Research shows that high-quality protein eaten throughout the day can help with weight loss, according to Dr. Melina Jampolis, who says that protein is the starting point for The Doctor On Demand Diet: Your Prescription For Lasting Weight Loss.
There are three reasons for this:
1. Protein helps keep your blood sugar stable.
When you eat carbohydrate-containing foods, your body breaks them down into simple sugar (glucose) and sends it into your bloodstream. Your pancreas, an organ located behind your stomach, produces the hormone insulin, whose job it is to usher blood sugar into your cells for energy.
Foods that break down quickly into simple sugars cause a rapid rise in your blood sugar, followed by an equally rapid fall. When blood sugar drops, low blood sugar triggers hunger and dampens your energy level and, often, your mood. This series of events can lead to cravings for sugar and carbohydrates, because sugary foods raise your blood sugar more quickly than other foods. You may have experienced this after eating a high-sugar or high-carb breakfast — a donut, pastry, or bagel with orange juice, for example. Your energy peaked initially due to the large rush of sugar you dumped into your system, but then it dropped just as rapidly, leaving you feeling hungry, low, and craving more sweets.
Our goal in all phases of the Doctor On Demand Diet is to keep blood sugar relatively stable, because that helps you control hunger and cravings. One of the best ways to do this is to include protein in your meals and snacks.
2. Protein helps control hunger and cravings.
Calorie for calorie, protein is more filling than carbohydrates or fat. Research has shown — and I’ve seen it among my patients as well — that on a higher-protein diet, people eat less and feel fuller than when they eat a high-carb diet. This effect may be especially significant with a higher-protein breakfast.
3. Protein helps you lose the right kind of weight.
Your goal is to lose fat rather than lean muscle. Various studies have shown that diets higher in protein can help you maintain muscle mass and lose more fat (especially belly fat). This is good for your metabolism, because muscle burns more calories than fat. Having less belly fat also improves your health because excess bely fat is associated with several chronic diseases.
I don’t advise you to go overboard on protein, or to think that eating protein means helping yourself to large portions of fatty meats, unlimited amounts of nuts, or large portions of full-fat dairy foods. But because protein helps control hunger and keep blood sugar stable throughout the day, it can help you stick to your healthy eating plan and feel good along the way. That’s why I recommend eating some form of protein with every meal and most of your snacks.
Modified excerpt from The Doctor On Demand Diet: Your Prescription For Lasting Weight Loss by Melina Jampolis, MD (Ghost Mountain Books). Ghost Mountain Books, Inc., along with Doctor on Demand, is owned, in part, by Dr. Phillip C. McGraw and Jay McGraw.
Join Doctor On Demand and Dr. Jampolis for a Twitter Q&A Thursday, 11/12, from 11am-noon PST. Submit your questions using #AskDrMelina.