High protein diets have been a topic of conversation for quite a while. How much, though, do we really know?
Protein is a vital nutrient, essential to your health. In its purest form, protein consists of chains of amino acids. There are 22 amino acids that combine to form different proteins, and 8 of these must come from the foods we eat. Our body uses these amino acids to create muscles, blood, skin, hair, nails and internal organs. Proteins help replace and form new tissue, transports oxygen and nutrients in our blood and cells, regulates the balance of water and acids, and is needed to make antibodies.
However, too much of a good thing may not be so good for you. Many people are putting their health at risk by eating to much protein. Excessive protein consumption, particularly animal protein, can result in heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, and kidney stones.
The average American eats about twice as much protein than what is actually required. Some people, in the pursuit of thinness, are going on high-protein diets and are eating up to four times the amount of protein that their body needs. Protein deficiency is certainly not a problem in America.
According to the American Heart Association and the National Institutes of Health, as little as 50-60 grams of protein is enough for most adults. This breaks down to about 10-12% of total calories. Your body only needs 0.36 grams of protein per pound of body weight. To calculate the exact amount you need, multiply your ideal weight by 0.36. This will give you your optimum daily protein requirement in grams. Since the amount of protein needed depends on the amount of lean body mass and not fat, ideal weight is used instead of actual weight.
People on high-protein diets are consuming up to 34% of their total calories in the form of protein and up to 53% of total calories from fat. Most of these people are unaware of the amount of protein and fat that is contained in the foods they eat. For instance, a typical 3-ounce beef hamburger, which is small by American standards, contains about 22 grams of protein and 20 grams of fat. Animal proteins are loaded with cholesterol and saturated fat.
Many people on these diets also experience an elevation in their LDL (the bad) cholesterol when they remain on this diet for long periods. High levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood clog arteries and is the chief culprit in heart disease, particularly heart attack and stroke. So while you may lose weight in the short-run, you are putting your cardiovascular health in jeopardy in the long-run.
By replacing animal protein with vegetable protein and replacing saturated fat with unsaturated fat, like that found in olive and canola oils, you can avoid the pitfalls of the typical high-protein diet. You will be able to improve your health and regulate your weight while enjoying a vast array of delicious, nutritionally dense, high fiber foods.