If you are not gaining weight no matter how heavily you eat, you are definitely at the risk of being underweight. In that case, you will have to go for foods or food supplements for weight gain. Before we go ahead, let us understand the possible reasons behind being underweight. It may be due to increased metabolism, a viral infection, hyperthyroidism, an eating disorder, type 1 diabetes, genes, stress, or an unhealthy diet.
Being underweight can result in problems like weak bones, infertility, weakened immunity, and hair loss. Eating certain foods can certainly help you put on some pounds by inducing fat gain and improving muscle and bone mass. However, it is equally important that you make the right food choices. After all, eating unhealthy junk food can cause many fatal diseases.
This article takes you through a list of the 34 healthy foods and food supplements that are ideal for gaining weight quickly. Check them out!
Weight Gain Foods And Supplements
A. Weight Gain Foods
Eating greater amounts of food and increasing your protein and calorie intake help in building muscle mass, and thus, increasing your weight (1). It is not advisable to gorge on unhealthy trans-fats like fried chips, cookies, and processed foods as these will cause obesity rather than building healthy muscle mass (2). Here is the list of foods for weight gain
1. Whole Grains
Whole grains contain high amounts of glucose or carbohydrates, which are energy giving foods. Whole grains are a healthy source of carbohydrates, which enable the protein to be used for increasing muscle mass rather than energy. Refined grains, such as white flour, should be replaced with whole grains as they provide you more nutrients and promote sustained energy levels (3). Whole grain foods include whole grain bread, pasta, quinoa, brown rice, and air-popped popcorn. Bagels, bread, and cereals made from whole grains make an excellent breakfast option. Increase the amount of carbs you already are eating for better weight management.
Nuts contain significant amounts of calories in a small serving. Two handfuls of almonds or around 18 cashew nuts can provide 160 calories. In fact, almonds contain alpha-tocopherol vitamin E, which helps in preventing free radical damage after heavy workouts (4). Walnuts offer an amazing combination of monounsaturated fats, phytosterols, and the amino acid I-Arginine.
This combination provides increased calories and nitric oxide, a natural substance that promotes muscle growth and recovery. Brazil nuts contain the trace mineral selenium, which provides around 190 calories in just seven nuts. Nuts contain polyunsaturated fats that offer healthy calories to your diet. Hence, nuts like almonds, walnuts, cashews, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, and pumpkin seeds should be consumed (5), (6).
This versatile fruit is rich in fat and calories. An average avocado contains around 300 calories and 31 grams of fat. Moreover, the fats contained in avocados are monounsaturated and hence, they are heart-healthy (7). Eating an avocado on a daily basis can cause you to gain 6 lbs in a week. You can add a few slices of avocado to an omelet or a sandwich. Avocados can also be used in making salads.
Potatoes are one of the richest sources of carbohydrates and complex sugars. Therefore, they are highly recommended for underweight people (8). Potato chips prepared in healthy oil or sandwiches consisting of potatoes should be eaten as snacks in between meals. Grilled or baked potatoes contribute effectively towards weight gain. Unhealthy fried chips and processed food should be avoided as they contain unsaturated or trans-fats.
5. Pasta And Noodles
They can be easily prepared in a variety of ways, and are considered as delicious, calorie-dense sources of carbohydrates (9). They are easily available and should be cooked with lots of vegetables to provide other essential vitamins and minerals.
6. Dried Fruit
Dried fruits are dates, dried figs, apricots, currants, etc. They are rich sources of fiber. Moreover, it has a high content value of vitamins and minerals, which are necessary for overall health and building muscles (10). Being high in calories, it can help in achieving the calorie surplus that is required to gain weight. It also decreases the amount of fat stored in the body. Dried fruit can be eaten as snacks throughout the day. However, ensure that you drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Unsulfured dried fruits should be preferred. Avoid commercial dried bananas as they are full of fat.
Ground beef has high protein content. The amino acids provided by proteins are the building blocks of lean tissue. They help in muscle building by providing 15 to 20 percent of daily calories. Beef is an important source of iron and zinc, which are crucial muscle-building nutrients (11), (12). Moreover, it contains creatine, which supplies energy for pumping iron. Thus, to gain weight, it is advisable to incorporate lean beef patties in your meals.
Smoothies are an excellent option to consume extra calories without adding solid food to your diet. Smoothies can be prepared by using various combinations comprising of bananas, cashew milk, and butter, mango, soy milk and honey, strawberries, plain yogurt, coconut water. Fresh fruit, yogurt, nut butter, and cow’s milk can be blended to prepare a 400-calorie snack.
This fragrant, silky, and tasty dairy product is loaded with saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats. It is also a good source of vitamins A, B12, E, K2, and D, minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, and potassium, omega-3-fatty acids, and omega-6 fatty acids (13). Butter contains around 100 calories per tablespoon, and will definitely help in gaining weight (14).
However, keep in mind that consuming excess butter can affect your health seriously. Have two tablespoons of butter daily. Once you gain a little weight, reduce the amount, or eat butter every alternate day.
Banana is one of the healthiest and nutrition-dense fruits provided by Mother Nature. It is rich in carbohydrates, fats, omega-3-fatty acids, omega-6- fatty acids, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, vitamins A and C, folate, dietary fiber, natural sugar, and protein. Bananas contain around 89 calories. Have at least two bananas per day to gain weight and also improve your overall health (15).
Cheese is a high calorie, nutrition-dense dairy product, made primarily from pressed curd of milk. There are about 300 varieties of cheese, and it adds flavor and taste to various foods. It is a good source of calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, vitamins A and D, folate, choline, fats, and fatty acids such as omega-3 and omega-6 (16). Incorporate cheese into your daily diet to gain weight and strengthen your bones.
12. Beans (Lentils/Kidney Beans/ Chickpeas/ Mung Beans/Soybeans)
Beans are rich in protein, which will help you build muscle. Beans are also a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids (17). You can get 116 calories from lentils, 127 calories from kidney beans, 164 calories from chickpeas, 105 calories from mung beans, and 446 calories from soybean per 100 grams of each of the mentioned beans (18), (19), (20), (21), (22).
Eggs are packed with nutrition. It is a good source of protein, fat, vitamins A, D, folate, and choline, and minerals like calcium, selenium, phosphorus, and potassium. One boiled egg will give you around 77 calories (23). The best way to prepare eggs to gain weight is to eat a hard-boiled or soft-boiled egg. Have at least one egg every day. Remember that eggs have high cholesterol. Hence, do not overeat eggs. You can eat a maximum of two eggs per day. Once you have gained a good amount of weight, reduce the number to one egg per day.
Fish is loaded with protein, omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6-fatty acids, and minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium. Fatty or oily fish, which has more omega-3-fatty acids, has been found to lower bad cholesterol levels (24). You can get about 200 calories from 100 grams of salmon (25). Eating fish will help you to build muscle due to its high protein content. You can eat salmon, tuna, mackerel, European pilchard, anchovy, trout, sardine, etc. The best way to cook fish is to bake or grill it. If you want to fry, make sure not to over fry it.
15. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is a good source of fat, protein, minerals such as magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, copper, and iron, and vitamins A and K. It is a good alternative to milk chocolate as it helps to maintain normal blood pressure, protects against cardiovascular disease, and also helps to gain weight (26), (27).
Granola is a mix of baked oats, puffed rice, nuts, honey, and brown sugar. 100 grams of granola will provide you 464 calories. It is rich in carbs, fats, proteins, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, folate, and vitamins E, K, and A (28). Eating granola for breakfast is a great way to start your day. You can have granola as a snack or as dessert as well. In between meals, granola can be a great option for a good calorie-rich snack along with nuts.
17. Peanut Butter
This tasty, high-calorie spread is a good source of carbs, fats, proteins, omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, minerals such as calcium, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, and copper, and vitamins like vitamin E, niacin, folate, and choline. It is a good alternative to regular butter. 100 grams of peanut butter has 594 calories. It will help you gain weight and fight colorectal cancer (29), (30).
18. Fruit Juice
Fruits are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and natural sugars. Fruits such as grapes, mango, strawberry, peach, and pomegranate can be juiced to drink and gain weight in a healthy way.
19.Whole Milk/Soy Milk/Almond Milk
Full-fat milk is good for those who want to gain weight. Whole milk is rich in fat, carbohydrates, protein, natural sugars, minerals such as calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium, and vitamins A, D, folate, and choline. 100 ml of whole milk contains 96 calories (31).
If you are lactose intolerant, you can opt for soy milk, which is as good as whole milk in terms of nutrition. Almond milk is another healthy option. Slightly lower in calories, it is rich in protein, calcium, and vitamins A and D (32). Drinking milk will help improve your muscle mass and bone mass (33).
20. Whole Wheat Bread
Whole wheat bread is a healthier option when compared to flour bread. One slice of whole wheat bread has about 258 calories and is a good source of fats, carbohydrates, proteins, dietary fiber, vitamins such as folate and choline, and minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus (34). Though whole wheat bread is used for weight loss, it can also cause weight gain when consumed in the right amount (35). You can have whole wheat bread pudding or sandwiches to gain weight considerably over a period of a few weeks.
21. Corn Bread
Corn bread is good for those who want to gain weight. It has a high glycemic index (1 piece of cornbread has a glycemic index of 110) and is a good source of fats, protein, vitamin A, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and iron. 100gms of corn bread can provide you about 300 calories and is a healthy option to gain weight (36).
22. White Meat
Chicken and turkey are considered as white meat. Generally, for weight loss, de-skinned chicken breast is recommended. However, since the goal here is to gain weight, you can eat chicken with the skin once a week. Chicken and turkey are good sources of proteins, vitamins such as choline, vitamin A, and niacin, and minerals like phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and selenium. About 100 grams of chicken contains 165 calories, and 100 grams of turkey contains 104 calories (37). You can grill, bake, fry, or eat white meat as soup.
Shrimps are a good source of proteins, fats, vitamin A, choline, omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and magnesium. 100 grams of shrimp can provide you with 99 calories (38). The best way to eat shrimp is to shallow fry it in butter and incorporate into sauteed veggies. Since shrimps are high in cholesterol content, do not eat shrimps too frequently.
Oatmeal is ground or rolled oats. It is a popular breakfast option for those who want to lose weight. But it may lead to weight gain as it is rich in carbs, fats, proteins, minerals, and vitamins. 100 grams of oatmeal will provide you with 367 calories (39). The best way to consume oatmeal is to have it with full-fat milk, banana, and dry fruits.
25. Full-Fat Yogurt
Full-fat yogurt is a great food to gain weight. It is rich in fat, carbs, proteins, omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, vitamin A, folate, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. From a cup of full-fat yogurt, you can obtain 149 calories (40). Full-fat yogurt will help you gain muscle mass and bone mass (41). Have yogurt as a post-lunch snack. You can also have flavored yogurts to take advantage of the added sugar and flavor for gaining weight.
Vegetable oils such as olive oil, soybean oil, rice bran oil, palm oil, and peanut oil are good sources of fats and fatty acids. These oils do not contain harmful trans fats, and therefore, are a healthy option to gain weight. One tablespoon of olive oil or peanut oil contains 119 calories, one tablespoon of soybean oil contains 120 calories, and one tablespoon of rice bran oil and palm contains 120 calories (42), (43), (44), (45). You can use these oils to bake, fry, grill, or make your salad dressing.
This yummy food is perfect for you to gain weight. It is rich in fats, carbs, proteins, vitamin K, E, omega-3-fatty acids, omega-6-fatty acids, and potassium. Typically mayonnaise is made by beating eggs, but vegan mayonnaise is also available in the market. One tablespoon of mayonnaise contains 94 calories (46). You can eat it as a dip, spread, or as a salad dressing.
28. Ice Cream
That’s good news for many! Ice cream is a soul satisfying milk product that contains a good amount of fat, carbohydrates, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and vitamin A. A serving of (66g) of ice cream contains 137 calories (47). Various flavors and toppings make ice cream more enjoyable. It leads to rapid weight gain when consumed regularly. However, make sure to eat in limited amounts. Also, try to avoid anything cold if you suffer from sinusitis or are prone to cough and cold.
29. Salad Dressing
Salad dressing can be prepared using mayonnaise or vegetable oils, which contain a good amount of fat, carbs, minerals, and vitamins(46).Spice up your salad by making a delicious salad dressing and top your salad with grated cheese.
30. Wheat Germ
Wheat germ may lead to weight gain as it is rich in fat, carbs, fiber, protein, iron, magnesium, and vitamins B6 and C. 100 grams of wheat germ contains 360 calories (48). The best way to eat wheat germ is to add it with oats or granola or use it as a topping for your dessert.
B. Weight Gain Food Supplements
Food supplements also play an important role in gaining weight by adding muscle mass. However, food supplements alone cannot cause weight gain. In order to get maximum results, these supplements should be used along with foods that lead to weight gain. Given below are the best supplements that should be consumed for gaining weight:
31. Protein Powder
Proteins are the building blocks of muscle tissue. In order to gain a pound of body weight, you need to consume 1 gram of protein on a daily basis. A high-quality protein powder ensures weight gain by supplying your body with the building blocks that are required for its growth (49).
This is another weight gain supplement that supplies your body with a high energy precursor, which helps in creating ATP during intense physical activity. By empowering the muscle contractions, it plays an important role in facilitating a high rate of muscle growth (50).
Note: This should be used under the guidance of a professional if you do strength training exercises.
This is basically an amino acid that helps in accelerating the process of muscle repair and recovery (51). Leucine can be found in many BCAA supplements. This supplement should be considered for gaining weight at a faster pace.
34. Waxy Maize
This is another weight gain supplement that facilitates quick digestion of carbohydrates to spike your insulin levels and saturate your muscle glycogen storage. These fast digesting carbs help to transfer the proteins and amino acids to your muscle tissue. One of its advantages is that it is light on the stomach. You can switch to waxy maize if you are feeling nauseous post your workout because it can be mixed easily with any post workout shake.
All these foods listed above will help you gain weight, but you should consult your doctor to know how much weight you should gain. Follow the diet plan that your doctor or dietitian recommends. Consuming fats, proteins, or carbs in excess can make you medically obese, making you prone to heart disease and stroke.
Being underweight may pose many health risks and negatively affect overall health. However, if you are not putting on weight despite eating a heavy diet, you can rely on food supplements for weight gain. These food supplements add muscle mass and help gain weight in a healthy manner. Coupling these supplements with weight gain foods like whole grains, nuts, avocado, potato, dry fruits, smoothies, butter, banana, cheese, eggs, and fish can help maximize the results. Waxy maize, creatine, leucine, and protein are the commonly used weight gain supplements.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which vitamins cause weight gain?
B vitamins are considered to be fat-promoting factors. Their composition is strongly related to the prevalence of obesity (52).
Does omega-3 cause weight gain?
A high intake of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids may help with weight gain, while a high omega-3 fatty acid consumption decreases weight gain risk (53).
Do iron pills make you gain weight?
Iron therapy may increase serum ferritin levels, which are associated with obesity (54).
Do multivitamins increase weight?
Multivitamins do not cause an increase in body weight.
Can I take fish oil to gain weight?
The consumption of fish oil (which is rich in omega-3 fats) is unlikely to cause weight gain.
Does vitamin D make you gain weight?
Excess consumption of vitamin D may have little effect on body weight.
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