While a high-protein diet can help you lose weight, you need to make sure you are still giving your body the nutrition it needs to function. “Just because you are eating protein does not mean you have a healthy diet,” says Philip E. Tippen, MD, internal medicine physician at Saint Francis Medical Center. “Some high-protein diets emphasize eating red meat and full-fat dairy products, which may increase your risk for heart disease. You should still be choosing lean meats and low-fat dairy products.”
Most high-protein diets require that you restrict your carbohydrate intake, which can help you lose weight but may result in nutritional deficiencies. The Food and Drug Administration recommends that women consume 25 grams of fiber daily, while men should consume 38 grams. “Because your carbohydrate intake is so limited, try to choose carbs that are high in fiber such as whole grains, vegetables and fruit,” says Tippen. “Vegetables and fruit provide the vitamins and minerals your body needs; no amount of protein can provide that.”
You should also make sure the diet you choose does not aggravate any pre-existing health conditions you might have. A high-protein diet is not the best choice for people with kidney disease, for example, because the body may have trouble eliminating all the waste products of protein metabolism. Even for people with healthy
kidneys, diets like Atkins and South Beach can put a strain on them.
High-protein diets work because eating more protein helps people feel fuller after eating less food, and limiting carbohydrates causes a loss of bodily fluids, resulting in weight loss. “When you deprive your body of carbs, it is forced to burn fat and protein to create energy,” says Tippen. “When your body burns large amounts of fat, it can cause dehydration, which could impair cardiovascular function and strain the kidneys. It is important to balance your diet with the right amount of carbs, protein, dairy, fruit and vegetables.”
The key to successfully following a high-protein diet is talking to your doctor first and only following the diet for a short time, such as six months or less.
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