Do High Protein Diets Improve Health?

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, two-thirds of all Americans are either overweight or obese. Considering that research has shown the health consequences of long-term weight gain include gum disease, tooth decay, diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, stroke, and heart disease, it’s little wonder why so many Americans are desperate to lose weight. As a someone how practices family dentistry in Newberg, Dr. Jennifer McLeod wants to see her patients at a healthy weight so they can avoid the oral and overall health problems that come with adding a few too many pounds.

Because weight loss has become a multi-billion dollar industry, it can be difficult for the average dieter to separate what plans can help them lose and keep off weight, and which offer boomerang result (you lose weight early, only to have it come right back).

While not a new concept, high-protein diets have received a lot of attention in recent years, and it’s easy to see why. The idea of losing weight while eating burgers, cheese, bacon, and sausage certainly has quite the appeal. The thought of having your steak and eating it too has drawn millions of meat lovers to such low-carb, high-protein diets as Zone, Atkins, Sugar Busters, and Protein Power. But do these types of diets actually work, and what type of risk versus rewards do they offer?

How High-Protein Diets Work

The logic behind a high-protein diet is pretty straightforward. By cutting carbohydrates from your diet, you begin to immediately lose water weight. Once your body has no carbs to digest, it begins a process known as ketosis, where the body begins to burn fat off to use as fuel. Because protein fills you up more quickly than other types of food, individuals on these types of diets find themselves less hungry throughout the day, making it easier to stick to the diet. However, ketosis can cause irritability, headaches, kidney problems, nauseas, and heart palpitations.

In a typical diet, most Americans receive somewhere between 12 to 18 percent of their daily calories from protein. Individuals on a high-protein diet can receive nearly half of their daily calories from such source as eggs, cheese, nuts, and meat. High-protein diets generally place severe limits on eating foods like vegetables, fruits, grains, and cereals in order to ensure that ketosis begins and the body starts burning fat. While eating very little of these types of foods can help you lose weight, limiting your diet to predominantly protein can have potentially negative side effects. So while research has shown that high-protein diets are effective at helping people loss weight, the question becomes are they healthy?

Healthy or Health Risk?

When it comes to the health risks of high-protein diets, medical researchers don’t agree on whether the benefits of these types of diets outweigh the risks. Because a diet loaded with fatty meats and rich dairy products can raise your cholesterol level and increase your risk of heart attack, the American Heart Association has elected not to recommend high-protein diets as a safe way to lose weight.

Since high-protein diets limit the number of fruits and vegetables you consume, your body loses out on a number of needed nutrients and fiber that are typically needed to maintain a balanced diet. However, studies have shown that high-protein diets can help fight obesity and do successfully cause weight loss. So whether to start a high-protein diet depends on the individual and whether they believe the rewards of the diet outweighs any potential risks.

Safer Solution

If you decide to start a high-protein diet plan, take the time to research your options to find the plan that is right for you. The best types of high-protein diets include some carbs and encourage you to eat foods low in fat. Try to avoid any extreme plans that recommend huge portions of fatty meats and little to no vegetables and grains.

When selecting the type of meat to eat on your plan, look at purchasing lean cuts of beef. A nice lean steak will offer you plenty of protein with far less fat. Keep in mind that a piece of lean beef actually has only a few more grams of saturated fat than a skinless chicken breast. Pork also offers a protein punch with very little fat. The leanest cuts of pork typically include tenderloin, rib chops, sirloin steak, or top loin.

Ideally any high-protein diet will contain several servings of fish, which has low fat and plenty of protein. Even fatty fish, such as tuna and salmon, are good choices as they contain plenty of omega-3 fatty acids, which help lower your risk of heart disease, arthritis, and cancer.

Protein can also come for sources other than meat. Tofu and other soy based foods contain plenty of protein, and the majority of fat in soy is unsaturated and cholesterol free. Studies have even shown that eating just 25 grams of soy a day could help lower your cholesterol.

Beans are another wonderful source of protein and as an added bonus they contain plenty of fiber, which can also help keep you feeling full longer. In general, one and half cups of beans contains just as much protein as a three ounce broiled steak.

As a general rule, cutting back on carbohydrates can also have the added benefit of helping to improve your oral health, as well as your waistline. Carbohydrates are just a more complex form of sugar, which patients of our family dentistry in Newberg should know contributes to tooth decay and gum disease. So when starting your high-protein diet, make sure to keep your protein options varied, and work in a few whole grains and vegetables to help balance your diet and keep your oral health and weight in check.

 

 

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