I previously discussed the health benefits of high-fiber foods and being wary of grains. Let’s now look at the health benefits of high-protein foods for weight loss, heart health, and more.
High protein for weight loss
I love a high-protein meal. Protein is found in meats as well as vegetable sources. The good news here is that higher protein food reduces obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, muscle wasting (in the elderly), and more. Let me take a closer look at the role of protein in weight loss and maintenance.
Several meta-analyses of shorter-term feeding studies of higher-protein energy-restriction diets clearly resulted in greater weight and fat loss, and preservation of lean mass compared to lower-protein energy-restriction diets. For example, one meta-analysis of 24 tightly controlled feeding trials compared higher-protein with lower-protein weight-loss diets lasting 12 ± 9 weeks in duration, including 1063 overweight or obese individuals aged 18 and 80 years of age. The higher-protein diets had from 27% to 35% of daily calories as protein, compared to the lower-protein diets with only 16–21% protein. The higher-protein diets caused significantly more weight loss and fat loss compared with the lower-protein diets.
Higher protein foods reduced not only waist circumference but also triglycerides and blood pressure. Similar findings were found and reported in a meta-analysis among people with type 2 diabetes.
The even better news is longer-term studies also show persistent body weight and fat mass loss from higher-protein weight-loss diets. Let’s look at some interesting ways protein foods helps in weight loss.
Protein’s effect on appetite
When you eat a higher protein food, you’ll get a stronger feeling of fullness than from dietary fat or carbohydrates. This leads to a reduced daily food intake. 
This is because dietary protein stimulates peptide YY (PYY) and glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1). These two hormones are associated with satiety and reduced food intake Also, the quantity of protein is related to the magnitude of PYY and GLP-1 secretion.
Correspondingly, protein inhibits ghrelin, the hormone that enhances hunger. 
What’s more, there is a meal-related minimum quantity threshold of 25 to 30 grams of protein required to stimulate protein synthesis, which builds lean muscle. Also, there is a meal-related minimum quantity threshold for satiety (feeling of fullness) too, which ranges from 20 to 207 grams per meal. Interestingly, studies also show a graded effect on lowering appetitive after higher-protein meals (along with increased GLP-1 and PYY measurements) and raising postprandial fullness (along with decreased ghrelin measurements) after consuming 24, 44, and 88 grams of protein per meal.
There also appears to be a ceiling effect on satiety—a point at which additional protein consumption in any one meal does not further increase satiety.
Finally, it should be noted that whey protein suppressed hunger more effectively than casein protein or soy protein sources.
How much protein for weight loss?
In order to improve lower your body weight, keep it off, and improve heart health, studies indicate you must eat the following quantity of protein:
89–119 grams of protein per day for women
104–138 grams of protein per day for men
Let’s take a closer look at what foods contain the most protein.
Foods highest in protein
Here are some of the highest protein foods to consider (in decreasing % of calories): generally highest in meats, but also dairy, nuts, seeds, legumes, veggies, and some grains:
Tuna, 1 cup contains 39 grams of protein (94% of calories).
Whey protein powder contains from 20-50 grams of protein per/serving (90% or more of calories)
Shrimp, 85 grams (3 oz) contains 18 grams of protein (90% of calories)
Chicken breast, 100 grams (3 oz) contains 31 grams of protein (80% of calories)
Turkey breast, 85 grams (3 oz) contains 24 grams of protein (70% of calories)
Cottage cheese, 1 Cup 2% milkfat contains 27 grams of protein (59% of calories)
Lean beef, 100 grams (3 oz) contains 22 grams of protein (53% of calories)Non-fat Greek yogurt, 6 oz contains 17 grams of protein (48% of calories)
Salmon, 85 grams (3 oz) contains 19 grams (46% of calories)
Eggs, 1 large contains 6 grams of protein (35% of calories) but egg whites are almost all protein
Milk, 1 Cup of whole milk contains 8 grams of protein (21% of calories)
Quinoa, 1 Cup cooked contains 8 grams of protein (15% of calories).
Oats, half Cup, contains 13 grams of protein (15% of calories)
Almonds, 1 oz contains 6 grams of protein (13% of calories)—as other nuts
Remember you can put protein powder in any smoothie to boost the protein content with so much fiber you’ll be sure to lose weight, lower disease, and feel your best. Now it is your job to be creative in preparing high protein, high fiber meals, and snacks.
To long-term health and feeling good,
Michael Cutler, M.D.
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