Keen to add some more high protein low carb foods to your diet? To help you decide if it’s the right move for you, we spoke to three nutrition experts to get their take on this way of eating and find out their favorite high protein low carb foods.
If you’re focused on giving your lifestyle a healthy overview, tweaking your diet might be your next move. Perhaps you’ve taken up running (check out our best treadmill guide ready for winter), or maybe you are slowing things down and learning how to meditate.
Whatever positive changes you’ve made, we’ve found good habits have a way of gathering momentum — so is now the right time to add more high protein low carb foods to your diet? Let’s find out…
Caroline Hind mBANT CNHC is a registered Nutritional Therapist for Vitaminology. She specialises in disease prevention, weight management, type 2 diabetes and cognitive health.
Paige is a Level 3 qualified Personal Trainer at MotivatePT and Accredited Sports Nutritionist passionate about supporting MotivatePT Clients to reach their health and fitness goals with a holistic approach. Paige has over four years of industry experience and specialises in strength and conditioning, nutrition and also has her pre and post-natal training course.
15 high-protein low carb foods
“This is an obvious source of protein for many people as it is quick and easy to buy and cook. While lower in vitamins and minerals than red meat, chicken is a good way to introduce protein to stir-fries and casseroles. Strips of chicken can be marinated in soy, chili and garlic and grilled – eating adequate protein doesn’t have to be boring,” says Caroline Hind mBANT CNHC, Registered Nutritional Therapist for Vitaminology.
“If you like chicken, turkey is a fantastic low-fat, high-protein alternative. Turkey is very lean and therefore has much less fat than other meats, which can be helpful for weight loss. If you are looking to reduce your fat intake, be sure to remove the skin on your cut of meat before you eat it,” says Louise Bula, Dietitian at My Juniper.
“Red meat is particularly rich in zinc for immunity and vitamin B12 for the health of the nervous system. Beef stew is a good source of collagen for healthy joints and skin,” says Caroline.
“One of the most well-known benefits of fish is that it is really high in the healthy fat omega-3, which comes with loads of benefits like soothing inflammation, lowering blood pressure, and reducing the risk of heart disease. It’s also high in vitamin D, which helps to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in your body, which in turn keeps bones, teeth, and muscles healthy,” says Louise.
“Nature’s convenience food, eggs contain healthy fats to stabilize blood glucose and bring us a range of fat-soluble vitamins – vitamins A, D, E and K. In addition, the yellow of egg yolks contains some important nutrients for eye health, such as lutein,” says Caroline.
“Pork is actually lower in fat and calories than beef. If you opt for a good cut. Similar to lamb, pork is a great source of B12 and iron, as well as vitamin B6 which can improve brain health,” says Louise.
7. Greek yogurt
“Dairy protein supports muscle maintenance and can help with weight management. Greek yogurt additionally contains bone-supporting fat-soluble vitamins and calcium,” says Caroline.
“Lamb is a great source of high-quality protein and contains a lot of essential vitamins and minerals, like iron, zinc, and B12. These vitamins and minerals can help with digestion, energy-boosting, and strengthen your immune system. You need to be mindful however that it does contain a high level of saturated fat, these are the types of fats most often found in animal products that can increase your cholesterol levels. Try to have lamb once a week, or every two weeks,” says Louise.
“Another food rich in zinc for immunity, as well as other useful vitamins and minerals, shellfish is one of the traditional Omega-3-oil foods that helped our distant ancestors develop their brains,” says Caroline.
10. Cottage cheese
“Cottage cheese is a really healthy source of calcium, which is widely known to improve bone and tooth health. Beyond this, cottage cheese is a good source of selenium, which may help to boost your thyroid health,” says Louise.
“A good source of protein in plant-based diets, tempeh is based on fermented soy beans to give a rich supply of nutrients such as B vitamins and a variety of minerals,” says Caroline.
“Beef jerky is a great low-carb snack option, being rich in important minerals like zinc and iron. With a long shelf life, it’s a great snack to have stocked up in your pantry cupboard. Just be mindful that it does contain a high level of sodium, so it certainly should be consumed in small quantities and those with high blood pressure or heart disease, it's probably best to opt for an alternative snack,” says Louise.
“Research has found that dairy fat and protein can help with weight management and muscle development. Cheese has a stabilizing effect on blood glucose and makes meals satisfying, helping to reduce the need for snacks. With calcium and fat-soluble vitamins too, cheese in all its varieties is a useful addition to the diet,” says Caroline.
14. Protein powder
“If you don’t feel that you’re getting enough protein from the foods in your diet, supplements like the best protein powder for weight loss can give you a timely boost and is commonly used after an intense workout to recover and promote muscle growth,” says Louise. “That being said, excessive amounts of protein may lead to serious health complications including kidney damage. It’s important to consult with your GP or dietitian first, to check your nutritional needs and see if you really need to add additional protein on top of what is already contained in your food.”
“Nuts are a good snack in a low-carb diet as they are filling and rich in protein and fat. Like grains, though, nuts contain high levels of phytates, the ‘anti-nutrients’ that interfere with our absorption of important minerals. It’s therefore wise to avoid meals based on large quantities of nuts and to choose treated products such as skinless, blanched almonds,” says Caroline. “You can also reduce the phytate level in nuts at home by soaking and then roasting them. Always check for freshness when buying nuts as their oil content can easily turn rancid with long storage.”
What foods should you eat alongside high-protein low carb foods?
“A high protein, low-carb diet can be supportive for those with fat loss goals, however it is important for people to understand the importance of carbohydrates in our diets to support our overall energy and digestive processes,” says Paige, a Nutritionist and Personal Trainer at MotivatePT. “I would recommend a high protein and moderate carbohydrate diet to ensure that a variety of wholegrains, fruits and vegetables are being incorporated to ensure our brains have the power to complete our day-to-day tasks,” she adds.
Carbohydrates are our bodies preferred energy source, so not having enough carbohydrates in our diet can lead to brain fog, water retention and for women this can lead to down-regulated hormonal responses which can impact their periods, causing delayed or irregular cycles.
So what should you eat alongside protein? “It’s really important you’re eating a good balance of all of the other food groups. That includes non-starchy vegetables such as lettuce, broccoli, and mushrooms, and also healthy fats like avocados and cheese, in moderation,” says Louise. “The vital thing to keep in mind is to not be too restrictive with your diet, as this will only lead to increased cravings, other negative side effects, and possible health complications in the future. Instead, look to keep a healthy balance as much as possible, while slightly decreasing your carb intake and increasing protein.”
If you have any pre-existing health conditions, it's always advisable to consult with a registered dietitian to find suitable ways that you can follow a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet safely.
Looking to find out more about the benefits of protein and how to consume it? We have the answers to popular questions like; how much protein should I eat to gain muscle? Plus, we’ve identified tasty high-protein snacks that will help keep you fuller in between meals.
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Abby Driver is a freelance health writer and qualified fitness instructor based in Cornwall. Away from her desk she enjoys exploring the Cornish coast path, sea swimming and experimenting with new recipes.
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