Are high-protein diets safe for weight loss?

Answer From Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.

For most healthy people, a high-protein diet generally isn't harmful, particularly when followed for a short time. Such diets may help with weight loss by making you feel fuller.

However, the risks of using a high-protein diet with carbohydrate restriction for the long term are still being studied. Several health problems may result if a high-protein diet is followed for an extended time:

  • Some high-protein diets restrict carbohydrate intake so much that they can result in nutritional deficiencies or insufficient fiber, which can cause problems such as bad breath, headache and constipation.
  • Some high-protein diets include foods such as red meat and full-fat dairy products, which may increase your risk of heart disease.
  • A high-protein diet may worsen kidney function in people with kidney disease because your body may have trouble eliminating all the waste products of protein metabolism.

If you want to follow a high-protein diet, choose your protein wisely. Good choices include soy protein, beans, nuts, fish, skinless poultry, lean beef, pork and low-fat dairy products. Avoid processed meats.

The quality of the carbohydrates (carbs) you eat is important too. Cut processed carbs from your diet, and choose carbs that are high in fiber and nutrient-dense, such as whole grains and vegetables and fruit.

It's always a good idea to talk with your doctor before starting a weight-loss diet. And that's especially important in this case if you have kidney disease, diabetes or other chronic health condition.

Finally, keep in mind that weight loss may be temporary, especially if you return to your previous way of eating. The best eating plan is one that you can stick to long-term.

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July 02, 2020 See more Expert Answers

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