More protein, healthier food choices
As part of the research, the scientists analyzed a pool of data from several weight-loss trials conducted at the university. The results showed that slightly increasing your protein intake, from 18 percent to 20 percent, for example, can have a significant impact on the food choices you make.
“It’s somewhat remarkable that a self-selected, slightly higher protein intake during dieting is accompanied by higher intake of green vegetables, and reduced intake of refined grains and added sugar,” said study author Sue Shapses, professor of nutritional sciences at the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS). “But that’s precisely what we found.”
Losing less lean body moss
Not only that, but the study also found that dieters may enjoy yet another benefit of slightly increasing their protein uptake: losing less lean body mass, which is often linked to weight loss.
Low-calorie diets can often prompt weight-watchers to reduce their consumption of healthy foods that contain micronutrients such as zinc and iron. While eating more protein-rich foods is often associated with healthier outcomes, the link between protein intake and the quality of one’s diet is not well understood.
“The impact of self-selected dietary protein on diet quality has not been examined before, to our knowledge, like this,” said study co-author Anna Ogilvie, a doctoral student in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Rutgers SEBS. “Exploring the connection between protein intake and diet quality is important because diet quality is often suboptimal in the U.S., and higher-protein weight-loss diets are popular.”
The research involved 200 participants between the age of 24 and 75 with a body mass index that categorized them as either overweight or obese. The scientists encouraged all participants to take up a 500-calorie-deficit diet. The dieters also regularly met for nutrition counseling and support for over half a year. The participants were then divided into two groups, one with a low-protein approach and another one with a high-protein approach.
While both of the groups experienced the same amount of weight loss, the higher-protein group chose on average a healthier mix of foods. Individuals in the second group also deliberately upped their intake of green vegetables and cut back on sugar and refined grains. Plus, the higher-protein group also experienced less loss of muscle mass.