Protein diets are designed to provide energy to the body in the form of proteins, as opposed to typical food intake where carbohydrates provide most of the energy. The human body needs proteins, but does not need carbohydrates if proteins are available. Increasing proteins while decreasing carbohydrates and fats switches the body to working harder to take up energy from proteins and limits the uptake of carbohydrates, which are sugars and starches.
In this way the body not only has limited access to the high calorie sugars and starches but it also will use the existing stored fat, which is the form of glucagon to power the cells of the body. Breaking down glucagon into usable glucose increases the metabolic rate which it turn provides a slight energy deficit itself. During this period of fat breakdown the body is an a state known as ketosis, which is normal and healthy for most healthy people.
Most animal products including milk and eggs are excellent sources of protein. However, these products also contain high levels of fat. That is why it is essential on protein diets to limit fat intake, particularly saturated fats, from the portions of protein consumed. Trimming all visible fat off of meat, eating only low fat cuts of meats and adding poultry, fish and seafood to the diet is considered a great option. Vegetarians or those that don’t want to eat meat at each meal have options for protein as well.
Tofu is a very good protein source that is made from soy. Tofu can be used as meat in stews, chillies, soups and in any type of stir fry. There are different types of tofu, including different textures, which allow you to choose the type that appeals to you. Tofu has very little taste but will take on the taste of the spices, vegetables and other ingredients for a very satisfying meat alternative.
Other forms of protein not directly from meat, fish or seafood include lentils and beans, which can also be used as meat in most recipes. They are also a great addition to a salad when chilled. Beans that are good for salads and sides include black beans, garbanzo beans, red kidney beans and edamame.
Nuts such as walnuts, almonds and cashews are other good sources of protein, but they are also high in good fats. Limit nuts to a small handful per day or sliver and use as a crunchy topping on salads.
Low fat dairy including milk, yoghurt, cottage cheese and solid cheeses are great sources of protein. Watch for brands that are lower in sodium to avoid elevating your salt intake.
How Much Protein Is Enough?
For people that are healthy, have no history of kidney disease or other chronic types of medical conditions there is really no known side effects of consuming high protein level diets. Individuals with kidney disease or a history of cardiovascular disease or vascular disease need to discuss any possible health risks with their doctors before starting on a protein diet.
It will also be very important to find ways to add fibre to the diet to avoid digestive problems as you cut back on carbohydrates, particularly fruits and vegetables. Fibre supplements can be used in conjunction with very low carbohydrate fruit and vegetable choices.