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19 Lean Protein Sources to Help With Your Weight Loss Efforts

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Kasparas Aleknavičius, MD November 7, 2022

A high protein diet can be highly beneficial for weight loss. Eating more protein can help to lower hunger hormones and cravings and boost the number of calories you burn each day.

Getting enough protein can seriously impact your weight loss efforts, and as such, you’re probably looking for some good sources of protein. In this article, we will take a look at sources of both plant protein and lean animal protein.

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1. Fish

When it comes to eating fish as one of the lean proteins in your diet, you need to look out for white-fleshed fish. It includes fish like cod and halibut.

Most white-fleshed fish can offer between 20–25 grams of protein per serving with only 3 grams of fat. It is also a low-calorie option, usually only providing 85–130 calories per serving.

Other health benefits of adding white fish into your diet include reduced inflammation, immune system support, and healthier bones.

2. Shrimps

Shrimps are great sources of lean protein. They offer about 22 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving with just 2 grams of fat and a calorie value of 110kcal.

When eating shrimps as a source of protein, ensure you choose shrimp with only naturally-occurring salt as some products contain lots of additives that can be harmful to health when consumed in high quantities.

Shrimp provides many micronutrients that form part of a healthy diet, including iron, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, magnesium, and sodium. They also contain iodine, which is necessary for thyroid function, and antioxidants, which can protect your body from the damage caused by oxidative stress.

3. Lean Beef

Lean beef usually describes a cut of beef containing less than 10g of total fat and 4.5g of saturated fat per serving. It is usually indicated by words like ‘loin’ and ‘round’ on unlabeled products.

Lean options of beef can come in many varieties, including ground beef and round steak. Always opt for the leanest beef you can find, as it is best for your health.

For example, a burger patty made with a lean type of ground beef will have around 5.6g of fat and be about 155 calories but provide you with 22g of protein. Lean ground beef may also be a good source of B vitamins, selenium, and zinc.

As with most red meat options, you should ensure you eat beef in moderation to keep your saturated fat intake within the recommended daily amounts.

4. Pork Loin

Pork loin is frequently featured on lists of high-protein foods. Pork loin is a lean cut of pork and usually provides around 23 grams of protein per 3oz serving. A serving this size would have around 12 grams of fat and about 206 calories.

Lean pork loin is also a good source of many minerals, including B vitamins, iron, and zinc.

5. Turkey

Turkey is a rich source of lean protein. As a form of skinless white poultry, it is a commonly recommended protein source.

For a generic portion of turkey breast, you could get upwards of 32 grams of protein with just 8 grams of fat and 212 calories.

Like many lean meat sources of protein, turkey can provide you with B vitamins, zinc, potassium, iron, and phosphorus. It also has a low GI, meaning it keeps your blood sugar levels stable after consumption.

6. Chicken

Another form of skinless white poultry, white meat chicken, can also provide you with a good chunk of protein. A 3.5oz serving of cooked chicken can provide you with around 30 grams of protein, with just 239 calories and 14 grams of fat.

With poultry, it is always best to avoid the skin if you want to lose weight. A 3.5oz serving of roasted chicken breast with the skin would have about 8g of total fat, whereas, without the skin, the total fat value drops to just 3.5g.

In cuts of chicken, you will usually find B vitamins, vitamin D, and iron, among other essential minerals. It is a high-protein food crucial in weight management and can easily form part of a healthy and balanced diet.

7. Liver

Liver is actually considered a nutrient-rich superfood and one of the best sources of lean protein you can add to your diet. In one 3oz serving, you’ll find about 22g of protein with just 3.7g of fat and 140 calories overall.

Liver meat is also packed full of the essential amino acids your body needs along with a ton of vitamins and minerals. Micronutrients you will find in liver meat include vitamin A, B vitamins, iron, copper, and choline.

Liver meat is a great source of lean proteins, and with a low total fat value, you can get your protein with fewer calories when you add it into your diet.

8. Tofu

Tofu is a great place to start if you’re looking to get your intake from plant proteins. A 3oz serving of tofu provides about 9g of protein and has a total fat value of just 3.5g. Though it does not have as much protein as some lean meat options, it is a lower-calorie food, with only 71 calories per serving.

Tofu can provide you with sufficient amounts of amino acids that are essential to your body. In addition, it is low in saturated fat.

In terms of mineral content, tofu adds potassium, magnesium, manganese, and copper to your diet and is filled with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals.

9. Edamame

One cup of edamame can provide you with a massive 17g of protein. With just 8g of fat in the same serving and 189kcal, edamame is a really good option if you’re looking for low-fat vegetable sources of protein.

Edamame is packed full of essential micronutrients for our health, including calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, potassium, folate, vitamin K, and copper. It may also lower cholesterol and help with blood sugar regulation.

10. Soybeans

In 3.5oz of boiled soybeans, you’ll find about 16.6g of protein, 9g of fat (about 1.3g of which is saturated fat), and 173kcal.

Soybeans can also offer a range of nutrients, including molybdenum, an essential trace element, copper, manganese, and phosphorus, as well as some B vitamins. They also include other plant compounds, some of which are thought to lower cholesterol in animals.

11. Plain Greek Yogurt

In a 7oz serving of plain Greek yogurt, you’re looking at around 20g of protein. It comes with about 3.8g of fat and 100 calories.

This is a versatile food option to add to your diet. As a plain yogurt, it can be served with fruit to increase your micronutrient intake and can be found in low-fat Greek yogurt varieties for those on low-fat diets.

It is good for muscle building and can make a change from lean cuts of meat sources of protein.

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12. Low-Fat Cottage Cheese

Reduced-fat cottage cheese is a good source of protein, providing about 28g of protein per one-cup serving. This same serving size has about 2.5g of fat and just 163 calories.

With active probiotic cultures, reduced-fat cottage cheese is good for your gut, and it can offer you a good amount of your recommended daily intake of calcium.

13. Low-Fat Milk

Low-fat milk is another versatile option when it comes to protein sources. It can be cooked with, baked with, or just drunk on its own. However you use it, it adds protein to your diet.

A 1-cup serving of low-fat milk has around 8g of protein, just 2g of fat, and only about 105 calories.

14. Egg Whites

Egg whites are the most protein-filled part of an egg and can be used in various ways. You can mix egg white protein powders into homemade protein bars, add powdered egg whites to your baked goods or smoothies, make egg white muffins, or use fresh egg whites to make an egg-white omelet.

Egg whites are a great low-fat lean protein, with just 0.5g of fat but 3.5g of protein per egg. They’re a good lean protein for those who are vegetarian.

15. Beans and Legumes

Beans and legumes are a great lean protein source for those who follow a vegan or plant-based diet. On average, they can offer about 8g of protein per half-cup serving and are low in fats. They have a high fiber content, which is great for weight loss and your digestive system.

They are low in amino acids, but with other plant protein sources eaten daily, you will likely fill these gaps. Beans and legumes are thought to lower cholesterol too, which makes them good food to add to your diet.

16. Quinoa

Quinoa is a fantastic source of protein, particularly for those who do not eat lean cuts of meat or very lean white fish.

Quinoa is a whole grain, and one cooked cup serving provides about 8g of protein. It is also high in fiber and other essential nutrients like manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, and B vitamins.

17. Hemp Seed

Per 30 g of hemp seeds, you’ll find more than 9g of protein, making these tiny seeds powerful sources of protein. They also provide your body with omega-3 fatty acids and fiber.

Adding hemp seeds to your diet can add minerals, including vitamin E, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, and they are thought to boost heart health and reduce inflammation.

18. Nutritional Yeast

Nutritional yeast is a staple of many vegan and plant-based diets. It is a powerhouse of protein, providing about 8g of protein per two-tablespoon serving. It is also a fantastic source of many B vitamins, potassium, and zinc.

Nutritional yeast can be both used in cooking and as a seasoning.

19. Almonds

Like many nuts and seeds, almonds are an excellent source of protein and healthy fats. They provide about 7 g of protein per ¼ cup serving.

In addition to protein and healthy fats, almonds can also enhance your fiber intake, lower blood sugar levels, reduce high blood pressure, and they may be able to lower cholesterol levels too.

Many nuts and seeds are classed as a good lean protein source and can offer you healthy fats. However, some nuts and seeds do contain saturated fat too. Do some research to find the best nuts and seeds to keep your saturated fat intake within the recommended daily allowance.

What Is Lean Protein and Why Should You Include It in Your Diet?

Lean protein refers to sources of protein that have less than 10g of total fat and less than 4.5g of saturated fat. Lean protein can help you to get the protein you need without the side order of fats that generally come with regular protein.

Lean protein can help you lower high blood pressure and boost the good cholesterol in your body, and it is crucial for weight loss.

Adding lean protein to your weight loss regime can help you feel fuller and reduce hunger cravings, stopping you from overeating and consuming too many calories daily.

How much protein you need per day depends on the kind of diet you are following. For example, if you are working on muscle building, you will need more protein than someone aiming to lose weight.

Why Is Protein Crucial in an Intermittent Fasting Diet?

For those who choose intermittent fasting, protein is an essential part of this diet. Protein is digested more slowly than carbohydrates which means that when it is eaten before a fast, it can help you feel fuller for longer. It helps to reduce hunger cravings during a fast.

If you’re interested in intermittent fasting but don’t know where to start, check out the DoFasting site for all the information you could need to start this eating method. You’ll find tips on methods including the 24-hour fast, the 5:2 method, and the 16:8 method, as well as information on the DoFasting app.

The DoFasting app can support you as you begin intermittent fasting. It provides thousands of recipes suitable for this weight loss method and a space to track your calorie intake and progress.

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Conclusion

Lean protein is an essential part of a weight loss diet. It can help you to feel fuller for longer, reduce hunger cravings, and stop overeating, supporting your weight loss efforts.

Check out our list of sources of lean protein and add them to your weight loss diet now.

Author

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Kasparas Aleknavičius, MD
  • Head of Medical Affairs at Kilo Health
  • Medical Doctor at Vilnius University, Lithuania
  • Partnering with the EU-funded Young50 and EUPAP projects

Kasparas Aleknavicius is a medical doctor that graduated from Vilnius University, working as head of medical affairs at Kilo Health. After nearly 5 years in the industry, Kasparas focuses on digital health and is looking for innovative ways to help people lead healthy lifestyles through digital health and wellness platforms.

You can find Kasparas on LinkedIn and follow his latest research on Medium.

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