For most healthy people, a high-protein diet generally isn’t harmful, particularly when followed for a short time. Such diets may help with certain goals by making you feel fuller for longer periods of time. There are many current diets that are not only high in protein but low in carbohydrates. Other names for them are: Atkins, South Beach, Protein Power Plan, Zone, Stillman, Sugar Busters, and some Paleo diets. However, the risks of using a high-protein diet with carb restriction for the long term are still being studied.
We do know there are several health problems that may result if a high-protein diet is followed for an extended time:
- Too little carbs result in nutritional deficiencies or insufficient fiber, which can cause problems such as bad breath, headache, constipation, and altered gastrointestinal functioning.
- Including higher proportions of foods such as red meat and full-fat dairy products, which may increase your risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
- It may worsen kidney function because your body may have trouble eliminating all the waste products of protein metabolism; this is worsened when not enough water is consumed.
If you want to follow a high-protein diet, choose your protein wisely. Good choices include fermented soy products, beans/legumes, nuts, fish, skinless poultry, lean beef, pork, and dairy products. Avoid processed meats. The quality of the carbohydrates you eat is important too. Choose carbs that are high in fiber and nutrient-dense, such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruit.
It’s always a good idea to talk with your doctor and dietitian before starting a weight-loss diet. And that’s especially important in this case if you have kidney disease, diabetes or other chronic health conditions. Finally, remember that weight loss may be temporary, and any choice worth making should be one that is sustainable and for your greatest overall wellness.
Edited by: Lindsey Traudt, LCPC