Ever since the popularity of the Atkins diet exploded, low-carb / high protein diets have been under fire from critics who say that eating very high levels of protein (three to four times the normal daily amount) would compromise the function of important organs such as the kidneys. Others claim high protein diets don't really help people lose weight.
It turns out both are wrong. New research on rats conducted in France and appearing in the American Journal of Physiology shows that a high protein diet not only helped rats maintain a lower body weight (18% lower total body weight than the other group) even while feeding freely on high protein foods, it also resulted in healthy liver and kidney function, outstanding blood chemistry, healthier blood sugar regulation and improved glucose tolerance. No negative effects of a high protein diet were found. The rats fed high protein foods were healthier, weighed less, and showed no abnormal function of the kidneys or any other organs.
I admit that even I've been somewhat cautious of recommending extremely high protein diets to other people, even though I do follow a high protein diet myself. But this research helps bolster the wisdom of pursuing these high protein, low-carb diets such as the South Beach Diet and Atkins diet.
The most important consideration in all this, by the way, is: where do you get your protein? If you're getting your protein primarily by eating red meat, you're going to cause all sorts of other health problems (like heart disease) in your body due to the saturated fats found in red meat, the additive ingredients such as sodium nitrite, and the high concentration of pesticides and other potentially harmful contaminants such as mad cow disease. If you want to be healthy on a high protein diet, you must choose healthy sources of protein. What are the best sources? The best sources of protein are:
- spirulina - a superfood with outstanding protein content. Ounce for ounce, it offers twelve times more digestible protein than beef!
- organic whey protein - a fantastic source of digestible protein, but you have to make sure it comes from organic cow's milk and contains no hormones or pesticides. A good product for whey protein is Jay Robb's whey protein.
- quinoa - the grain of the Incas, quinoa can replace wheat or rice in your cooking while offering a complete protein (something no other grain offers)
- fish - fresh fish like salmon, orange roughy, shrimp and calamari are outstanding sources of low-fat protein. However, some harvesting methods (especially for shrimp) cause environmental damage. Furthermore, many fish from the sea are contaminated with high levels of mercury, making them a poor choice for daily consumption.
Sources of protein to avoid:
- cow's milk - this substance is often marketed as a high protein food, but in fact its protein content is rather low on a volume basis, and the homogenized fats in milk are thought to promote heart disease and circulatory disorders.
- beef or red meat - for starters, beef carries the risk of mad cow disease. Furthermore, beef is frequently sourced from cows who are fed chicken litter, rendered animal parts, crops sprayed with pesticides and other highly undesirable substances that don't belong in the food chain. Packaged red meat at the grocery store is often preserved with sodium nitrite, a cancer-causing ingredient.
- protein powders with artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin or sucralose -- never buy or consume protein powders made with artificial sweeteners like aspartame. Aspartame is linked to neurological disorders and outright destruction of nerve cells thanks to its chemical toxicity. Instead, look for protein powders made with stevia (a natural, herbal sweetener).
- cheese - cheese is an extremely high fat food item, and it's the worst kind of fat, too: saturated fat from animal sources. Eating cheese regularly will pack on the pounds and clog your arteries.
The bottom line to all this is that a high protein diet has proven to be safe, at least in rats. But you can still make a high protein diet dangerous if you get your protein from undesirable sources like beef, cow's milk or cheese. So follow a high protein diet wisely by choosing protein sources that support your good health. And as always, you'll be far healthier with any diet if you also engage in a regular physical exercise program.