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High-protein diets: Are they safe?

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Jul 19, 2022.

For most healthy people, a high-protein diet generally doesn’t hurt when followed for a short time. Such diets may help with weight loss by making you feel fuller.

But many health issues may happen if you follow a high-protein diet for a long time. And researchers are still studying the long-term risks of high-protein diets that limit carbohydrates (carbs).

  • Some high-protein diets limit carbs so much that you might not get enough nutrients or fiber. This can cause problems such as bad breath, headache and constipation.
  • Some high-protein diets allow red meats, processed meats and other foods high in saturated fat. These foods may increase your risk of heart disease. And they can increase your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol.
  • A high-protein diet may worsen how well a kidney works in people with kidney disease. This can happen because the body may not be able to get rid of all the waste products of protein that’s broken down.

If you want to stick to a high-protein diet, choose your protein with care. Stay away from processed meats. Pick good protein choices such as:

  • Soy protein
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Fish
  • Lean chicken with no skin
  • Lean beef
  • Pork
  • Low-fat dairy products

The quality of the carbs you eat is important too. Cut processed carbs from your diet, such as chips and cookies. Choose carbs that are high in fiber and nutrients, such as whole grains, vegetables and fruit.

Talk with your health care provider before starting a weight-loss diet. This is very important to do if you have kidney disease, diabetes or other long-lasting health conditions.

Remember that weight loss may be short-term, especially if you go back to how you used to eat. The best eating plan is one that you can stick to.

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