 kg x 0.8 g protein/kg = 60 g protein/day).

If you have cancer you may need more protein, about 1.2 – 1.5 g of protein per kg of your body weight. Ask a dietitian about how much protein you need.

What foods have protein?

Foods high in protein include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, legumes (dried beans, peas, and lentils), soy, nuts, and seeds. Grain products have some protein. Fruits and vegetables have almost no protein.

Type of food Food Serving size Average protein content (g)
Meat and poultry (cooked) Chicken, turkey, beef, pork, lamb, veal, wild game 3 oz. (85 g) 24
Fish and shellfish (cooked) Salmon, snapper, rainbow trout, tuna, whitefish, halibut, shrimp, scallops, canned fish 3 oz. or ½ can (85 g) 21
Crab, lobster 3 oz. (85 g) 15

Legumes (cooked or canned)

Lentils, chickpeas, split peas, black beans, kidney beans, navy beans ¾ cup (175 ml) 11
Hummus ¼ cup (60 ml) 4

Eggs and dairy

Cottage cheese, ricotta cheese ½ cup (125 ml) 14
Eggs 2 large 12
Cheddar, mozzarella, goat cheese 1 ½ oz. (42 g) 12
Yogurt (Greek or Icelandic) ½ cup (125 ml) 12
Milk 1 cup (250 ml) 9
Skim milk powder ¼ cup (60 ml) 9
Kefir 1 cup (250 ml) 8
Milkshake 1 cup (250 ml) 6
Yogurt (regular) ½ cup (125 ml) 6

Soy and non-dairy choices

Tempeh ¾ cup (150 g) 28
Soybeans (boiled) ¾ cup (175 ml) 21
Tofu (firm) ¾ cup (150 g) 12
Soy beverage, pea beverage 1 cup (250 ml) 8
Tofu (soft) ¾ cup (150 g) 7
Almond, rice, or coconut beverage 1 cup (250 ml) 1 or less

Nuts and seeds (shelled)

Hemp hearts ¼ cup (60 ml) 13
Pumpkin seeds, squash seeds ¼ cup (60 ml) 9
Almonds, peanuts, pistachios ¼ cup (60 ml) 7
Peanut butter, almond butter 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) 7
Sunflower seeds ¼ cup (60 ml) 6
Cashews, walnuts, pine nuts ¼ cup (60 ml) 5
Tahini 2 Tbsp. (30 ml) 5
Nutrition supplements Naked Pea protein powder ¼ cup (60 ml) 25
Whey protein powder ¼ cup (60 ml) 19
Beneprotein powder ¼ cup (60 ml) 16
Ensure High Protein 1 bottle (235 ml) 16
Boost High Protein 1 bottle (237 ml) 15
Boost Plus or Ensure Plus 1 bottle (237 ml) 14
Grains Bagel (white) ½ medium (50 g) 6
Naan (white) ½ small (45 g) 5
English muffin (white or whole wheat) 1 muffin (57 g) 5
Oatmeal (cooked) ¾ cup (175 ml) 4
Pasta (white or whole wheat, cooked) ½ cup (125 ml) 4
Quinoa (cooked) ½ cup (125 ml) 4
Matzo (plain) 1 cracker (28 g) 3
Bulgur, couscous (cooked) ½ cup (125 ml) 3
Bread (all kinds) 1 slice (26 g) 3
Pita (white or whole wheat) ½ large (32 g) 3
Tortilla (white, whole wheat, or corn) 1 small (34 g) 2
Barley, rice (white or brown, cooked) ½ cup (125 ml) 2
Cream of Wheat (cooked) ¾ cup (175 ml) 2
Dry cereal ¾ cup (175 ml) Check label
Fruits and vegetables Almost no protein - -

Note: This is not a full list of brands or products. The Odette Cancer Centre does not recommend one brand over another and is not responsible for any products listed.