You have probably heard about high-protein diets or maybe you have actually tried one. All kinds of protein-focused diet books are available promising weight loss based on different menus and diet plans. Typically, most of these books are based on the author own experiences or theories without any real scientific support. However, science is proving that there may be some benefit in eating a higher-protein diet. Research over the past several years has shown that protein may help with weight loss and improve risk markers for cardiovascular disease. Additionally, soy protein has gained attention for its own potential health benefits.
Benefits of high-protein diets
Studies suggest that protein actually helps you feel fuller longer. This can help to decrease the amount of calories you consume throughout the day. Several studies were able to demonstrate not only a decrease in hunger and total calories consumed but also that high-protein diets can facilitate weight loss. Experts believe this is partly due to an increase in thermogenesis, meaning the body burns more calories just to digest higher-protein foods. Additionally, the higher-protein diets favorably impacted cardiovascular health by promoting healthy blood lipid levels, including increasing HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol). It is important to realize however, that these studies used lean protein sources and replaced high-fat or highly refined carbohydrates. Simply eating more high-fat protein foods will not help you to achieve the beneficial effects mentioned here. So what is a higher-protein diet? Well, there is no regulated, defined term; however, researchers have seen results with diets containing 25 to 30% of calories from protein.
Increase your protein in a healthy way
For example, a higher-protein diet may look something like this: 45% carbohydrate, 25% protein, and 30% fat. For a 2,000-calorie diet this would translate into 225 grams of carbohydrate, 125 grams of protein, and 67 grams of fat each day. Here are some tips to help you increase your protein intake in a healthy way:
- Replace refined carbohydrate snacks with whole grain snacks providing at least 3 grams of protein.
- Eat lean protein sources such as beans, nuts, seeds, low-fat and nonfat dairy products, fish, and lean poultry.
- Replace fatty fried foods such as french fries with lean protein sources such as beans.
- Replace spreads such as mayonnaise and butter with protein-containing spreads like all-natural peanut and almond butters.
What about soy protein?
There are now all kinds of soy products available. You may have heard or read about the benefits of working soy into your diet. The news is based on recent studies that suggest soy protein may promote cardiovascular health, bone health, and may even reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. In fact, soy protein helps lower cholesterol so predictably that in 1999 the Food and Drug Administration approved the following health claim for food labels:
As part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, 25 grams of soy protein a day may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Soy protein is also currently being studied for its potential to help with a variety of diseases and conditions, some of which include weight management, diabetes, kidney disease, and women health issues. There are several ways to increase your soy protein intake:
- Look for soy-containing snack foods and cereals.
- Try soy milk with your morning whole grain cereal.
- Make fruit smoothies with tofu and top with a soy-containing cereal.
- Snack on soy nuts, which come in several varieties including honey roasted.
|Kashi GOLEAN Cereal||13 g / ¾ cup|
|Kashi GOLEAN bars||8–13 g/bar|
|Soybeans (dry)||10 g/oz|
|Cheese (such as cheddar)||7 g/oz|
|Egg (large)||7 g/egg|
|Lentils (dry)||6.5 g/oz|
|Almonds||6 g/oz (23 kernels)|
|Red beans||6 g/oz|
|Baked potato (medium)||4 g/oz|
|Vegetables||2 g/ ½ cup|
USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 18 (2005)