There are many different high protein foods lists in existence, but most of them don't have a clear focus. Many authors are bouncing between sports nutrition, low fat content and other health benefits, but since this is a weight loss site, I decided to put together a list of top 10 high protein foods that would also be optimal for weight loss.
My first instinct for creating such a list was that I should find foods that have the highest protein content in comparison to their total calories. The foods with the highest protein-per-calorie ratio would allow you to ingest your proteins at the lowest calorie "cost". I will explain later why this may not the best way to find the optimal high protein weight loss foods, but let's get the list out of the way first.
Top 10 highest protein-per-calorie foods
Note that my list includes only the "real" food options. The USDA Nutrient Database feels more like a "technical" ingredient list, so I eliminated some of the refined/processed things like protein isolates (like soy protein isolate), powders (like egg white powder), energy drinks and some of the more exotic types of foods (like raw frog legs). Let's see what I came up with.
- COD (FISH)
- POLLOCK (FISH)
- TURKEY BREAST
- SEAWEED, SPIRULINA
- TUNA (FISH)
- NON-FAT MOZZARELLA
- HADDOCK (FISH)
- LING (FISH)
- PIKE (FISH)
As you can see the list is heavily dominated by fish (there is a reason why fish are so heavily promoted for health benefits as opposed to some other meats). But like I said, while some of the foods on this list can offer the highest protein-per-calorie density, they still lack one important factor for weight loss. None of the foods can provide volume, since their overall calorie content is still pretty high. So I have put together another list that still have a good protein-per-calorie ratio, but provide much more bulk for an equal amount of calories.
The high-bulk list
Again, I had to filter out some of the unrealistic foods options and this is what I was able to come up with:
- BAMBOO SHOOTS
- CHINESE CABBAGE
- SEAWEED, SPIRULINA
- GAZPACHO SOUP
- BUTTERHEAD LETTUCE
- MUSTARD SPINACH
- WHITE MUSHROOMS
- SQUASH (ZUCCHINI)
This list shows some of the bulkier options of high protein foods. You can get the same amount of protein from 100 grams of shrimp or from 900 grams (2 pounds) of asparagus. Even though you would be ingesting a bit more calories with asparagus (provided that you would actually be able to eat that much) than you would with shrimp, it should be pretty obvious which option would provide a better feeling of satiation.
If you noticed, seaweed and spirulina were represented on both lists, which happened because they are both high in proteins-per-calorie and low in calories-per-volume. But unfortunately this won't do you much good, since eating huge amounts of algae for better satiation is not really a realistic option.
When trying to construct a perfect weight loss diet for yourself using high protein foods, you can't just look at the high protein density, but you also need to consider the satiation factor. The feeling of fullness is one of the most important factors that can help you achieve your weight loss goals, so adding at least a few of the bulkier options (that still have a relatively high protein density) is always a good idea.