It’s obvious there’s an obesity epidemic going on all around us these days, bringing with it so many health risks.
But at the other end of the spectrum, being underweight might be a sign of something more serious than just not eating enough.
Let’s assume you’re not suffering from any of the disorders or diseases that can bring on a sudden weight loss. If you’re losing weight fast at the moment, go talk to your doctor. Right now.
But if you’ve been consistently underweight for a while, you might have noticed yourself feeling run-down and tired all the time, and perhaps catching a few more colds than normal.
Being underweight now can cause problems in the future, too: your bones could get weaker over time, meaning that a minor tumble could result in a major fracture.
If you want to gain weight, don’t just gorge on fattening foods and drinks like french-fries and soft drinks, otherwise you’ll end up with potentially dangerous belly fat instead of the muscle you really should have.
How fast should you put on weight? Doing the math, if you’re looking to gain a pound, you need an additional 3,500 or so calories. That’s not to say you should cram so many calories into yourself all at once: if you want to gain weight fast then 1,000 extra daily calories works very nicely.
However, starting those extra calories on Day One isn’t going to work: you need to up your calorie intake gradually until you get to that thousand-extra-calorie level. Give it a month and not only will it all have been easier on your system, but also that extra weight you’ve gained has more of a chance of staying on.
And to make sure you’re putting on muscle weight as opposed to fat weight, some weightlifting will go a long way towards building up your appetite, getting you into better shape and keeping you that way.
But how do you make sure you’re getting those extra calories you need from foods which not only help you put on weight but also do you a lot of good at the same time?
Here are fifteen excellent foods to help you put on those missing pounds safely while keeping you in good health.
Avocados are just crammed full of calories, fiber and fat, not to mention vitamins, minerals and plant compounds. One large avocado gives you over 300 calories (over ¾ coming from more than 25 grams of fat) and upwards of 15 grams of fiber.
And in this case, fat is definitely not a dirty word: most of the fat in avocados is oleic acid, which you can also find in olive oil. It reduces inflammation, and since inflammation is at the root of so many unhealthy conditions and diseases oleic acid is always good to consume on a regular basis.
When we say cereals, we’re not talking about those high-sugar (or fructose) breakfast monstrosities that send you into sugar shock for much of the morning, only to let you down suddenly and hard usually when you need it least.
We’re talking about grain-based cereals, oats, bran, multigrain and granola (if they’re easy on the sugar content – just check the label first!).
They’re well-known for their fiber content, but did you know they also protect your body because they contain powerful beneficial antioxidants?
Cheese isn’t just for mice. It’s for men (and women) who want to add a little excitement to their mealtimes and a few more pounds to their bodyweight. That’s because cheese is high in calories, fats and protein. It’s easy to grate over meals and sauces, and even easier to snack on straight from the fridge. No wonder people have been making cheese for centuries.
It’s not quite a rule of thumb that cheeses which are low in fat give you more protein, but Parmesan cheese contains over 450 calories per 100 grams and is made up of over 40% protein and of over 25% fat. Non-fat cottage cheese, on the other hand, contains a mere 85 calories per 100 grams with a low protein count of 17%.
Then again, if you leave either of those two on the floor, the average mouse will go looking elsewhere for its dinner anyway: mice prefer bacon and peanut butter.
As if anybody needed an excuse for chocolate in the first place. But (and this is an important but) milk chocolate bars with chewy caramel and candy and bits of peanuts and unidentifiable syrupy stuff stirred in just won’t cut it, healthwise. Sorry.
If that’s the kind of chocolate you’re used to, it’s time to change to dark chocolate with a cocoa content of over 70% – higher if you can find it. It’ll come as a bit of a shock at first because of that missing extra sugar and unidentifiable syrupy stuff, but dark chocolate really is the way to go, and not just because the milk in milk chocolate prevents the antioxidants and other nutrients from getting into your system properly.
You might not believe it from looking at a 100-gram bar of high-cocoa chocolate, but you’ll be getting over 500 calories from it as well as those antioxidants, plus micronutrients, magnesium and even fiber.
Talking of antioxidants and micronutrients, you’ll find a whole heap of those in any pack of dried fruit, as well as a high natural sugar content, vitamins, minerals and fiber. And calories – lots of calories.
They’re flavorful and go well with many sources of protein, whether nuts, yoghurt, various meats (think lamb and apricot) or just by themselves by the handful.
Of course, you’re going to have to keep an eye on how many of those handfuls, because dried fruit can be very good for moving things along in the digestion department.
Where would we be without eggs? Obviously there’d be fewer chickens around, that’s for sure. But when you think that a hen’s egg provides all the nutrients and fuel that just one tiny single cell needs to become billions more cells in the form of a newly-hatched chick, you start to realize there’s more to an egg than meets the eye. Much more.
They’re high in quality protein (around 6 grams per egg) and contain all the amino acids we humans need, and in the right proportions.
No wonder athletes and bodybuilders have been known to eat six on a daily basis, but for us regular folks, there’s nothing stopping us from enjoying three a day – or more.
Like eggs, milk is perfect for building up young bodies – and older ones, too. It’s got an excellent ratio of fats, proteins and carbohydrates, plus vitamin A, all the B vitamins, vitamin D3 and vitamin K2. And, if you’ve got ahold of raw milk, you’ve even Vitamin C in there.
Milk, raw or otherwise, contains large amounts of whey and casein, the amino acids muscle tissue needs for growth.
And of course, there’s the calcium your body needs in cow’s milk, just like there is in goats’ milk. Three glasses a day takes you pretty well up to the 1,000 mg recommended daily intake for adults. Women over 50, and everybody aged 70, should up that intake to 1,300 mg a day.
As for calories, the general consensus is there’s around 145 calories in a glass of whole milk (that’s 3.25% fat) about half of which come from that fat. We rather like an alternative calorie count, in that one tablespoon of whole milk contains 9 calories. And it takes two minutes’ walk to burn those 9 calories off.
So if you want to lose a pound by burning off 3,500 calories, our calculator tells us we’ve got to keep walking for 777.7777 minutes.
Just thought you’d like to know.
For densely-packed calories, together with proteins and healthy fats, you just can’t beat nuts. And cashews, whether you think they’re a nut or the seed of cashew apples. If you’re eating them to put on a few much-needed pounds, at over 150 calories per single ounce does it really matter what they are?
Then again, the humble peanut isn’t doing so badly in that department either: one single peanut contains 11 calories (slightly over two minutes’ walk worth, then) and that breaks down to 73% fat, 17% protein and 9% carbohydrates.
But if you’re looking to pile on the pounds, macadamia nuts contain 93% fat, 4% protein and a whopping 718 calories per 100 grams. Pecans, pine nuts and brazil nuts come close, but let’s not forget nut butters, which can be added to your cooking and to yoghurt. That’s so long as they don’t contain added sugar or extra oils.
And talking of oils, the good ones like extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil and coconut oil are some of the most calorific foods available today. Processed oils, though, should be left on the supermarket shelves.
By “processed” we mean oils derived from genetically modified crops such as corn, canola or soy. These are heated to extreme temperatures, which causes oxidization, which causes free radicals. OK, so that improves their shelf life, but if you shouldn’t be eating them anyway, what’s the point?
So which oils to avoid? If you see any of the following words on the label, leave the bottle to enjoy a long but lonely life on the supermarket shelf:
And you’d be better off avoiding anything that calls itself “margarine”, whether you’re trying to lose weight or put some on.
While we’re still on the subject of oil, let’s talk about oily fish. And that includes salmon. Six ounces of salmon can contain up to 350 calories, 34 grams of protein for weight gain and muscle building and, perhaps more importantly, 4 grams of omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids are termed “essential fatty acids” because they’re required for bodily processes within the body, but aren’t produced in the body. So they need to be introduced in food such as seafood, meat and dairy and eggs.
Once absorbed, omega-3 offers a range of proven benefits including:
It’s good for the eyes and skin, too.
So whether you’re miles away from your ideal weight or you’ve just got a few ounces to go, it’s worth stocking up on salmon and other oily fish for all kinds of reasons.
Also worth stocking up on is red meat. It contains leucine and creatine, both essential for adding new muscle tissue. In fact, red meat is one of the richest sources of creatine, after wild game. Creatine is produced in the body, while leucine is termed an “essential amino acid”, which as we’ve seen before, means it has to come from our diet because our bodies can’t produce it.
Like leaner meats, red meat provides protein, fat and calories, but much more of them. As well as that, you also get a good supply of vitamin B12, which keeps red blood cells healthy while also helping to create DNA, and zinc to keep the immune system running smoothly.
You might be surprised to learn that even though there’s practically no fat to be found in a single cup of cooked rice, there’s still an awful lot of calories there.
In that cup you’ve got 165 grams of cooked rice, which includes 43 grams of carbohydrates and a whopping 190 calories to help you put on the pounds.
And then there’s the health benefits to eating brown, white or wild rice on a regular basis: because they’re low in sodium, they’re an ideal addition to the diet for people suffering from high blood pressure and hypertension. Rice of any kind raises antioxidant levels in the body, and has anti-inflammatory properties. That’s useful for clearing up both problems on the inside and skin conditions on the outside.
Not bad for what many people just think is a simple side dish.
As we’ve just seen, there’s more to simple side dishes than meets the eye: many people push away their potatoes because of the calories they contain, and the amount of starch in them. These would be people who don’t want to put on any more weight, so keep piling those potatoes onto your plate because they’re an economical way of getting those extra calories you’re looking for.
Other starchy carbohydrates include:
We’d like to include French fries because we love them, but the oil they’re fried in adds a lot of the wrong kind of calories, just like the ketchup and any other kind of sauce we dip our fries in. Some sources tell us that there are 20-27 calories per ounce of plain potato, while others tell us for any order of fries we ask for we could be looking at up to around 100 calories an ounce.
That’d take 22 minutes to walk off each ounce, and there’s way more than one ounce in any decent restaurant serving.
It’s not just the carbs and calories that make wholegrain bread a useful addition to a weight-gain diet: combining wholegrain bread with protein sources like meat, eggs, cheese (and maybe an avocado on top if you’re that way inclined) together with a long, cool glass of milk is an easy way to create well-balanced and high-calorie meals.
A one-ounce slice of wholegrain bread gives you over 3 grams of protein, more than 10 grams total carbohydrate and close to 70 calories.
Double that if you’re making a sandwich, of course.
Yogurt (the full fat variety) is an excellent mix of carbohydrates, protein and, not surprisingly, fat. It also contains loads of vitamins to keep the body working properly and probiotics to help the digestion and immune system.
And for those who have too much salt in their diet, which could lead to problems with their heart and kidneys, yogurt contains enough potassium to start flushing out some of that surplus sodium.
A six-ounce serving can contain up to 150 calories, up to 10 grams of protein (check out the Greek yogurt – they strain it to make it thicker).
And if you happen to have any brass that needs cleaning, the lactic acid in any kind of yoghurt works a treat. Just make sure you wash it all off with soap and hot water afterwards before buffing with a clean rag.
So there you have it – fifteen foods to help you gain weight while keeping you in good health.