If you're trying to lose weight you already know the importance of focusing on low-calorie and low-fat foods. But did you know that protein is another powerful ally in the weight-loss battle? Lean sources of protein fill you up and fuel your body, and best of all you have a long list of delicious options to choose from.
The Power of Protein
What makes protein a weight-loss power tool? It's simple: protein is the most satiating nutrient. The body has to work harder to absorb and digest protein than it does for carbohydrates and fats, meaning that you'll feel fuller sooner and remain fuller longer. This can translate into weight loss because you'll feel satisfied without needing to overeat and you'll be able to go more hours before getting hungry again.
What to Avoid
It's important to understand that using protein as a weight-loss tool is not the same as going on a high-protein diet. Many popular high-protein diets advocate large amounts of meat, cheese and eggs while restricting much-needed carbohydrate sources such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables. This means your body is receiving high levels of saturated fat and insufficient amounts of fiber and nutrients, putting you at risk for serious health complications.
How Much Protein You Need
The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for protein for men ages 19 and up is 56g each day. Boys 14 to 18 years old need about 52g while females ages 14 and up should consume about 46g. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should eat an additional 25g of protein each day.
Fatty versus Lean Protein Sources
Not all proteins are created equal. To lose weight and maintain a healthy body, limit your intake of protein sources that are rich in saturated fat, such as whole-milk cheeses and fatty cuts of meat, to special occasions. Certain high-fat, protein-rich foods are actually good for heart health if they contain high levels of unsaturated fats. An excellent example is nuts, which can help lower your blood cholesterol when eaten instead of saturated fats. Rich in protein and flavor, nuts are an excellent snack when you're trying to lose weight because the fat makes you feel as if you're indulging. Just be sure to limit your intake to one serving each day because nuts are also high in calories. The vast majority of your protein intake should come from lean sources such as chicken breasts, fish, beans, low-fat milk, vegetables and reduced-fat cheese.
Top Sources of Protein
To make protein work for you, try to include at least one lean source in every meal and snack to keep you full and satisfied all day long. Some of the best lean protein foods are: chicken breast with 33.8g of protein per 4 oz.; lean beef tenderloin with 32g per 4 oz.; salmon with 29.14g per 4 oz.; soybeans with 28.6g per cup; lentils with 17.8g per cup; kidney beans with 15.3g per cup; low-fat yogurt with 12.8g per cup; peanuts with 9.4g per quarter cup; pumpkin seeds with 8.5g per quarter cup; 2 percent milk with 8.1g per cup; part-skim mozzarella cheese with 6.8g per oz.; 1 egg with 5.5g; cooked spinach with 5.3g per cup; and broccoli with 4.6g per cup.
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