What is the Best Diet for ME? The Role of a High-Protein Diet

Aaah … those amazing amino acids! They are the building blocks for our physical bodies. They make up our enzyme systems, our muscles, the molecules that drive our thoughts and moods, our pain-controlling molecules, our messenger molecules, and so many others.

Proteins in food are the way we receive the essential amino acids that the body cannot make on its own.

Low-protein diets (read this as high-carbohydrate, high-fat – in other words the Standard American Diet (SAD) can lead to depression, anxiety, fatigue, muscle pain, insulin resistance, obesity, and cardiovascular disease among other illnesses.

Diets high in healthy proteins are low in saturated fat. Such diets generate their protein from largely vegetable sources including soy, beans, legumes, nuts, quinoa, amaranth, khorasan (Kamut), and buckwheat.

Diets high in healthy proteins are low in saturated fat. Such diets generate their protein from largely vegetable sources including soy, beans, legumes, nuts, quinoa, amaranth, khorasan (Kamut), and buckwheat.

When we speak about losing weight, a debate continues regarding which type of nutrition program is most appropriate for not only the initial period of weight loss, but also for the maintenance of that weight loss. Especially in people who were previously obese, or who have or are at risk for insulin resistance and diabetes, the high protein, high vegetable diet seems to be best.

A study reported by the National Center for Biotechnology Information compared a high-animal protein diet with a high-fiber/carbohydrate diet. It found that both diets reduced weight but the high-protein diet was more effective with weight loss. The high-fiber diet was better at reducing cravings and improving satiety; the amount of weight loss was the best predictor of lowered blood pressure. Additionally, both diets reduced insulin, fasting glucose, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and Cardio CRP (a sign of inflammation.) Both diets increased insulin sensitivity.

Epidemiologic studies have shown that increasing protein by increasing meat intake is associated with more cardiovascular disease, more autoimmune disease, and more cancer. Even though these types of studies are not controlled, doubled blinded, prospective studies, they can nevertheless guide our choices. The best documentation of the observation that animal proteins can be detrimental in large amounts comes from The China Study by T. Collin Campbell, PhD.

My suggestion is a high-protein diet largely based on vegetable sources with animal proteins of any sort only 4 times a week. The dietary protein goal should be about 35 to 40% of total daily calories. The fiber goal should be about 36 grams.

Caveats:

  1. Remember that exercise is always essential. It is a necessary part of life whether trying to achieve your optimal weight or maintaining your weight. There is no sustainable method of losing weight, building muscle, or maintaining that change without exercise.
  2. Individuals with kidney disease should not engage in high-protein diets unless specifically advised by their primary care provider.
  3. Some individuals have genetically inefficient systems for metabolizing proteins. These inefficiencies are often discovered during childhood.