Smart Shopping for High-Protein Diet Foods

High-protein diet foods are often used in low-carbohydrate and high-protein diets. Protein is an important macro-nutrient that is essential to life. Made up of chains of amino acids, proteins are the building blocks of our bodies tissues, hormones and enzymes. High-protein diets have become popular for managing body weight and recovering from intense exercise. High-protein diet foods can make us feel more full, increase the rate at which our bodies burn calories, and help with tissue repair and function.

Obvious sources of high protein are meats, such as beef, chicken, fish and pork. However, eggs, dairy, beans and nuts and seeds are also good sources of protein. For vegetarians, soy can be a good option for replacing proteins missed by avoiding meat. Those seeking the benefits of extra protein without force-feeding large quantities of food find protein supplements to be a good alternative. These include protein powder (egg, casein or milk protein, soy, or whey), meal replacements, protein shakes or protein bars.

What to Look for

Not all proteins are created equally. Each one has a different absorption and effect upon the body. Healthy individuals should strive to take in protein from a variety of sources. When purchasing beef, chicken, fish or pork, it is important to select lean meats that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Keep in mind that non-organic meats can contain hormones and antibiotics. Make sure to thoroughly read the packaging so that you understand exactly what you are buying.

Eggs are a great, affordable source of protein. They are very “bio-available,” second only to whey protein, which means they are easily digested and used by the body. Dairy foods, such as milk, cheese and yogurt, can also be good high-protein choices. Beans, such as soy beans, black beans, pinto and lentils,can provide both protein and dietary fiber, which is essential for proper digestion. Peanut butter, almonds, peanuts, cashews, pecans and sunflower seeds all provide high-protein snacks with good levels of healthy unsaturated fats. Protein powders, meal replacement powders, protein bars and shakes provide excellent high-protein alternatives. Make sure to choose one that is low in sugar and fat, as well as cholesterol.

Common Pitfalls

High protein consumption is still controversial. Bodybuilders and athletes have long understood that consuming more protein can lead to leaner physiques and more muscle growth. Protein consumption recommendations vary from .6 g to 1.5 g per pound of lean body weight. Intense athletes, such as pro bodybuilders, have been known to consume 3 g per pound of lean body weight.

It is reported that excessive protein consumption can lead to kidney stress and even renal failure. However, it seems that these are extreme cases where kidney problems are preexisting. As always, make sure to consult your physician. But go with your gut, literally. Consuming too much protein often leads to digestive stress, causing your body to dispose of excess protein in an uncomfortable way. If you are an athlete and find yourself experiencing excessive muscle soreness, it might be a good idea to increase protein consumption gradually. Everyone is different, so make sure to let your body and lifestyle be your guide.