More than 700,000 times a month someone Googles the phrases "high protein" or "high protein diet." It's become accepted that slashing carbs and eating a lot of protein (from meat with fat included!) is a smart way to lose weight and get healthy. That makes it difficult to discover the truth about the role of protein in a healthy diet.
The basic facts are pretty straightforward.
• Protein is essential for your body to build hormones, enzymes, antibodies — and every cell.
• Protein is a great "I'm full and I'm not getting hungry anytime soon" nutrient. New research shows that when you eat protein-rich foods, you set off a chemical reaction that doubles back through the gut and nervous system to tell the brain you're food-satisfied long after you eat.
• After age 40 your body has to work harder to maintain muscle mass, so it's important to make sure you get enough muscle-building protein in a steady supply throughout the day. Our recommendation: Aim for a minimum of 46 to 56 grams of protein per day. Work out three days a week and weigh around 150? Go for 75 grams. Hint: 3 ounces of skinless white-meat poultry or fish has 18 to 25 grams; a quarter cup of nuts has 5 to 10 grams.
• And most important: Protein doesn't mean saturated fat! Stay clear of all red meats. Opt for fish and lean poultry if you aren't vegetarian. But everyone should rely on lean, protein-packing beans, hummus, low-fat dairy, 100 percent whole grains, soy foods, and egg whites.
© 2012 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.