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Pros and Cons of High-Protein Diets

Experts look at the pros and cons of high-protein diets.
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

High-protein diets are a close cousin of their world-famous predecessor -- the low-carb diet. While diets like the well-known Atkins focus on an intense restriction of carbohydrates, high-protein diets are centered on lots of protein-packed foods that leave you satisfied and satiated.

"I don't believe there is a standard rule or definition, but diets that contain more calories from protein than is recommended could be considered high-protein diets," says Sue Moores, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. "Usually this means that of the total number of calories a person consumes each day, 25% to 35% of those calories comes from protein, as opposed to a typical diet in which only about 10% to 15% of calories comes from protein."

High-protein diets, which in many cases are low-carb diets in disguise, have their own set of pros and cons -- not unlike any other diet out there. But are they the next big thing in the world of weight loss? Experts give WebMD their insights on protein-packed diet plans.

Diet Varieties

"First, not all high-protein diets are the same," says Carol Johnston, PhD, a registered dietitian and professor of nutrition at Arizona State University.

High protein and high fat, combined with low carbs, is one of the most popular routes, akin to Atkins. Another route for high-protein dieters is a Zone-type diet: "High protein but low fat with moderate carbs," says Johnston.

Johnston suggests the latter of the two diets, with the meal plan looking good compared to the days of old when it was rice cakes and celery sticks.

"Consume chicken, fish, nonfat dairy, yogurt, and soy foods," says Johnston. "Plus, avoid grains -- two servings per day only and choose whole grains. Eat plenty of vegetables and two fruits daily. Choose nonfat dairy, 2-4 servings per day, and use Egg Beaters daily, if you so desire."

The trick with high-protein diets is to find those lean foods that are protein packed, like fish and chicken, but not full of fat. So of course, on the limit-your-intake list are the troublemakers, like too much red meat and junk food.

"Avoid red meat -- limit it to several times per week -- and high-fat foods like fast foods, convenience or processed foods, and bakery products," Johnston tells WebMD. "There is little room for sweets, including sodas, on a calorie-reduced diet."

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