Being underweight presents a set of complications. From physical to mental health, you may be struggling with several aspects. If you want to gain weight there are healthy and safe ways to do so. What you need to understand is how to create a calorie surplus. The best foods to eat to gain weight help you create and maintain a calorie surplus. This means that each day the calories you take in are more than those your body uses up. Additionally, physical exercise may help you build muscle mass and keep fit while you gain weight.
Why People Want To Gain Weight
So what are some of the reasons why people would want to add weight?
You may feel like you need to catch up to those who glorify body-mass and relate it to strength and physical ability. Perhaps you want to get stronger. You may also have been a victim of mean and unpleasant body-shaming.
Some people want to add some little fat or muscle to look and feel better.
Some may have been down with an ailment and wish to get back their lost shape and build back better. And for games like rugby and wrestling, weight is king!
So how should you go about adding weight?
How To Gain Weight Safely?
You can add weight by just sitting on your couch the whole day and scrolling T.V. channels without moving an inch.
But doing so is neither healthy nor safe.
So what are the safe ways to gain weight? You have to create a caloric surplus and build muscle. The best foods to eat to gain weight have high calories. We discuss them later on in the article.
You can hit the gym. While people view exercise as a way to lose weight, exercise could also be the surest way to gain weight. It is possible if exercise is a part of a more comprehensive holistic plan. Push-ups can help add some muscles to your arms and shoulders. Other weight-friendly exercises are pull-ups and squats. Squat exercise helps build firmer muscle in your butt and legs, especially your quadriceps.
And lunges, where one leg is positioned forward with the knee bent, is a resistance exercise that can help strengthen muscles involved in the movement. Bench presses may exact the same effect.
Whatever one does, weight gain boils down to the fact that calorie intake is higher than calories used. While men generally need an average of 2,500 calories daily and women require 2,000, it is still wise to accurately assess your individual caloric need (5).
And while many people think of proteins when it comes to weight gain, your meals should contain the right balance of protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats.. Creating a calorie surplus is all about making the right food choices.
What Foods To Eat To Gain Weight And Muscle?
While the surest way to gain weight is by eating, not all foods are created equal when it comes to weight gain. That is why this list of 10 foods to eat to gain weight could be what the doctor ordered.
While avocadoes appear dull and drab, they could be one of the best weapons in your weight-gain arsenal. The fruit is soft, creamy, and smooth and is packed with more fat than almost all other fruits. They are also rich in fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals.
Avocados contain decent amounts of essential B vitamins. But they also have vitamin K, vitamin E, and vitamin C, known for their immune-boosting potential.
For minerals, potassium and copper lead the pack.
Avocados are fruits of a kind. While most fruits contain little fat and many carbohydrates in simple sugars, avocados are packed with about 77% fat; – higher than even many foods (11) Avocado oil is a rich source of oleic acid and contains essential fatty acids. But how exactly do avocados help you gain weight?
Simple. Avocados are calorie-dense. One large avocado provides around 322 calories! But how should you choose the right avocados to eat given that it has a very unpretentious exterior?
A ripe, ready-to-eat avocado is only slightly soft; – not very soft, and should have no dark sunken spots or cracks. An avocado that is too soft has hollow spots, or cracks may be a sign of a fruit that is either over-ripe or which has already gone bad.
Wheat contributes a large portion of the total dietary calories consumed worldwide (7)
While wheat has changed and modern wheat is not the same as its ancient version, you may want to hail this change if your objective is to gain weight. The nutritional qualities and physiological responses of the modern wheat varieties enable you to gain weight.
For instance, modern varieties seem to elicit a lower glycemic control than ancient varieties. But here is the silver lining:
Since the modern wheat varieties elicit poor glycemic control, weight-gain effects are pronounced since studies show that diets with a high glycemic index are associated with more weight gain (7).
Talk of a blessing in disguise!
Sandwiches are one of the easiest and portable meals for helping you gain weight. So go ahead and spread your avocado on whole wheat bread, which retains the fiber and other nutrients which are stripped during the process of making refined white flour.
And if you don’t enjoy whole-wheat bread, you can try to mix it with some white flour, especially if you are doing the baking.
But if you find the rough, unrefined taste of whole-bread a bit unpalatable, you can try a whole-grain version of something you already eat like whole-grain pasta or even oats.
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Another wonder food you can eat to gain weight is potatoes. Previously unknown and of little use, the potato is today the fourth most consumed food crop globally (25).
And while the potato boasts of many nutrients, its uses could even be more.
It can be used to make pancakes, waffles, tortillas, bread, pie, pound cake, pasta, vegetable patties, doughnuts, and pretzels; this is still not exhaustive.
The crop is versatile and has many dietary uses. While the sweet potato’s chief nutrient is carbohydrate–a vital energy source, the sweet potato also provides beta-carotene and significant amounts of Vitamin C.
But there are two significant varieties of the potato; the sweet potato variety and the white potato variety, and debate has been raging about their relative nutritional potential.
Well, the winner is the sweet potato. Sweet potatoes provide four times the daily requirement of Vitamin A, a vitamin essential for vision, the immune system, and reproduction, among many other uses. The sweet potatoes also contain more vitamin C and fiber than the white potato and have fewer calories, although white potatoes contain more potassium (31).
So how does the potato help you gain weight? It is among the best foods to eat to gain weight for one special reason.
The potato has a significantly high glycemic index and are fairly calorie-dense, which can contribute to weight gain. In fact, according to information published by Harvard University’s School of Public Health, a cup of potatoes has a similar effect on blood sugar as a can of cola or a handful of jelly beans (29).
A research team at the Harvard School of Public Health sought to study lifestyle factors that lead to consistent weight gain.
Well, it turns out that regular consumption of red meat is one of the contributory factors.
A mammoth study that involved studying the lifestyle and dietary habits of various large groups of health professionals, totaling over 120,000 people, for 12 to 20 years revealed interesting findings.
While processed white and red meats played a positive contributory role to weight gain, unprocessed red meat was explicitly linked to a weight gain of about a pound or more (5).
But what is the mechanism?
It turns out that meat is a rich source of heme-iron, the iron that we get from animal sources, and more bioavailable. However, heme-iron, when consumed in excess, can lead to weight gain.
Besides, dietary iron intake, which is due to heavy red meat consumption, suppresses leptin, which regulates appetite.
Leptin is essential in the body because it is the hormone that tells us to stop eating. In the absence of leptin, the eating breaks are loosed, and one full plate begets another.
But red meat also contains both leucine and creatine. These two nutrients play a substantial role in boosting muscle mass.
Peanut Butter and Other Nut Butters
While several studies show that nuts rarely lead to weight gain and may lead to weight loss, nuts are still one of the most calorie-dense foods around
When it comes to peanut butter, a tablespoon serving of peanut butter has a whopping 191 calories (20). So if you add just one serving to two meals and one snack each day and you’ve increased your daily intake by 600 calories. The result is that you will gain a little over 1 pound per week.
So if weight gain is your goal, peanut butter may be what the doctor ordered.
And to cap it all, peanut butter is inexpensive and very simple to prepare.
But you can try other nuts and other kinds of butter as well. Almond and cashew kinds of butter have approximately the same number of calories as peanut butter but may offer even more benefits.
For instance, almond butter contains nearly three times as much vitamin E, twice as much iron, and seven times more calcium than peanut butter (20). If you are looking for foods to eat to help gain weight and meet nutritional requirements, almond butter is a good choice.
Salmon & Other Fatty Fish
While farmed salmon has a higher chance of being contaminated with highly toxic industrial compounds known as polychlorinated biphenyls, salmon obtained from natural water sources should be safer. They could be a healthier way of gaining weight.
A six-ounce salmon steak is packed with about 600 calories (21). Salmon also contains many nutrients, including prized omega-3 fats, which have been shown to promote brain development; and significant protein levels.
But if you can’t get salmon, you should not despair if you still want fish to help you gain weight. You can still enjoy your plate of tuna and get the best of both worlds, or you could make do with fish oil supplements.
Omega-3 fatty acid supplements have mainly been found to help people with Alzheimer’s disease gain weight (23).
In a Canadian study, cancer patients that received the greatest concentration of fish oil supplementation in the blood had the most significant gains in the muscle (13). 69% of patients in the fish oil group gained or maintained muscle mass, compared with only 29% in the standard care group.
Bananas may hold the enviable record of being the world’s first super-food. The golden fruit was endorsed in medical journals and once vigorously promoted as the antidote to celiac disease and diabetes (4).
Though one Harvard research says that bananas do not increase weight, a medium-sized banana contains about 110 calories, and if you add four or five bananas to your daily diet, there is no doubt that you will have a caloric surplus and add some weight (4).
Additionally, if you are not used to heavy suppers, the banana may be among the most convenient foods to eat before bed to gain weight.
So how can you incorporate bananas into your journey to gain weight?
While many people pick, peel, and eat the fruit, bananas can be used in various ways. Bananas can be used to make healthier and tastier pancakes, bread, cakes, and muffins.
And if you don’t like refined sugar, you can even use bananas as a sweetener!
Yes, cut up half a banana, mash it with a fork, and then fold it into your favorite bowl of whole-grain oats. Then sprinkle some cinnamon. This is a light meal that is among the foods to eat before bed to gain weight.
You can gain weight either by adding fat or muscles (or both). One egg may contain anywhere between only 55 and 88 calories, depending on size (10).
Unless you are an egg enthusiast, it may be difficult to gain weight by the pathway of fat if eggs are your main staple.
But the tables change when you come to muscles. Because eggs, like meat, contain high quality protein including the amino acid leucine, they are among the foods to eat to gain muscle weight
Fruit Juices And Smoothies
If statistics mean anything, then no juice can hold a candle to the apple juice in the eyes of the American public (22). Orange, strawberry, grape, and pineapple juices follow in that order. While fruit juices may be healthy and tasty except for some modest levels of Vitamin C lost in juicing, some reports suggest that drinking 100% fruit juice causes weight gain, while whole fruit consumption leads to weight loss (8).
The reason may be intuitive. You can quickly drink up to ten oranges in a glass when three actual fruits may be more filling than you can handle.
Condiments And Other Additives
With condiments like extra virgin olive, coconut oil, or mayonnaise, adding weight should be a breeze. Both olive oil and coconut oil is very high in calories, containing 120 calories per tablespoon. Their high-calorie content makes them among the best foods to eat to help gain weight.
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2 Easy Weight Gain Recipes
Wondering how to include the foods in this article in your meals? Here are some high-calorie recipes you can use at home.
Grilled Ham And Cheese Sandwich
This simple meal takes less than 5 minutes to prepare. It has butter and whole wheat bread that are some of the foods that help you gain weight.
- 2 slices whole wheat bread
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 slice cheese
- 1 slice ham
- Preheat skillet over medium heat.
- Generously butter one side of a slice of bread.
- Place bread butter-side-down onto skillet bottom and add 1 slice of cheese and ham.
- Butter a second slice of bread on one side and place butter-side-up on top of the sandwich.
- Grill until lightly browned and flip over; continue grilling until cheese is melted.
Creamy Spinach And Salmon
Salmon is one of the fatty fish that helps one gain weight. Pairing it with creamed spinach makes a light meal that is high in calories and flavor.
- 1 ½ tbsp olive oil
- ½ cup thinly sliced shallots
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ tsp crushed red pepper
- 10 oz fresh baby spinach (about 5 cups)
- ½ cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
- ⅓ cup reduced-fat cream cheese
- 6 (6 oz) skin-on salmon fillets
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp ground pepper
- Preheat the oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add shallots and garlic; stir until softened, for 2 minutes.
- Stir in crushed red pepper; stir constantly, for 30 seconds.
- Add spinach in batches; stir until wilted before adding more, for about 3 minutes.
- Remove from heat. Add mozzarella and cream cheese; stir until the cheeses melt. Let cool.
- Transfer the salmon to the prepared baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper.
- Fill each pocket with about 1/3 cup of the spinach mixture.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.
Adding weight, just like losing weight, is no walk in the park. It is especially true if you don’t want to go about it by binging on sodas, ice-cream, or French-fries, or even by being a couch potato. You can add weight by incorporating some of these best foods to eat to gain weight.
Still, remember that other non-food factors like your genes, the amount of sleep, certain medications, and drugs may still have a confounding influence.
And while weight gain gets a bad rap in many circles, there are legitimate reasons to add weight!
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
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- Eating nuts might help limit weight gain. (2019, reuters.com)
- Egg nutrition information. (nd, egginfo.co.uk)
- Everything you need to know about avocado. (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Fish Oil And Omega-3s, Helping Chemo Patients Gain Weight. (2011, medicalnewstoday.com)
- From Early Farmers to Norman Borlaug. (2017, cell.com)
- Glycemic index diet: What’s behind the claims? (2020, mayoclinic.org)
- High iron intake may increase appetite, disease risk. (2015, sciencedaily.com)
- How do you gain weight quickly and safely?(2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
- How Have Players Grown In Size. (2020, edinburgnews.scotman.com)
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- Morey’s Marinated Salmon. (nd, myfitnesspal.com)
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- Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation effects on weight. (2009, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Pub Releases. (2019, eurekalert.org)
- Secret History of Potato. (2007, sciencemag.org)
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- Sweet potato in a vegetarian menu plan for NASA’s Advanced Life Support Program. (1998, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The Problem With Potatoes (2014, hsph.harvard.edu)
- Weight a Silent Heart Risk. (2021, hopkinsmedicine.org)
- White potatoes vs sweet potatoes.(nd, clevelandclinic.org)