The most influential factor to weight loss and maintenance is a sustainable and intentional diet. But finding the right diet for you may be tricky, as there are multiple diet and weight loss plans online that suggest promising results and everybody’s response to these diets are different. Nevertheless, a general rule of thumb in weight loss is to always ensure that your diet is backed up by scientific data and research.
Here we have prepared a sustainable and viable option that you may incorporate to your diet: eating more protein rich foods.
Eating high protein foods can help people lose weight because it can help you avoid overeating. A high protein diet, containing all essential nutrients, can help build lean muscle when combined with exercise. Lean body mass also helps to burn more calories throughout the day, which can also help with weight loss.
Read more to learn all about the pros and cons of a high protein diet.
The Basics on Protein
Protein, containing essential amino acids, is one of the three macronutrients found in the body (the other two are carbohydrates and fats), whose primary responsibility is to strengthen, repair, and fuel the muscles. Since proteins are macronutrients or “macros,” they also serve as a source of energy, where 1 gram of protein is equivalent to 4 calories.
Since proteins fuel the muscles, this is especially important in aiding digestion, thus increasing the metabolism. They also are considered to have the highest thermic effect among the three macros, which means that it requires more calories to break down, avoiding excess calories to be stored in the form of fat. Additionally, proteins provide satiety (the sensation of fullness), thus reducing certain tendencies such as snacking, binge-eating, and a constant craving appetite.
A Look into the Other Macros
The typical recommended diet usually comprises around 50% carbohydrates, 35% protein, and 15% fats, but this is always adjustable according to whatever your body goals are. However, it is important to note why these ratios are such and how the body benefits from this.
Carbohydrates are the macros responsible for the body’s energy. Carbs are the body’s main source of glucose and energy, which are measured in the form of calories. Thus, carbohydrates such as bread, rice, pasta, and potatoes are known to be calorie dense.
Fats are responsible for energy storage, and they provide a layer of protection to the organs in the body. Although fats are notorious for having negative effects in the body such as weight gain and heart complications, it is still important to intake a healthy and moderate amount of healthy fats (which are unsaturated fats) because these types of fats prevent heart disease and generally contribute to the overall well-being of the body.
Why Focus on High Protein Foods?
Compared to the other two macros, protein intake is not known to contribute to weight gain. This is because proteins are primarily focusing energy on muscle mass whereas carbohydrates and fats are used in the body in terms of storage and energy consumption.
When a person lacks physical activity and consumes less energy throughout the day, the excess calories from carbs may be stored in the form of fat, causing weight gain. Likewise, over intake of fatty foods (especially bad fats) may thicken the protective layer of fat in our body, causing health complications and an increase in weight.
But what about high protein foods? Well, protein foods are the most weight loss friendly macros because they quicken the metabolism while preventing you from losing muscle mass, which promotes healthy weight loss. A high protein diet also provide the most satiety compared to the other two macros, preventing a spike in appetite.
Compared to fats and carbs, protein foods for weight loss are the least likely to increase appetite and cravings. If you take a look at some foods from these food groups, a person may more likely crave fatty foods and carbs such as doughnuts, pizza, processed food, potatoes, and pasta, than protein-dense food such as pork chops, fish, beans, and beef. Although these fatty and high-carb foods are generally not harmful to your body, their addictive quality due to taste, convenience, and marketing undoubtedly makes it harder to control the diet and lose weight.
There are multiple options and revisions you can make to your diet to increase protein intake. You can opt to use a protein powder, which can be incorporated in shakes and smoothies, most of which are available in supermarkets and online. You can also opt to switch out some of your regular grocery purchases to a more high-protein and low-fat alternative.
The Best High Protein Foods for Weight Loss
Listed below are some of the best protein foods for weight loss.
1. Whole grains and pulses
Pulses are the edible seeds from legumes that are known to be fiber and protein-rich, containing amino acids. Looking for high quality protein products? Whole grains and pulses are certainly among the best protein foods for weight loss. Examples of pulses are:
Pulses are one of the best options to integrate to a high protein diet if you want to lose weight. This is because they are rich in fiber, which is an essential aid to digestion, promoting a fast and healthy metabolism as well as a strong immune system. Pulses also contain more protein, strengthening the muscles and providing adequate energy for the body’s consumption.
Apart from being a staple food towards weight loss, pulses offer several other health benefits. They are also good for diabetics, as they have a low-glycemic index and generally do not contribute to an increase in blood sugar. Thus, people with diabetes can opt for a pulse-centered diet while still being able to maintain and regulate their blood sugar levels.
Additionally, pulses are relatively affordable and convenient. They can be found in every grocery store or marketplace, and are very flexible and easy to cook. There are a variety of different meals ranging from bean dips to a healthy side dish, or lentil soups to beans with pork. A high demand in pulses also may be able to help the environment because legumes and other pulse crops reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and require less water compared to other agricultural crops, promoting a cleaner and greener earth.
2. White-meat fish
Most types of fish contain essential amino acids and other important micronutrients needed for weight loss. They are excellent protein sources. Compared to other kinds of fish though, white-fleshed fish are the most lean and protein-rich; others are fatty fish. While other types of fish also contain a high amount of protein, white-fleshed fish, a high protein food, distinctly healthier since they have a lesser percentage of fat.
These types of fish contain about 3 grams of fat and 130 calories per serving (which is about 100 grams per serving). How much protein do these meat have? Approximately 20-25 grams of protein!
Examples of these types of fish are tilapia, flounder, halibut, cod, and haddock. All of these are highly convenient and accessible at most supermarkets and wet markets. These are also easy to prepare and cook with, allowing a number of different recipes for you to try.
This doesn’t mean that you should completely cut off other types of fish from your diet. In fact, it is also important to consume other types of fish from time to time since there are certain nutrients, such as omega-3 fat, that are beneficial to your body that are not so abundant in white-fleshed fish compared to the darker meat fish such as salmon and tuna. Ultimately, it is best to figure out a balance between the two according to what works best for you.
3. White-meat Poultry
Chicken, turkey, quail, and other poultry are also high protein foods for weight loss, containing amino acids. There’s approximately 30 grams of protein per 100-gram serving. However there are certain parts of these birds that are also packed with fat and may not be weight-loss friendly. This is why it is best to focus on white-meat poultry as your protein sources.
White-meat cuts are usually the leanest, containing the least amount of fat. Examples of these are chicken breast, chicken tenders, and chicken wings.
If you’re trying to lose weight, then chicken breast is the best cut for you. It is the leanest part of the chicken, which means high protein but low calories. Chicken breast is also chock full of calcium and phosphorous.
Their counterparts, drumsticks and thighs, contain more saturated fat and could highly contribute to weight gain.
It is also crucial to avoid eating the skins of these foods, as the poultry skin itself contains 200 calories and 8 grams of fat per 100-gram serving. However, it is completely fine to keep the skin intact during cooking (because it does make the chicken moister and more flavorful) but make sure to set it aside later on when it is time to eat.
White meat poultry is also easy to cook with and easy to find, as they are available in almost every supermarket. It’s one of the most available high protein food. However it is important to also consider that unprocessed meats are always the best and safest option especially to those who intend to lose weight, so stay away from pre-packed and pre-seasoned chicken nuggets and the like, as they might do more harm than good in the long run.
Avoid saturated fat and switch to these healthy poultry products.
4. Low-fat Dairy
Switch to low-fat dairy products if you want to up your protein intake. The effects may seem minimal but this actually is quite an influential move if you are aiming to lose weight.
If we consider the amount of dairy consumed in every bowl of cereal, every serving of white sauce pasta, every grilled sandwich with cottage cheese, and every cup of coffee, you might be consuming more fat in a day than you are aware of.
Thus, switching to low-fat dairy is one of the most sustainable options for weight loss, as they can be incorporated in little areas of your diet such as the above mentioned while containing the same amount of calcium (which is beneficial for bone strength) and cutting off a significant amount of fat in your diet.
But how beneficial exactly are the low-fat alternatives to dairy? Well, in comparison to whole milk, low-fat milk contains the same amount of calories with 69% less fat.
Another wise revision you might consider making is to switch to low fat greek yogurt instead of regular yogurt. Plain greek yogurt is one of the best protein foods for weight loss. Opting for plain greek yogurt also cuts off the unnecessary sweeteners and added sugar, which makes it easier for you to control as you could always add sweeteners of your own (such as fruit and honey).
Cottage cheese is also one of the best protein foods for weight loss. A single cup of low-fat cottage cheese has a whopping 28 grams of protein and only 163 grams calories.
If you need to focus on a high protein diet, consider try tofu! Tofu is one of the most famous alternatives for red meat, especially for those who do not consume animal products. This soft and cheese-like textured food is made up of condensed soy milk and contains about 8 grams of protein, 2 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, and 4 grams of fat per 100 gram serving (as well as other elements such as calcium, iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, etc.). It also containscontains all nine amino acids that the body can’t make on its own.
Considering these ratios, tofu is one of the best options if you are looking for low-fat, nutrient-dense, and high protein foods for weight loss. Apart from that, it is highly flexible in cooking, as you can get it in different textures and is widely used in a variety of different recipes.
However, about 95% of soybeans in the US are genetically modified (GM). Most studies suggest that the GM properties of soybeans are harmless to the body, but if you are against GM food, you can always opt to buy organic tofu, though they can be a little more pricey.
6. Lean Meat
Meat are complete sources of protein because they contain all 9 essential amino acids. It’s a complete protein! However, there are specific cuts and parts that you might want to focus on if you are aiming to lose weight.
Lean meats, by definition, are portions of meat with the least fat content. These types of cuts contain the same grams of protein and other beneficial nutrients with other portions of meat, but their fat percentage is significantly less, if not, none at all. These types of foods, because of their low fat content, are especially good for weight loss.
As for lean beef, they are normally labelled with “loin” or “round” (i.e. sirloin, eye of round roast, tenderloin, round steak), but there are other cuts of beef that are lean as well such as the flank steak and the brisket flat-half. If you want to buy ground beef, most supermarkets have an option to get it lean as well.
Lean pork is usually indicated with “loin” and “chop” (i.e. pork loin, pork chops, sirloin). The leanest of which is the pork tenderloin. Additionally, if there is still some fat attached to the meat, you could always chop it off before cooking to avoid unnecessary fat consumption, stored body fat, and heart disease risk factors.
Bison or buffalo meat usually have the leanest overall meat. Studies have confirmed that the same cuts of beef had twice as much fat compared to those of the bison. Bison is also considered a healthier meat, as they are more likely to be grass and grain fed, having more organic attributes compared to other types of meat, which is always a good sign.
7. Egg Whites
Eggs are also perfect if you need to increase your protein intake. They are high in protein, containing all of the essential amino acids. However, they are also high in calories and fat, most of which are found in the egg yolk. The egg white contains about half of the total protein content of the egg.
The reason why egg whites are better off in a weight loss diet is because most of the calories and fat are concentrated in the yolk, while the white part contains less of these but still with half the amount of protein of the entire egg.
If you worry about wasting an egg yolk every time you cook an egg, there are options in the supermarket that sell only egg-white products, such as powdered egg whites and egg white protein powder which you can mix with water and use like regular egg whites.
8. Powdered Nut Butters
Another healthy revision to your high protein diet is to switch out regular peanut butter with the powdered alternative. It offers a lot of health benefits, hence tagged as one of the best protein foods for weight loss! A regular peanut butter is highly fat and calorie-dense, containing about 190 calories, 16 grams of fat, and 8 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons. Powdered peanut butter on the other hand, a plant based protein, contains about 50 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, and 5 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons.
This is mainly due to how it is processed. To make powdered peanut butter, the fat is normally rendered out during the process. If you noticed, regular peanut butter gets its creamy texture from oils, while powdered peanut butter, mostly a plant based protein, can always be mixed with water to accomplish that spreadable texture (however oily peanut butters are always creamier). Always opt for plant proteins whenever possible! These are also perfect if you are doing a vegan diet.
Powdered peanut butter can also be added to smoothies and shakes to enhance the flavor without adding unnecessary fat to the drink, making it a sustainable and healthier option for weight loss.
Another high protein product are potatoes. They have a reputation as a starchy carb but are good sources of nutrients, including protein and other essential nutrients. One medium potato with the skin on contains just over 4 grams of protein. People should use caution when preparing a potato as the extras that people often put on potatoes can increase the calorie count.
What to Remember in High Protein Diets
Not all foods with several grams of protein are beneficial for weight loss, though most of them are able to maintain a good healthy weight. Some protein rich foods such as pork belly and chicken drumsticks are excellent sources of protein, but are also rich in fat, defeating the purpose of high protein diets that aim for weight loss.
Additionally, focusing on a high protein weight loss diet does not mean that you should completely cut off carbohydrates from your diet. Studies have shown that doing so actually increases your vulnerability to certain diseases. Therefore, it is important to still intake carbs and fat in moderation in order for your body to get certain nutrients that may not be available in these types of protein foods. Stay healthy while trying to lose weight following a protein rich diet!