meat cooking on grill
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Too Good to Be True?

Lose weight while eating steak, burgers, cheese, and bacon? High-protein, low-carb plans like Atkins and the Zone can work. But you should consider the pros and cons before you decide to try one.

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High protein meat, beans, nuts, and eggs
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How Much Protein?

Women need at least 50 grams of protein a day -- men about 60 grams per day. With a high-protein diet, it can be much more than that. This extra protein can come from beans, meat, nuts, grains, eggs, seafood, cheese or vegetarian sources like soy. These diets often restrict carbs like cereals, grains, fruits, and possibly vegetables.

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bare feet standing on a weight scale
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How Do High-Protein Diets Work?

When you cut out carbohydrates, you lose weight quickly because you lose water. Then, with no extra carbs, the body begins burning more fat for fuel. This can lead to ketosis, which may make losing weight easier because you feel less hungry. Ketosis may cause temporary headaches, irritability, nausea, bad breath and sleeping problems for some people.

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fats and carbs balanced on scale
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Pros and Cons

You can lose weight on a high-protein diet. Choose lean meats and dairy for your proteins. Find a program that includes vegetables, so you don't miss out on fiber and other important nutrients.

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Green salad with salmon and boiled eggs
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Starting a High-Protein Diet

Be choosy. The best high-protein plans focus on lean proteins and include some carbs. Avoid huge helpings of fatty meats and make sure to include vegetables. Ask your doctor, or a dietitian, to help you pick the right diet.

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Choose Lean Beef

Nothing says protein like a nice, juicy steak. And if you choose a lean cut, you will get all of the protein with far less unhealthy fat. In fact, a lean cut of beef like a top round steak has barely more saturated fat than a similar-sized skinless chicken breast.

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Sliced chicken breast on salad
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Tips for Picking Poultry

If you choose white meat when you're buying chicken or other poultry, you’ll get a lot less fat than if you eat dark meat. Also, remove the skin, which has saturated fat.

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Roast pork tenderloin with vegetables
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Don't Overlook Pork

Pork offers plenty of protein without too much fat, if you know what type to buy. Look for tenderloin, top loin, rib chops, sirloin steak, or shoulder blade steaks. Pork cuts are much leaner than they were decades ago.

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Seared Salmon and Seaweed
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Fish Offers Healthy Fats

Fish is loaded with protein and almost always low in fat. Even the fish that have more fat, such as salmon and tuna, are good choices. Those fish generally have omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your heart. Most people don't get enough omega-3s.

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Variety of dairy products
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Eggs for Low-Cost Protein

Eggs are a good source of lean protein. And even though there is cholesterol in the yolk, it is not as likely to raise your cholesterol level as foods that contain saturated fats and trans fats do.

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Tofu cubes garnished with spring onion
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Try Soy

Protein doesn't come only from animals. Tofu, soy burgers, and other soy-based foods are plant-based sources of protein. Bonus: Eating 25 grams of soy protein daily may help lower cholesterol.

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Dried beans and lentils
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Eat More Beans

One and a quarter cup of beans has about as much protein as 3 ounces of broiled steak. Along with protein, the fiber in beans helps you feel full longer and also helps lower your LDL ("bad") cholesterol.

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Variety of dairy products
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Low-Fat Dairy Adds Calcium

Milk, cheese, and yogurt give you protein and calcium for strong bones and a healthy heart. Low-fat, nonfat, or reduced-fat dairy products can help you keep calorie counts down.

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Go Whole Grains, Go Fiber

Most high-protein diets limit grains, so make sure the grains you do eat are pulling their weight. Favor whole grains. You'll get fiber and nutrients. If you're buying products made with whole grains, check the labels to make sure they're not high in sugar or fat.

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Leave Room for Fruits and Veggies

Most low-carb diets still include some vegetables but often limit fruit. There's no known harm to cutting out fruit temporarily to keep your carb count down. However, for your long-term health choose a plan that includes fruit after you reach your weight goal.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 10/07/2020 Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on October 07, 2020

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Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Cut Out the Fat."

American Heart Association: “High Protein Diets.”

Anderson, J. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, October 2000.

CDC: "Protein."

Crowe, T. Obesity Reviews, August 2005.

Harvard Health Publications.

National Council on Strength & Fitness.

National Institutes of Health: "How Much Protein Do You Need?"

University of Maryland Medical Center: “Omega-3 Fatty Acids.”

Weigle, D. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 2005.

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on October 07, 2020

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.