Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lacking Dietary Protein Might Cost You Extra Pounds

Low carb and low fat diets abound. Just walk down the 'Diet' or 'Nutrition' aisle in your local book store or online and you'll be bombarded with a variety of diet options, most of which are likely based on those philosophies. One thing you won't find, however, is the advocacy of skimping on protein in your diet for plenty of good reasons, including weight management and immune system function.

Lots of people find it difficult to have protein at every meal because the first thing that comes to mind is meat, and not everyone loves or eats meat, particularly at every meal. Meat certainly is a great source of protein, but it is important to choose cuts that are as lean as possible, because along with that essential protein, you might wind up with extra saturated fats that you weren't banking on.

The good news, if meat isn't your thing, is that there are plenty of other good sources of the essential macronutrient that are affordable and simple to find and prepare. Some excellent sources of protein include egg whites (you can buy them in a carton, pasteurized), beans and legumes, including lentils and chick peas, low fat dairy products, especially Greek yogurt, tofu and soy products and in smaller amounts in whole grains like quinoa.

Hopefully that's got you thinking about ways you can start adding more protein to your diet, because you're going to want to after you read this: According to new research, people who skimp on dietary protein end up eating more carbohydrates and fats in the form of snacks, and most often gain weight as a result.

Sacrificing protein in your diet might result in significantly higher intakes of total calories, even if you're just a few grams short of what is recommended. In a study from the University of Sydney in Australia, reported online in PLoS One, , participants who ate 10% of their dietary calories from protein ended up eating plenty more snacks and calories throughout the day than those who consumed 15% of their calories from protein. Beyond 15% (the recommendation for adults), there was no significant difference in calorie consumption among participants. Hunger levels were similar across all groups, but were slightly lower after a breakfast with more protein consumed. The researchers think that the increase in calorie intake might be due to the 'sensory qualities' associated with protein that we might be inadvertently seeking in the form of snacks.

At breakfast, add in some egg whites, choose a high protein breakfast cereal (like Kashi Go Lean), fortified oatmeal (like an instant one from Quaker) or a whole egg. At lunch, try adding some quinoa, beans, lean turkey or tuna packed in water. At dinner, you could add some whole wheat pasta, fish and edamame beans. Anything goes!

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