So you want to lose weight, huh? If you’ve been down this road before (um, who hasn’t?), then you already know you’ve gotta start with snack recipes and toning exercises designed to help you reach those goals. But if you’re struggling to get rid of that annoying f***ing belly fat—and can’t bear the thought of yet another smoothie—it might be time to tweak your diet to squeeze in some extra protein.
Studies have shown that those who regularly fit in the daily recommendation—60 grams per day for a 160-pound woman—can lose more weight than those who don’t. And fortunately for us, protein is hiding out in all kinds of food so you aren’t stuck eating turkey meat until the end of time. So grab your grocery list and fill your cart with the following foods—they’re the best sources of protein that will help you say goodbye to those extra pounds for good.
While most veggies average between one to five grams of protein per serving, a cup of peas can contain up to 10 grams, making it one of the most important plant-based protein sources out there. But that’s not all: Unlike other plant sources, peas also contain high levels of glutamine, an amino acid compound that helps repair your muscles after workouts, improve digestive health, and they’ve even been shown to reduce sugar and alcohol cravings. In other words, start defrosting that bag in the freezer, like, right now.
2. Wild Salmon
Out of all the protein sources, almost all nutritionists would agree that organic wild fish is the best protein choice out there. Considering a five-ounce portion packs a hefty 39 grams of protein in it, we totally get why. Not to mention it’s full of omega-3 fatty acids, which help lower the risk of coronary heart disease, keep your LDL cholesterol levels in check (that’s the bad kind), and reduce inflammation. While farmed salmon has a decent amount of nutrients in it, it’s worth getting the wild variety, which the USDA says has around 130 fewer calories per serving.
We’re not just talking egg whites, people. Even though some claim there’s too much cholesterol and saturated fat in the yolk, the yolk is exactly where you’ll find tons of vitamins A, D, and E—stuff you’re not going to get in the whites alone. And you can’t argue with the heart healthy omega-3s, which research has shown reduces the risk of heart disease and weight problems. In other words, the whole egg is much more nutritious and contains around six grams of protein, so there’s no need to toss any of it aside.
4. Grass-Fed Beef
Although the Paleo diet may be a bit controversial, followers of the plan are definitely right about their devotion to grass-fed steak. Now that new research has disproven the age-old belief that there’s a link between dietary saturated fat and heart disease (there isn’t), having a lean sirloin—which has a cool 22.5 grams of protein in just three ounces—from time to time is gold. One caveat: When picking out beef, make sure it is grass-fed and not grain-fed. Grain-fed protein sources are going to increase inflammation because of the omega-6 fatty acids in them. Inflammation can lead to more belly fat, so it’s basically the exact opposite of what you’re going for. So, remember – grass fed!
5. White Beans
Generally speaking, organic white beans are a good way to rack up protein points without having to resort to an animal-based source. Whether they’re in the form of navy bean soup or eaten as a side dish with dinner, a one-cup serving contains about 16 grams of protein and a hefty amount of thiamine, a vitamin that helps your body metabolize carbs more efficiently. Before you load up your cart, though, make sure you’re picking out the right kind of white beans. A lot of the legumes we are picking up nowadays have been treated with harmful herbicides, so it’s important consumers are eating something that is organically-grown and not treated with harsh chemicals.
6. Pork Tenderloin
Sadly, bacon should probably still remain a weekend-only treat, but experts say to dig into the pork loin. Assuming you stick to a three- to six-ounce portion (which’ll nab you 23 to 30 grams of protein), the meat is great for your waistline—the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says it’s as lean as a skinless chicken breasts with just three grams of fat per six ounces, and it’s a solid source of thiamin, phosphorous, and vitamin B-6, all of which help break down carbs and fat in your body.
When it comes to protein-packed legumes, at around 20 grams per cup lentils are definitely a must. They’re also high in all sorts of minerals needed to maintain bone health, including magnesium, potassium, iron, folate, copper, and manganese. Oh, and they don’t require an annoying pre-soak before eating like other dried beans and legumes. So, lentil soup, anyone?
8. Peanut Butter
Okay, okay, so PB is kind of a calorific way to rack up nine grams of protein, but studies have shown that if you stick to the two-tablespoon serving size (about 190 calories), the spread can be a helpful weight-loss aid—especially if you eat it in the morning. According to researchers, adding it to your breakfast specifically can help you better distinguish when you’re full for the rest of the day, thanks to its ability to moderate glucose levels and control blood sugar spikes. Moreover, you’ll be less likely to overeat and actually stay full until lunch time.
9. Cow’s Milk
Nut milks like coconut, almond, and cashew are a great way to naturally get some vitamin D (all have about 25 grams per cup), but if we’re strictly talking calories and protein here, cow’s milk is a top-notch source. The stuff has just 86 calories while serving up eight grams of protein in a cup (as opposed to a measly one to two grams in the nutty options). That said, every glass of milk is definitely not created equally. To make sure you’re not being exposed to potentially harmful rBGH hormones or excessive amounts of estrogen—which research suggests is a potential link to prostate and breast cancers— opt for organic fat-free milk from grass-fed cows that have not been treated with hormones to play it safe.
Well, we know what we’ll be having for lunch today. All varieties of tuna—white, albacore, yellowfin—have around 25 grams of protein and only 150 calories in a three-ounce serving, making it an easy dieting win. That said, limit your intake: Experts say it’s best to stick to less than 12 ounces of seafood per week (no more than six if you’re pregnant), to make sure you’re not overdoing it on the mercury.
Not including the soy sauce or, um, heavy pour of sea salt on top (it’s okay, we do it, too), this classic appetizer boasts about 17 grams of protein per cup. As with most soy products though, you need to be careful about how much you dig in. Soybeans contain a fair amount of estrogen, so even though soy can definitely keep you full, it can also cause unwanted side effects sometimes. Namely we’re talkin’ bloat, headaches, and tender breasts. For the most part though, if you order a plate of edamame or drink a glass of soy milk now and again, Eades says you should still be okay.
Consider this yet another reason to eat that glorious piece of avocado toast in the morning. The fruit is loaded with omega-3s and beta-carotene, which helps boost your immune system. It’s a decent source of protein at five grams per fruit. Bonus: The monounsaturated fatty acids found in the stuff has been directly linked to eating less and feeling satisfied longer, and even helps fight inflammation.