High Protein Diet

High Protein, low-carbohydrate diets were all the rage in the 1970's, as part of the campaign against refined sugar. Then, as more evidence emerged connecting fat with heart disease and some cancers, doctors began recommending starchy carbohydrates as the basis of sensible eating. Result? High protein diets vanished. Now, despite little change in medical opinion, high protein diets are back again. One wonders why...

The Claim - Certain high protein diets claim that carbohydrates make us fat. This is nonsense. No one gets fat by eating carbohydrate-rich foods like bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, vegetables, cereals, beans and fruit and vegetables, unless they eat them by the car-load. Yes, it's true that over-consumption of foods like: candy, chocolate, cookies, biscuits, sweets, cakes etc., all of which are high in refined carbohydrates, will lead to weight gain. But no one needs to eat a high protein diet to avoid these foods. Any balanced diet will do the job just as well, without any of the health risks.

What You Eat - There are various versions of this high protein, low carbohydrate diet. However, most recommend large quantities of protein in unrestricted amounts, including red meat, fish, shellfish, poultry, eggs, and cheese. They forbid (or limit) pasta, bread, potatoes, fruit, many vegetables, plus any foods with large amounts of refined sugar.

Typical Breakfast - Bacon and eggs (no toast, no juice)

Typical Lunch - Small salad and double cheeseburger (no bun!)

Typical Dinner - Steak or fried chicken with salad topped with cheese dressing.         Advantages

Eating a high protein diet may lead to a steadying of blood sugar levels. In turn, this can reduce hunger pangs and cause 'instant' weight gain.

Drawbacks - High protein diets can encourage over-consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol, which can increase the risk of heart disease. In addition, in the absence of sufficient carbohydrates, the body starts burning off fatty acids. Result? The kidneys can become overworked and may suffer serious damage in the process. In addition, certain chemicals called Ketones are released into the bloodstream, leading to an increased risk of headaches, tiredness, nausea, dehydration, dizziness, constipation and bad breath.

Verdict - Any high protein diet which bans carbohydrates is a danger to your health and should be avoided. Even more moderate high protein diets should not be followed by anyone with a history of ill-health, especially anyone with weak kidneys. Furthermore, it is worth remembering that the dietary guidelines laid down by the World Cancer Research Fund contradict almost all the recommendations in many high protein diets, with the exception of those concerning refined sugar. Finally, high protein eating is also discouraged by         most nutritionists who advocate a balanced diet with more fruit & vegetables and less meat. Conclusion? High protein diets can cause more trouble than they are worth and are best avoided.

Suzanne Somers

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