14 best protein foods for weight loss
LAST UPDATED: Sep 18, 2023
5 MIN READ
HERE'S WHAT WE'LL COVER
Every few years, it seems like the popular diets flip from low carbohydrates to low fat and back to low carb again. However, the importance of protein for maintaining a healthy body weight is rarely questioned.
Keep reading to learn how protein foods help with weight loss, the health benefits of protein, and 16+ high-protein foods.
Fad diets stop here
If appropriate, get effective weight loss treatment prescribed for your body.
How does protein help with weight loss?
Protein helps with weight loss mainly because it helps you stay full longer. Several studies have found that when you increase your protein intake, you’ll likely start eating fewer calories. Protein is made up of amino acids that your body uses for:
Whenever you lose or gain weight, it’s not just your body fat that changes. Those changes on the scale can be from fat or water, muscle, or other lean tissues. A higher protein diet helps preserve muscle tissue during weight loss efforts, because protein helps build and maintain muscle. That means you’ll likely lose more actual fat and less muscle mass while eating a higher protein diet. That might come in handy when you’re looking to maximize fat weight loss while keeping muscle tissue when taking GLP-1 medications, such as Ozempic and Wegovy, for weight loss.
High protein foods for weight loss
When adding protein to your diet, consider adding a variety of plant-based and animal protein sources. Here are some of the high-protein foods that can help on your weight loss journey:
Animal protein foods, like meats and animal products, are usually considered great sources of protein foods, because animal proteins tend to be easy for your body to absorb and use.
Here’s how much protein is in a few types of beef:
3 ounces (oz) of beef steak: 22 grams (g)
4 oz ground beef: 20 g
3 oz tenderloin: 20 g
In addition to protein, beef is also a great source of iron, magnesium, selenium, and other micronutrients.
Like beef, pork is considered red meat. Try to opt for less processed pork products which can be higher in fat or salt. Examples of leaner cuts of pork include:
4 oz pork chop: 24 g protein
3 oz pork tenderloin: 22 g
Pork also provides iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and iron.
Poultry, like chicken and turkey, are excellent sources of protein.
They tend to be leaner than red meats, which has made them the more popular choice over recent years. Most of the calories in poultry comes from protein, especially if you’re eating white meat without the skin.
The amount of protein in poultry is about:
3 oz roasted chicken breast: 27 g
4 oz ground turkey: 27 g
3 oz roasted turkey breast: 26 g
You’ll also find other vitamins and minerals in poultry, like b vitamins, magnesium, zinc, and potassium.
Fish is a staple food in many cultures and healthy diets. Especially fatty fish, like salmon and tuna. Fatty fish contain a type of fat called omega-3 fatty acids. Research suggests omega-3s may help lower inflammation and the risk of heart disease.
Here’s how much protein is found in a few types of fish:
Half a filet (156 g) of salmon: 40 g
3 oz (86 g) tuna: 25 g
3 oz cod: 17 g
Fish provides other nutrients like riboflavin, vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, magnesium, and potassium.
Like the other foods on this list, shellfish are packed with protein. And shellfish are excellent sources of nutrients like vitamin E, B vitamins, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin B12, copper, potassium, iron, and more.
Here’s how much protein is in a few types of shellfish:
3 oz lobster: 16 g
3 oz shrimp: 21 g
3 oz oyster: 25 g
3 oz crab: 15 g
Eggs are a popular breakfast food because they help pack in some protein early in the day. The amount of protein varies based on whether you’re eating the whole egg or just the egg whites or yolk.
Egg whites are mostly protein with some micronutrients. While the egg yolks provide protein, saturated fat, and other beneficial nutrients.
The amount of protein in eggs is:
1 large whole egg: 12 g
1 large egg yolk: 3 g
1 large egg white: 9 g
Greek yogurt has more protein than other types of yogurt because of how it’s made. Greek yogurt is strained which removes more moisture, whey protein, and lactose (sugar). This process leads to a thicker consistency and more tart taste.
Plain Greek yogurt provides about 16 grams of protein in a single serving (156 g) container.
Cottage cheese is heated and fermented to create a lumpy consistency. When dairy is heated, a type of protein called casein turns the milk solid and lumpy.
One cup (220 g) of cottage cheese provides about 24 grams of protein. And it contains other nutrients like selenium, phosphorus, vitamin B12, and more.
Regular milk provides less protein than the above dairy products. However, it’s still considered a good source of protein, with about 8 grams in a cup.
Fortified milk can also provide calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, phosphorus, magnesium, and B vitamins.
Beans and lentils are both excellent plant-based protein foods. They also are packed with fiber, which may help you stay full longer and support healthy weight maintenance.
Here’s how much protein is in a few popular legumes:
1 cup black beans: 15 g
1 cup chickpeas: 17 g
1 cup lentils: 18 g
1 cup kidney beans: 16 g
Nuts and nut butters
Nuts and nut butters are commonly thought of as high-calorie foods. Still, a good amount of those calories come from protein.
So while nuts are full of heart-healthy fats, they can still provide a protein boost to meals or snacks when consumed in moderation.
Here’s about how much protein is in a serving of nuts and nut butters:
1 oz almonds: 6 g
1 tablespoon (tbsp) almond butter: 3 g
1 tbsp cashew butter: 2 g
1 oz cashews: 4 g
1 oz pistachios: 6 g
Like nuts, seeds provide a big punch of protein and fat. Depending on the type of seed, they may provide fiber, iron, magnesium, vitamin E, and selenium.
Here’s how much protein is in a few types of seeds:
1 oz pumpkin seeds: 9 g
1 oz chia seeds: 5 g
1 oz sunflower seeds: 10 g
Soy and soybean products are popular among people who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet. The versatility and high protein content of these foods are a perfect fit for helping meet their needs.
Here’s the protein content in popular soy-based foods:
3 oz tempeh: 15 g
3 oz tofu: 5 g
1 cup edamame: 18 g
Quinoa is a whole grain. It’s one of the few plant-based complete proteins, meaning it contains all of the amino acids you need to eat. Most plant proteins only provide some of the essential amino acids.
There are about 8 grams of protein in one cup of cooked quinoa. In addition, quinoa is an excellent source of fiber, iron, folate, magnesium, zinc, copper, antioxidants, and other micronutrients.
Get access to GLP-1 medication (if prescribed) and 1:1 support to meet your weight goals
Other ways to maintain a healthy weight
When working to maintain a healthy weight, you’ll want to be mindful of more than just your dietary protein intake. Here are some other tips for maintaining a healthy weight:
Fill your plate with fruits and veggies
Limit breaded and fried meats
If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
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