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16 high-protein, low-fat foods to aid your weight loss journey

Here are the foods you need to add to your diet to see the best results.

16 High-Protein, Low-Fat Foods for Weight Loss | Juniper

There are a lot of factors to consider when it comes to sustainable weight loss. From your age and genetics to building healthy habits around sleep and a daily exercise routine, it’s safe to say there’s no quick fix to reaching your goal weight. One constant in any weight loss journey, though, is the need for a healthy, balanced diet. 

Naturally, many of us are quick to take a discerning eye to our diets when looking to lose weight. Fad diets promising instant results will see us cut calories significantly or eliminate entire food groups in the hope of shedding those unwanted kilos. But these diets don’t prove sustainable. Rather, you want to focus on eating the right foods. Think high-protein, low-fat meals that prove satisfying and help to curb your hunger levels. 

In recent years, protein has become something of a buzzword, with many proclaiming its health benefits when it comes to energy balance, bone health, heart health, and weight loss. For fat loss, you need to burn more calories than you consume.

So, how do high-protein foods help with this? Well, they can help to maintain muscle mass which is important for burning calories at rest. Plus, they help keep your blood sugar levels stable, which stops you from experiencing those energy crashes that leave you reaching for sugary snacks or high-fat foods

If you’re embarking on a weight loss journey and wondering how many grams of protein you need in your diet, you’ve come to the right place. Here, we dive into how protein intake can aid your weight loss and the high-protein, low-fat nutritious foods you need to add to your diet to see the best results.

What are the benefits of a high-protein, low-fat diet?

There are 3 main macronutrients in food: fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Each affects your body in different ways, but as numerous studies have shown, protein proves to be the most filling. This is because protein works to reduce your level of the hunger hormone ghrelin, and boosts levels of peptide YY. 

The latter contributes to feelings of fullness, which is why those who eat a high-protein diet often find they have a reduced appetite and are less likely to snack or overeat throughout the day. As a 2005 study illustrated, increasing protein intake from 15% to 30% of calories saw overweight women consume 441 fewer calories per day without intentionally restricting their diet [1]. 

But that’s not all protein does. Other benefits of a high-protein, low-fat diet include:

It helps build lean muscle

Muscles need protein to grow and repair. When people look to restrict their diets, they put a strain on their bodies and run the risk of entering a caloric deficit so extreme that their bodies turn to muscle as a source of energy, rather than fat stores.

A diet high in protein helps counter this by maintaining muscle profile. Couple this with regular exercise and strength training, and you can actually build more lean muscle which improves overall body tone but is also important for weight loss and burning fat. 

It boosts metabolism and burns fat

A high-protein diet works to fire up your metabolism. A slow metabolism can have an adverse effect on your weight, leading to weight gain and increased body fat storage as you burn less calories. Protein has a very low glycemic index score, which means it doesn’t raise your blood sugar levels when consumed and less insulin is needed to bring down those blood sugar levels after each meal.

This isn’t the case when eating simple carbohydrates or processed foods, which frequently release large amounts of insulin and can result in increased body fat storage. 

It has the highest thermic effect

Unlike fats and carbohydrates, your body has to work harder to chew and digest protein in food sources. This process is known as the thermic effect of food, for which protein scores the highest of all three macronutrients. Because the body has to work hardest to digest it, it burns extra calories while doing so, which can help you maintain a healthy weight or even see you lose weight

It encourages nutrient-dense foods

When eating a high-protein, low-fat diet, you’re more likely to choose lean sources of protein that are high in nutrients and fibre. This is beneficial for overall health, not just weight loss. 

It helps to control cholesterol levels

Cholesterol is a fatty substance made by the liver. It’s found in every cell of the body, but there are 2 kinds: high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

It’s believed that high-protein diets raise HDL levels and drop LDL cholesterol, namely because foods that fit in a high-protein, low-fat diet are nutrient-dense and less likely to contain sugar and saturated fats. High levels of HDL cholesterol can actually lower your risk for heart disease and stroke, according to the CDC [2]. 

How much protein do I need?

Protein is an essential nutrient and is needed for building and repairing muscle, as well as hair, skin, bone, and body tissue. Hemoglobin, which carries oxygen throughout the body via the bloodstream, also relies on protein. 

As a result, it’s important everyone gets adequate protein as we need a daily supply for optimum health. For women aged 19-70, 0.75 grams per kilogram of body weight is the daily recommendation, while for men it’s 0.84 grams per kilogram of body weight. 

However, when it comes to weight loss, it’s suggested to increase your protein intake. According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), you should consume between 1.6-2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of weight on a daily basis, particularly if you’re looking to lose weight [3].

It’s also important to remember that a high-protein diet will look different for everyone, as someone who does a lot of resistance exercise will require more than someone who doesn’t. Inadequate protein intake can lead to a number of health issues, with symptoms including muscle loss, brittle hair or dry skin, fatigue and weakness, and delayed wound healing. 

How many grams of fat can I eat?

When it comes to how much fat the body needs, it will vary for each individual depending on their body composition goals and body type. 

However, according to the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, unsaturated fats should make up 20-35% of your total daily calories, and saturated fats less than 10% [4]. The American Heart Association even goes a step further and suggests limiting saturated fat to less than 6% of daily calories [5]. 

Saturated fat vs unsaturated fat

Fat is an essential part of a healthy diet as it helps you to absorb vitamins and minerals and store energy. There are 2 kinds of fats — saturated and unsaturated — and they have key differences when it comes to your health. 

Saturated fats have only a single bond between carbon molecules. They are typically solid at room temperature and are found in animal products like fatty pieces of red meat, or full-fat dairy products like whole milk, butter, cream, and cheese. Too much saturated fat in your diet can increase LDL levels of cholesterol, which in turn puts you at greater risk of heart disease. 

In contrast, unsaturated fats have more unsaturated carbon bonds. They are liquid at room temperature and harden when chilled, often being found in foods from plants and seafood. Both monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats help lower LDL cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease. Monounsaturated fats provide the body with vitamin E, while polyunsaturated fats also provide essential fats that the body can’t produce itself, like omega-3s which help reduce inflammation. 

Both kinds of fat have benefits for the body, but generally, unsaturated fats are healthier as they lower inflammation and help to reduce cholesterol. A 2005 study found that participants who replaced 5% of their dietary intake of saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats were less likely to experience coronary heart disease than those who didn’t over a 4-10-year follow-up period [1]. 

In terms of replacing saturated fats with healthier unsaturated fats, consider eating nuts or seeds instead of cheese, consuming salmon rather than fatty red meats, and cooking with olive oil instead of butter.

16 high-protein, low-fat foods for weight loss

If you're hoping to drop some kilos, here are 18 foods you'll want to add to your grocery list:

  1. Beans and legumes. Black beans and lima beans provide a great source of protein and can easily be added to salads or used in a number of dishes when preparing healthy meals. 
  2. Tofu. This plant protein source is versatile and completely vegan. Half a cup of firm tofu provides 22 grams of protein.
  3. Broccoli. It might surprise you to hear that broccoli is actually a great source of protein compared to other vegetables. Though not high in protein on its own, it’s a great choice when looking at vegetables to add to dishes, as 1 cup of chopped broccoli has almost 2.6 grams of protein.
  4. Eggs. A large egg contains approximately 6 grams of protein and with the variety of ways they can be prepared, they make for a convenient high-protein snack. 
  5. Chicken breast and turkey. Lean proteins like chicken breast and turkey breast are excellent sources of protein. A 3-ounce serving of boneless chicken breast provides 26 grams of protein with just 1 gram of saturated fat. 
  6. Oats. Raw oats contain resistant starch, which releases byproducts that can make your cells more responsive to insulin, helping to reduce stubborn fat around your midsection
  7. Tuna. Whether cooked or canned, tuna is a great source of protein and healthy fats. It contains vitamins and minerals like B-complex vitamins, vitamins A and D, and iron. With just half a gram of fat, a 113-gram serving of tuna contains 23 grams of protein. 
  8. Lean meat. Lean cuts of meat like sirloin steak and ground beef are packed with protein. However, opt for those with no more than 4.5 grams of saturated fat per 100-gram cooked serving. 
  9. Salmon. Fatty fish like salmon have a high protein content and offer a lot of nutritious benefits. Omega-3 fatty acids can also help you feel fuller for longer. 
  10. White fish. White fish, like tilapia, packs a punch, with 30 grams of protein per 4-ounce serving. It’s a great option for those looking to lose weight, as it’s very filling when you need to enter a caloric deficit. 
  11. Low-fat Greek yogurt. A 100-gram serving of low-fat Greek yogurt contains 9 grams of protein.
  12. Low-fat cottage cheese. Half a cup of low-fat cottage cheese contains 14 grams of protein, making it a great small snack that can help curb appetite. 
  13. Lentils. Lentils are one of the most protein-packed beans, with one half-cup providing 12 grams of protein.
  14. Chia seeds. With 5 grams of protein per ounce, chia seeds are a high-protein food that can easily be added to smoothies or salads. They also contain fibre, calcium, and omega-3s. 
  15. Protein shakes and protein bars. If you’re struggling with a high-protein diet or are simply time-poor with meal preparation, consider protein shakes and protein bars. As an easy source of protein, they can be added to any healthy meal plan to help with muscle building. Be sure to read the ingredients to avoid unwanted sugars and other ingredients that add to your calorie intake.
    Our Nourish Shakes are packed with high-quality ingredients and the nutritional benefits of a balanced meal to support your weight loss journey and help you stay fuller for longer. 
  1. Whey protein powder. It’s possible to meet the daily protein intake recommendations with natural and whole foods, but for those struggling with a high-protein diet, whey protein powder is a great supplement. The key is to make sure you find a brand that has at least 25 grams of protein per scoop and limited added ingredients, so always read the nutrition label.

These 16 foods are certainly worth adding to your diet. With their high-protein, low-fat nutritional value, you’ll feel fuller for longer, curbing your appetite to support fat loss in a calorie deficit. Still, diet is just one part of your weight loss journey and for those looking for sustainable, long-term success, behavioural changes need to be addressed. 

Thankfully, Juniper’s Weight Reset Programme offers expert guidance for every step of the process, along with groundbreaking treatments to support you in your goals. Led by seasoned medical professionals and health coaches, this expertly designed programme allows you to approach weight loss holistically.

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