Lean protein helps to lose weight. How true is this statement?
Eric Edmeades, the author of Mindvalley’s WildFit program, says, “Exercise only makes you healthier if you get your nutrition handled correctly first.”
He adds, “If you aren’t putting in the correct nutrition, very often the exercise will end up damaging the body.”
If so, are lean proteins one of the correct nutrients and can truly help you lose weight?
Let’s put on our science lab coat and explore in-depth about high protein low fat foods and what you should eat to lose weight healthily.
What Is A Lean Protein?
Before we talk about “lean proteins”, we first have to explain what protein is and what they do.
Protein is one of the three macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins) that are responsible for many critical roles in the body. They act as:
- Antibodies to fight against viruses and bacteria
- Enzymes to carry out thousands of chemical reactions
- Messengers to transmit signals
- Support for the body to move
- A transport or storage for atoms and small molecules
Proteins are necessary to keep our body alive but some high protein foods also come with saturated fat (also known as bad fat), such as chicken or beef.
To get high-quality protein without all the bad fats, we need lean protein which is high protein low fat foods.
What makes food a lean protein?
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015 – 2020, the definition of “lean protein” refers to every 100 grams of beef (or any type of meat) contains less than 10 grams of fat, 4.5 grams or less of saturated fat and less than 95 milligrams of cholesterol.
For example, 95% of lean ground beef, pork tenderloin and skinless chicken or turkey breast.
How much protein should I eat per day?
The recommended protein intake at the 2,000-calorie level is 5.5 ounce-equivalents (156g) of protein foods per day.
Does Lean Protein Help To Lose Weight?
According to science, YES. And here’s why.
1. Increased satiety
Whether we feel hungry or not is orchestrated by a band of hormones in our bodies. Hormones that send the “I’m full” signals are peptide (GLP-1), peptide YY (PYY) and amylin. And, the “I’m hungry” signal-inducing hormone is primarily ghrelin.
Scientists aren’t sure how protein increases satiety, but numerous studies have found out that protein reduces ghrelin and increases the “I’m full” inducing hormones.
In short, high protein low fat foods make you feel full, longer. Hence, preventing episodic binges or craving impulses (except when you’re hungry emotionally).
2. Highest thermic effect of food (TEF)
The thermic effect of food (TEF) is the amount of energy used to digest, absorb and metabolize foods.
Age, physical activities, meal composition and more may affect TEF but in general, protein uses 20-30% of its usable energy for metabolism and storage, carbohydrate uses 5-10% and dietary fat require 0-3%.
In other words, low fat high protein foods help you burn more calories, although several studies have indicated the protein TEF is highly variable and difficult to quantify.
3. Less saturated fats and trans fats
Different parts of the meat have a different amount of calories, proteins, fats, and other nutrients. Take beef for example.
A 4-ounce lean beef tenderloin steak (boneless) has 153 calories, 25g of protein and 5.8g of total fats. And our favorite, a 4-ounce beef rib-eye steak (boneless) has 272 calories, 21.1g of protein and 20.8g of fats.
When you choose to eat lean foods, you’re also reducing the amount of bad fats. This will lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol in your body.
What Are High Protein Foods For Weight Loss?
Weight loss is not a thing. Health is a thing. Weight loss is just a byproduct of health.
— Eric Edmeades, Author of Mindvalley’s WildFit Program
Eating the right high protein low-fat foods not only enhances your health but also helps you lose some fats in the process.
In this section, you’ll learn foods that are regarded as lean proteins and their nutritional profile to help you plan your diet better.
Plant-based protein foods
The foods in this group are nuts, seeds, soy products, and legumes.
Certain vegetables are high in protein too and there are so many of them. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of high protein vegetables you should consume.
These chewy and crispy nuts are more than just snacks replacing french fries. They also make your life healthier: reducing risks of heart diseases, less likely to gain weight or become obese, and they make you feel full. It’s the perfect low fat high protein foods to lose weight effectively.
Did you know that plant seeds pack a ton of nutrients in a single tablespoon?
They are great sources of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Seeds can help reduce cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure.
For every 1 ounce (28.45g),
- Hemp seeds: 166 calories, 9.5g of protein and 14.6g of fat
- Pumpkin seeds: 158 calories, 8.6g of proteins and 14g of fat
- Sunflower seeds: 166 calories, 5.9 protein and 14.6g of fat
- Flax seeds: 152 calories, 5.2g of protein and 12g of fat
- Chia seeds: 138 calories, 4.7g of proteins and 8.7g of fat
- Sesame seeds: 159 calories, 4.7g of protein and 13.5g of fat
3. Soy products
Packed with soy protein and health benefits, studies have shown that people who consume soy products are less likely to get type 2 diabetes, heart and blood vessel diseases, and certain types of cancers.
Thanks to the nutrients in soy (protein, vitamin C, folate, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, and thiamin), they became one of the popular high protein low calorie foods for weight loss.
For every 100g,
- Tofu: 76 calories, 8g of protein and 4.9g of fat
- Edamame: 121 calories, 12g of protein and 5.2g of fat
- Soy milk: 43 calories, 2.6g of protein and 1.5g of fat
- Tempeh: 195 calories, 20g of protein and 12g of fat
- Soy nuts: 469 calories, 38g of protein and 25g of fat
- 94% of soybeans in the U.S are GMO plants. So, if you’re not a fan of GMO products, opt for organic or non-GMO.
Compared to red meat, legumes are a much better choice; they are packed with the same nutrients as red meat but with fewer drawbacks.
Dr. Meir Stampfer, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, says, “It seems clear that replacing red meat with legumes can reduce the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases and even certain forms of cancer.”
“Wait, what are legumes?”
They are edible beans, peas, and lentils — like black beans, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), snow peas, soybeans, peanuts and more.
Legumes are great high protein low fat foods choices — half a cup of cooked beans provides between 6 to 9 grams of protein. Even better, legumes and beans are rich with plant protein, fiber, iron, calcium, folate, potassium, zinc, phosphorus, and B vitamins.
For every 100g,
- Adzuki beans: 128 calories, 7.5g of protein and 0.1g of fat
- Black beans: 132 calories, 8.9g of protein and 0.5g of fat
- Broad Beans (also known as fava beans): 110 calories, 7.6g of protein and 0.4g of fat
- Garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas): 164 calories, 8.86g of protein and 2.6g of fat
- Lentils: 116 calories, 9g of protein and 0.4g of fat
Animal-based lean protein food
Animal products are complete protein because they provide all 9 essential amino acids as opposed to most plant-based products.
This benefit, however, comes at the cost of saturated fats — that are absent in plants.
In order to get the best of both worlds, we’ve curated a list of animal-based high protein lean calorie foods that have the most protein and the least saturated fat.
Read on to know a surprising fact about eggs!
Good news, seafood lovers! Most seafood is lean protein, and they’re loaded with nutrients and benefits. They can help to decrease the risks of stroke, hypertension, obesity and heart attack.
Some of the healthiest fishes you should eat that are high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in mercury include: salmon, trout, herring, anchovies, sardines, Pacific oysters, Atlantic mackerel and Pacific mackerel.
Important note: Most fish contain high mercury levels which is considered a contaminant that can cause genetic abnormalities and damage brain or kidneys functions.
To help ensure safe seafood eating and high mercury intake, eat a variety of fish and avoid fish high in mercury — such as tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, shark, swordfish and king mackerel.
So red meat is a confusing one. It has been the debate of many saying it’s good for you while others say that protein from meat sources is dangerous to your health in the long run.
One debate, for example, is how beef, pork, buffalo, mutton, and venison are not good for heart health because they contain a lot of fats and cholesterol
However, this only holds true to red meat that is highly-processed. On the other hand, a healthy and clean cut of lean beef that is unprocessed is rich in healthy proteins and micronutrients.
Let’s take a 4-ounce 95% lean raw ground beef as an example; it contains 155 calories, 24.2g of protein, 5.65g of fats, and lots of phosphorus, potassium, selenium, and folate.
You might say, “What about bacon? Is bacon a lean protein?”
The answer is no, bacon is not considered a lean protein.
A 100g of cooked pork bacon contains 34g of fat, 12g of saturated fats and 99mg of cholesterol. Its fat content is at least 3x higher than a typical lean meat and it’s a highly processed meat.
Without a doubt, bacon is a big no-no in your diet.
- When choosing lean beef, look for parts that have the words like “loin,” “round” or “roast”. And certain steak parts like flank and chuck shoulder steaks.
- For beef grades, opt for “select” or “choice” instead of “prime” as prime-grade cuts typically contain more fats.
- For lean pork, look for words like “loin” or “chop”.
- If possible, try to opt for meats that come from grass-fed sources as opposed to grain-fed.
Also known as white meat, these lean cuts (like chicken breast) are super low in fats and loaded with healthy proteins.
A piece of skinless chicken breast (272g) contains 326 calories, 61.2g of proteins, 7.13g of fats, and other nutrients such as selenium, phosphorus, vitamin B-12, and niacin.
And surprisingly, it contains zero carbohydrates.
Chicken and turkey breasts are your best friends. Skip the drumsticks and thighs because they contain more fats.
Important notes: Ensure to trim all visible fats and remove the skin.
E.G.G. The most convenient power food.
But does it help you to lose weight? And more importantly, lose weight healthily?
It’s undeniable that eggs are one of the high protein low calorie foods — a large boiled egg (50g) has 71 calories, 6.24 protein, 4.72 fats.
You may have heard people saying, “Egg yolks have more protein than whites”, but how true is this?
Surprisingly, a single yolk has the same amount of protein as a single egg white!
All the more reason to add yolks into your diet. But not too much. Yolk contains high cholesterol so eat it sparingly.
A Take Home Message
Before you eat non-functional foods, get the nutrients you need first.
— Eric Edmeades, Author of Mindvalley’s WildFit Program
If high protein low fat foods listed above don’t come close to what you eat every day, you might feel overwhelmed and not sure where to start. You might begin to feel guilty, even.
This is one thing you need to know.
It’s not your fault.
We’ve been influenced by the food industry to eat non-functional foods that make us feel good.
“What do you mean by non-functional foods?”
They contain mostly calories, sugar, fats, oil, and minimal nutrients that our bodies truly need. For example, soda, donuts, fast foods, biscuits, sweets, pastries, ice creams, and the list goes on and on.
Although these non-foods have deeply penetrated into our daily diet, we still hold the power to change that.
The first step is to realize the big food industry lies and understand what you’re really eating.
Which lean protein foods are your go-to for weight loss? What are they and did they work? Share your experiences in the comments below!