Can Chicken & Brown Rice Help Me Lose Weight?

You may have heard that certain foods can encourage weight loss, like avocados and eggs. However, it's not the specific foods, but the nutrients they contain that can help you shed pounds. Two nutrients proven to aid weight loss are protein and fiber. Chicken is high in protein and brown rice is a rich source of fiber, so including these two foods in your diet can help you lose weight but only if your total calorie intake is balanced.

Use calorie-free herbs and spices to flavor your chicken and brown rice. (Image: djedzura/iStock/GettyImages)

Tip

A chicken and rice diet can help you lose weight because these foods are rich in protein and fiber.

Chicken and Rice for Weight Loss

Although the overarching goal in a weight-loss diet is to lower your total calorie intake, research has shown that increasing your intake of protein and fiber can also help. This is mainly because protein and fiber are highly satiating nutrients that help control appetite and, thus, calorie intake.

Even in the absence of calorie restriction, these two nutrients can aid weight loss, according to a 2018 study in Nutrition. Fifteen obese individuals who were counseled to attain a daily fiber intake of 35 grams and a daily protein intake of 0.8 gram per kilogram of body weight lowered their caloric intake and lost weight at the end of the 12-week study. In addition, the study participants rated the diet well, reporting that it was both highly acceptable and feasible.

Benefits of Protein for Weight Loss

Protein has been widely studied for its role in promoting fat loss, and a wealth of research has found that it does indeed play a role. According to a 2015 review in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it does this by modulating appetite, calorie intake and metabolism.

Protein has a more complex chemical structure than carbohydrates; it takes longer for the body to break down, which makes it a longer-lasting source of energy than carbohydrates, according to the Merck Manual. Foods that stay in your stomach longer promote greater satiety and a lasting feeling of fullness, which can help you control your appetite and consume fewer calories.

Protein digestion also affects metabolism, due to the thermic effect of food. Twenty to 30 percent of the energy of protein is spent on metabolizing the nutrient. That's significantly higher than that of carbohydrate or fat, which costs 5 to 10 percent and 0 to 3 percent of total energy, respectively, according to a 2016 study in Obesity.

Protein Boosts Muscle Mass

Having more lean muscle mass encourages fat loss, because muscle is metabolically active. Your body expends calories building and maintaining muscle, which increases your metabolic rate. This means you will burn more calories even when you are not exercising. According to Paige Kinucan and Len Kravitz, Ph.D., of the University of New Mexico, muscle mass is about four times more metabolically active than fat.

Due to calorie restriction, you can lose muscle mass while dieting. However, consuming adequate protein can help prevent this, according to a 2017 review in Advances in Nutrition. And if you are exercising, especially resistance training, as part of your weight-loss efforts, eating adequate protein is even more important and beneficial because it will aid muscle growth.

Protein in Chicken

Chicken is one of the richest sources of protein you can eat. No wonder it's the staple of many a bodybuilder's diet. Four ounces of grilled chicken breast without skin has 25 grams of protein.

According to the National Academy of Medicine, the average adult needs to get 0.8 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. If you weigh 155 pounds, that means you need roughly 60 grams of protein. Four ounces of chicken would provide nearly half of your daily protein needs.

Eating More Protein

The 2018 study in Nutrition set a daily goal equal to that of the official recommendation. However, it may be beneficial to increase your protein intake above that.

In a study published in Obesity Facts in 2017, 118 adults ate diets containing the same number of calories but differing amounts of protein. One group consumed the normal 0.8 gram per kilogram of body weight, while the other group ate 1.34 grams per kilogram for a period of six months. Among the participants who adhered to the diets, the final analysis showed that the high-protein group had a mean weight loss of 9.5 percent, compared to a mean weight loss of 5.8 percent in the normal protein group.

The 2015 review in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that diets containing between 1.2 and 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight may aid weight loss. In addition, the authors say that consuming quantities between 25 and 30 grams at each meal may be ideal.

Fiber for Weight Loss

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that is minimally digested and adds few calories to the diet. It's well-known as a digestive aid for its ability to increase motility and prevent constipation by adding moisture and bulk to the stool.

Because it swells and becomes larger in your stomach, it also helps fill you up. And because it moves slowly through your digestive system, like protein, it leaves you feeling full longer. That's why increasing your fiber intake is a top priority when you want to lose weight.

Fiber in Brown Rice

One cup of medium-grain brown rice provides 3.5 grams of fiber. That's 14 percent of the National Academy's recommendation for daily fiber intake for women and 9 percent of the recommendation for men. It's 10 percent of the daily goal for men and women set by the researchers of the 2018 Nutrition study.

While that's not a particularly large percentage of your daily needs, it will help you reach your daily total better than white rice, which only provides 0.6 gram per cup.

Chicken and Rice Calories

A 4-ounce chicken breast and a cup of brown rice provide 354 calories. As a meal, that's quite low in calories. If you pair your brown rice and chicken with a serving of broccoli, you'll only up the calorie content of your by 31 calories, but you will increase the fiber content by an extra 2.5 grams per cup, chopped. Broccoli is also a surprisingly good source of plant protein, with 2.5 grams per cup, chopped.

Using healthy preparation methods will help you keep the total calories in your meal low. Choose skinless chicken breast and grill or bake it. Avoid putting heavy, high-calorie sauces on your chicken and rice, instead using herbs, spices and lemon juice for a bold, low-calorie flavor.

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