The Importance of Protein
Because the moment it leaves your fork, protein starts winnowing your waistline. High-protein foods take more work to digest, metabolize and use, which means you burn more calories processing them. They also take longer to leave your stomach, so you feel full sooner and for a longer amount of time. The cumulative effect has obvious benefits for anyone who is watching her weight.
In a study published in Nutrition Metabolism, dieters who increased their protein intake to 30% of their diet ate nearly 450 fewer calories per day and lots about 11 pounds over the 12-week study without employing any other dietary measures.
And if like most successful dieters, you are burning calories as well as counting them, protein is doubly essential for making sure you lose fat, not muscle. Your body uses the amino acids in protein to build lean muscle, which not only makes you stronger and more tones but also burns calories even when you aren’t active – unlike lazy fat.
But not all proteins are created equal. While nuts, whole grains, and veggies technically count, they don’t contain all nine of the amino acids our body needs in order to build lean muscle. Those that do – known as complete proteins – are typically found in animal products. Your best flat belly bets are skinless white chicken or turkey, seafood, low-fat dairy, pork tenderloin and lean beef. All of these foods have just one to three grams of fat per 50-calorie serving.
Vegetarians need to be a little more creative. Pairing incomplete proteins – peanut butter on whole-wheat bread, or brown rice and beans, for example – can pinch-hit for complete ones. Other options for vegetarians include complete proteins such as tofu, hemp seed, buckwheat and quinoa.
The beauty of protein is that with so many tasty options, getting your daily dose is a simple pleasure!
Have some protein for dinner tonight!