Should You Go On a High Protein Diet?

Considering a high protein diet to help you lose weight in the new year?  Make sure you do your research!  Here are a few facts and links to consider before you make a drastic change:

What is Protein:  It is a macronutrient that is essential to building muscle mass. There are three macronutrients: protein, fats and carbohydrates. We need macronutrients to provide calories (which we convert to energy to build and maintain muscles, bones, blood and organ function).  Protein is made up of amino acids (organic molecules that are made of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and sometimes sulfur). Eight of these amino acids are considered “essential” because our body does not make them – they must be consumed. It’s a mythe that you can only get complete proteins from the animal kingdom: “as long as you’re eating a variety of plant protein sources, your body does the work of completing the proteins for you.”

Risks to consider:  Alarmingly, according to the National Institute of Health, more and more studies are showing that excess protein in our diet is stressing our kidneys which can lead to renal damage and kidney failure.  According to the website NutritionFacts.org our kidneys appear process plant protein differently from animal protein. It appears that plant protein causes no noticeable stress on the kidneys. There is also increase evidence that our livers cannot properly break down excess protein, leading to fatty liver disease and other ailments. In addition high-protein diets are usually nutritionally deficient in hydonutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and low in fiber (which could increase chances of colon cancer, heart disease and diabetes – among other aliments).

How/where can I get protein:  Often you see menus and nutritional guidelines divided into Grains, Vegetables and PROTEINS – as I mentioned above – Protein is not a food group!  Here’s a short list of high protein grains and vegetables from the website Eat This, Not That (for reference, one egg has 6 grams of protein):

  • Tofu – ¼ block: 10 grams
  • Lentils – per ½ cup (cooked):9 grams
  • Pumpkin Seeds – per 1 oz:9 grams
  • Peanut butter – per 2 tablespoons8 grams
  • Quinoa – per 1 cup:8 grams
  • Kidney Beans – per ½ cup (cooked):6 grams
  • Chickpeas – per ½ cup (cooked):3 grams
  • Black Beans – per ½ cup (cooked):3 grams
  • Peanuts – per ounce:7 grams
  • Edamame Beans – per ½ cup:6 grams
  • Brown Rice – per 1 cup: 5 grams

The good news: Protein deficiency is rare in the United States. If you are not ill and consume a variety of nutritious real foods (not overly processed and junk foods) you should get all the protein you need to thrive!  Consider looking to the plant world for protein sources that are also packed with nutrients and fiber – you will thrive!

So here’s to wishing you the healthiest you you can be in 2018!