High Protein Diets: Good or Bad?
High-protein, low-carb diet plans are appealing to many people, especially to meat lovers who envision filling up on bacon and steak. Atkins, Zone, Sugar Busters, and Protein Power are just some of the high-protein weight loss plans available. While they can work for some people, it's important to consider the risks and benefits before embarking on any diet.
How Much Protein?
With high-protein diets, people derive many more calories a day from proteins than in the typical American diet, which is made up of 12-18% of calories from proteins. In fact, in these diets, half your daily calories may come from protein such as eggs, cheese, and meat. These weight loss plans may dramatically restrict your consumption of grains, vegetables, fruits, and cereals.
How Do High-Protein Diets Work?
Eating protein instead of carbohydrates causes you to lose water weight quickly. In the absence of carbs in the diet, the body uses its own fat for fuel, leading to a situation known as ketosis. While you may feel less hungry, ketosis can have negative effects such as headache, nausea, heart palpitations, kidney problems, and irritability.
Are High-Protein Diets Safe?
The American Heart Association doesn't recommend high-protein diets, arguing that increased consumption of fatty meats and dairy foods raises your cholesterol and risk of a heart attack. Not consuming vegetables and fruits also reduces your intake of fiber and many essential nutrients. Experts do not agree on the value of high-protein diets, so a more moderate diet with reduced fat and healthy carbohydrates may be the best choice.
Starting a High-Protein Diet
Extreme diet plans are never a good idea; the best high-protein diets do include some carbs and are low in fat. Enormous portions of fatty meats are not part of a healthy high-protein diet.
Say Hello to High-Protein Beef
Lean cuts of beef are a high-protein option with less fat. A lean cut of beef has only slightly more saturated fat than a skinless chicken breast of the same size. So you can enjoy a steak, if it is a lean cut like a top round steak.
Think White Meat
White meat poultry has less fat than dark meat and is the healthier option. Removing the skin from poultry also dramatically reduces your fat consumption. In general, poultry is an excellent source of protein for those on high-protein diets.
Don't Overlook Pork
Some cuts of pork are also good options for protein, if you choose leaner options. Today, some cuts of pork are 31% leaner than they were 20 years ago. Healthy choices for pork include tenderloin, rib chops, sirloin steak, top loin, or shoulder blade steaks.
Fish Offers Healthy Fats
Fish is a great, low-fat source of proteins. Tuna and salmon are fish that have more fat, but they contain the heart-healthy kind of fat known as omega-3 fatty acids. Consuming omega-3 fatty acids can lower your risk of heart disease, some cancers, and arthritis.
Eggs Are a Cheap Form of Protein
One egg a day is safe for healthy adults, even though the yolks contain cholesterol. You can choose egg whites if you don't want the added cholesterol. Remember that of the cholesterol you consume, only a small portion enters the bloodstream. Eating saturated and trans fats is more likely to raise your cholesterol level.
Soy: It's High in Protein, Too
Soy-based foods are another good source of protein. Consuming 25g a day of soy protein has also been shown to lower cholesterol levels.
Beans: Full of Fiber and Protein
Beans offer both fiber and protein for those watching the scales. Fiber and protein both help you feel full longer, and fiber can help lower cholesterol. Eating 1 ½ cups of beans gives you about the same amount of protein as 3 ounces of steak.
Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt are also protein sources. They offer the bonus of calcium to protect your bones and heart. Choosing low- or nonfat dairy products can help you reduce your fat intake.
Go Whole Grains, Go Fiber
High-protein diets tend to limit the amount of grains you can eat, so be sure to choose healthy grains. Whole-grain products are better choices than white breads and pasta. Whole-grain products can supply the fiber that can be missing in a high-protein diet. High-protein cereal bars may also be a good choice if they don't contain a lot of sugar or fat.
Leave Room for Fruits and Veggies
Fruits and vegetables are loaded with nutrients including antioxidants that aren't present in many other foods. These might help lower your risk of cancer. Fruits and vegetables should be part of any weight loss plan.
More Protein, More Risks?
As mentioned before, there are some risks associated with high-protein diets. Many doctors are concerned these diets are too high in fat and low in fiber, leading to an increase in the risk for heart disease and stroke. Kidney disease and osteoporosis are other risks if high-protein diets are used for a long time.
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