High-protein, low-calorie foods are good for your health because they typically are low in fat. Carbohydrates and protein both have just 4 calories per gram, whereas fat has a whopping 9 calories per gram, so foods that are high in protein and low in calories are typically calculated as such because they are low in fat.
Lean cuts of meat like white-meat chicken or turkey, beef sirloin or lean ground beef, pork sirloin and fish are all high in protein and low in fat and calories. Chicken breasts top the protein-packing meats with just 140 calories and 27g of protein per 3 oz. Eggs are another great choice, with each egg having just 73 calories and 7g of protein. To cut more calories, eat only the egg white for 17 calories and still retain 4g of protein.
Legumes, or beans, are typically low fat and low calorie but are high in protein and also provide a significant amount of dietary fiber. The trick here is not getting too fancy: black, pinto, kidney, lentil and soy beans are healthy, but if they are drowning in barbecue sauce, brown sugar and molasses, it suddenly becomes a different story. Stick to plain beans that are lightly seasoned to get the benefits of high-protein foods without all the extras. The numbers vary by bean, but on average, beans have 115 calories and 8g of protein per 1/2 cup. Nuts and seed have a tendency to be high in fat, but they are monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) which have been shown to lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol levels. They range from 155 to 183 calories per ounce, but do add 5 to 8g of protein as well. Despite the high protein levels, nuts aren't low calorie enough to end up in this sort of diet.
Dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt and cottage cheese are all high protein, and can be low calorie as long as they are low-fat or fat-free versions. Cottage cheese is ideal with just 81 calories and 14g of protein per 1/2 cup. Read the labels carefully on yogurts because even the low-fat versions can be high in sugar, adding unnecessary calories.
Recommended Daily Protein Amounts
Daily recommendations depend on your weight, goals and activity levels. The FDA recommends that 10 to 15 percent of your calories come from protein, so for an individual on a 2,000-calorie diet would eat 50 to 75g of protein per day. If you are an active individual, your body requires more protein in order to repair any damage done during workouts or other activities. Depending on how rigorously you work out, you should consume anywhere from .53 to .73g of protein per pound of body weight. Anything higher than .73g belongs in the stomachs of bodybuilders and marathon runners.
Protein is made up of amino acids, and is used by every cell in the body to repair, regrow, and build muscles, skin, hair, nails and organs. So getting enough protein means you are giving your body the raw materials it needs to maintain itself. If you are eating a high-protein diet, chances are you are feeling full even if you are consuming less food. And of course, when you aren' t hungry, you don't over-indulge on extra fat and calories from unhealthy foods.
High-protein diets have been around for awhile, perhaps most famously known as the Atkin's diet. Nutritionists now encourage people to eat a balanced diet rather than sticking to diets that cut out one or more nutrients completely. Fat even has a role to play in the body's function, so it can't be completely avoided for a long period of time without consequences. A high-protein diet can still accommodate healthy carbohydrates from whole grains and fiber, vitamins and minerals, and even a few grams of fat here and there while still being considered low calorie.
Talk to your doctor before starting a new diet or nutrition plan. He can advise you about what foods will be most beneficial to help you meet your goals.