If you’re trying to lose weight, you probably don’t need us to remind you that eating plenty of protein can help you reach your goal weight. Protein — even from unlikely sources like vegetables — digests at a slow, steady rate to help you feel fuller longer and make you less prone to junky cravings. Just as important, it’s essential for maintaining and building lean muscle mass to help your body torch tons of calories. So it’s worth loading up all around.
But do certain high-protein foods pack more get-lean power than others? You bet. Some foods serve up more protein for fewer calories, while a few boast extra weight-loss benefits that just might get you results even faster. Here’s a look at the most powerful picks — and why you should be eating them on the regular.
They just might be the best way to start your day. For just 140 calories, 2 large eggs will deliver 14 grams (g) of protein. That, combined with the fat in the yolks, will keep your blood sugar levels nice and steady, which can help stave off diet-derailing cravings. In fact, research shows that eating eggs for breakfast dampens the production of the hunger hormone ghrelin—and helps you eat less for the next 36 hours. Incredible, right?
You’ll get a whopping 22 g of protein in 85g of cooked wild salmon for just 155 calories. Just as important: Salmon is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help keep your appetite in check, according to a review published in the journal Nutrients. As for why you should aim to eat wild? Compared to the farmed stuff, it’s got about 32 percent fewer calories and nearly 1g more omega-3s per serving.
Sure, it’s not as popular as Greek yogurt. But a cup of cottage cheese actually delivers more protein — 28 g versus 24 g — for as little as 163 calories. As an added bonus? It’s relatively inexpensive. Cottage cheese generally costs less than Greek yogurt, so you can stock up on more of it.
BONELESS, SKINLESS CHICKEN BREAST
There aren’t too many other foods that’ll give you 26 g of protein for just 128 calories, which is why boneless, skinless chicken breast is a weight-loss wonder food. But here’s another reason: Chicken breast’s mild flavor makes it super versatile, meaning the number of ways to cook it is practically endless. That’s important, since boredom is a big reason why dieters often hop off the healthy eating train.
A cup of cooked lentils won’t just give you nearly 18 g of protein. It’ll also serve up a whopping 15 g of fiber, which helps slow the digestion of your meal and stabilize your blood sugar, so you stay satisfied for hours. The combo means that these humble pulses pack a potent weight loss punch. In a recent Canadian review, people who ate just one serving of lentils daily lost around 220g in just six weeks — without making any other changes to their diet. Now, just imagine what lentils could do as part of a healthy eating and exercise plan.
For just 30 extra calories per serving, an 85g serving of this lean meat will give you just as much protein as the same amount of boneless, skinless chicken breast (around 26 g). So when you want to branch out from your usual poultry pick, it’s an equally satisfying choice. Science shows that pork can help you reach your weight loss goals, too. A study in the journal Nutrients showed reduced that people who added lean pork to their diets lost weight and lowered their BMIs.
Haven’t given tofu’s lesser-known cousin a try yet? Now’s the time. Tempeh, a fermented soybean cake with a nutty flavor and a chewy, meaty texture, boasts 16 g of protein per 85g serving. Like lentils, tempeh is a fantastic source of fiber, giving you 7 g per serving. And that’ll help you stay fuller for even longer than pure protein alone.
Like wild salmon, tuna is another great source of fat-burning omega-3s, and packs 16 g of protein per 85g serving. But unlike it’s pink counterpart, canned tuna is crazy inexpensive — around $2 per can. Plus, having it on hand means you always have the makings of a healthy, filling meal. If you’re concerned about your mercury intake, stick with lower-mercury chunk light tuna instead of albacore.