18 high protein, low fat foods
Protein is an important macro-nutrient that is required by the body. It builds and maintains muscle mass, boosts metabolism and satisfies one’s appetite.
There are lots of protein rich foods that you can eat but not all are the same in terms of fat content. In this article, we will focus on foods that are high in protein but low in fat.
18 g of protein and 1 g of fat per 1 cup (198 g) of cooked lentils
Lentils are a cheap and versatile, commonly eaten in the Middle East and India. Their size & colour varies, you can get red, brown, green, black and yellow lentils.
Besides their high protein content, they are also rich in a wide range of nutrients. These include the B vitamins, iron, phosphorus, potassium, manganese and zinc.
They are also an excellent source of dietary fiber, providing you with more than half of your daily requirement per cup. This makes them a heart and gut friendly food.
Lentils are usually eaten with rice but can also be used to prepare dips, curries and soups.
Beans & peas
15 g of protein and 1 g of fat per 1 cup (198 g) of cooked kidney beans
There are a wide range of beans to choose from including kidney, lima, black turtle and adzuki. All are high in protein and low in fat. Like lentils, beans also contain large amounts of vitamins and minerals, making them an ideal protein source for vegetarians and vegans. Green peas too are very good, providing 9 g of protein and 0 g of fat per 1 cup cooked.
It is important to prepare and cook beans thoroughly before consuming them. This is because they contain toxins and substances known as anti-nutrients. It is recommended that you soak beans overnight and then boil them at 100°C for 10 minutes to make them safe to eat.
Chicken and turkey breast
27 g of protein and 3 g of fat per 1/2 (86 g) cooked chicken breast
The meat obtained from fowl varies in terms of fat content. Much of the fat is found in the skin of the birds, which means that chicken and turkey breasts with the skin removed are high in protein but low in fat.
Animal based foods are complete protein sources because they provide all 9 essential amino acids that the body is not able to produce on its own.
Chicken and turkey breasts can be marinated and then cooked in lots of different ways. These include grilling, stir frying and barbecuing.
Tuna, tilapia & haddock
25 g of protein and 1 g of fat per 3 0z (85 g) of cooked yellowfin tuna
Most types of fish are high in protein but not all of them are low in fat. Fatty fish such as salmon and mackerel contain large amounts of fat (this doesn’t means they should be avoided, they are some of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids). Others such as tuna, tilapia & haddock are very low in fat.
Fish is one of the healthiest foods that you can eat. It is a source of many nutrients that a lot of people don’t get enough of. One example is iodine. It is also a good dietary source of vitamin D, improves brain function and may reduce the risk of a number of diseases.
If possible, choose wild-caught fish as this type is less likely to be exposed to pollutants and is often more nutritious.
18 g of protein and 1 g of fat per 3 0z (85 g) of cooked shrimp
Shellfish includes crustaceans and mollusks. Some popular types of shellfish that are high in protein and low in fat include shrimp, crab, mussels, lobster, clams and scallops.
It is important to note that whilst shellfish is low in fat, it does contain cholesterol. For example, 3 oz of cooked shrimp has 166 mg of cholesterol. However this doesn’t mean that eating shellfish is bad for you.
It is an important source of nutrients like vitamin B12, selenium, iron & iodine and provides these for very few calories. Shellfish can be cooked in a variety of different ways.
26 g of protein and 0 g of fat per 1 cup (243 g) of egg whites
Whole eggs have an almost equal fat to protein ratio; a large egg has 5 g of fat and 6 g of protein. However, all of the fat is found in the yolk. The yolk also contains a vast number of vitamins & minerals, which are needed to turn a single cell into a baby chicken.
Egg whites on the other hand contain no fat but lots of protein. They are also low in carbs and calories. This makes them an excellent food to eat, especially if you are watching your weight.
Depending on where you live, you may be able to buy ready to use egg whites at your grocery store. This saves you the hassle of separating and discarding the yolk.
No fat cheese
15 g of protein and 0 g of fat per 1 cup (145 g) of no fat cottage cheese
Whilst ordinary cheese tends to be high in fat, you can also get low fat or no fat varieties. Some great protein rich cheeses include cottage and mozzarella. Much of the protein found in cheese belongs to a family of proteins called casein. Cottage cheese is often eaten by athletes and bodybuilders in the evening as it is digested slowly by the body.
It is important to note that some types of cheese contain large amounts of sodium, so they should be eaten in small amounts. Eating too much sodium can negatively affect blood pressure and cause water retention. It is important to read nutrition labels before purchasing cheese so that you know exactly how much protein, fat and sodium it contains.
No fat yogurt and milk
18 g of protein and 0 g of fat per 170 g of no fat Greek yogurt
Another dairy product that has large amounts of protein is yogurt. As with cheese, you can get high fat and low fat versions of yogurt. Greek yogurt is made by straining ordinary yogurt and contains larger amounts of protein.
Yogurt is a good source of various vitamins & minerals. Two notable ones are calcium and phosphorus, which the body requires for healthy bones and teeth. Some yogurts are also rich in probiotics, which are great for gut health.
Yogurt can be eaten on its own, together with fruit or used to prepare smoothies such as this one which can be enjoyed for breakfast or after working out.
No fat versions of milk are also available which have around 9 g of protein per cup.
20 g of protein and 0 g of fat per 1 scoop (28 g) of whey protein powder
Whey protein is one of the most popular and best studied supplements in the world. It is common among gym goers, body builders and athletes. It is prepared from the liquid part of milk, which is obtained as a by-product during cheese production.
Whey is a high quality protein that provides all the essential amino acids required by the body. It is highly filling, promotes muscle growth and can also bring about other health benefits.
There are lots of brands that manufacture whey protein and it comes in a large variety of flavours. It is therefore important to read nutrition labels before making a purchase.
Brussels sprouts, artichokes and rapini
4 g of protein and 0 g of fat per 1 cup (156 g) of cooked Brussels sprouts
There are a few vegetables that contain impressive amounts of protein. These include Brussels sprouts, artichokes and rapini. Green vegetables such as these are the ones that you want to include in your diet regularly. They are rich in antioxidants which reduce free radical damage in our body.
Other vegetables such as kale, collard greens, mustard greens and spinach also contain generous amounts of protein. You should aim to eat at least 3 servings of various vegetables a day and more if possible. They can be used in salads, soups, stir fries and many other recipes.
4 g of protein and 1 g of fat per 1 tablespoon (7 g) of spirulina
Spirulina is unlike any of the foods in this list. It is a bluish green coloured algae that is grown around the world and is usually available in a dried powdered form or as tablets.
A number of studies have been carried out on spirulina to assess the benefits of eating it. Spirulina may help prevent cancer, lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol and assist with weight loss.
You can include spirulina in smoothies, oatmeal or simply add it to water and drink it down.
There are a number of high protein and low fat foods available for meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans. It is important to note that fat is a vital part of your diet so it is not a good idea to avoid it entirely. Healthy fat rich foods include avocados, nuts, seeds and fatty fish.
For high protein and low carb foods, check out this article.