The Benefits of a High-Protein Diet

Protein is one of the macronutrients — alongside carbohydrates and healthy fats — that play critical roles in the body. Eating enough protein helps build muscles, keeps blood sugars balanced, supports bone health and powers the immune system.

A high-protein diet refers to an eating plan that contains a significant percentage of calories from protein, which typically includes lean meats, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts and seeds, soy products, beans, lentils, quinoa, and other whole grains. High-protein diets may help people feel fuller after a meal, preserve muscle mass during weight loss and keep blood sugars stable, according to some research.

Proteins are complex molecules that the body breaks down into parts called amino acids during digestion. The human body needs 22 amino acids, nine of which are essential to obtain from the diet because they cannot be made by the body. Amino acid intake is particularly important to young children, athletes, and anyone who wants to avoid deficiency symptoms like fatigue and weakness. Protein is also a key ingredient in making enzymes that aid in the digestive process, building cells and producing hormones.

The best protein sources are dairy and meats. For example, a 3-ounce serving of chicken or beef provides about 21 grams of protein. When choosing meat, look for a lean cut of poultry or beef and remove the skin from pork to reduce the amount of saturated fat.

Another protein powerhouse is salmon. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can support heart health, and it contains about 30 grams of protein per fillet. Aim for two servings of salmon a week to meet your protein needs. Try making it a little more exciting with recipes like Honey-Garlic Salmon with Asparagus or Walnut-Rosemary Crusted Salmon.

Eggs are another excellent source of protein, with a half a cup providing about 20 grams of the macronutrient. They are a versatile food that can be enjoyed in many ways including hard boiled, scrambled or poached and can be added to salads, stir fries and soups for an extra boost of protein.

Other protein-rich foods include lean meats, such as top round steak or skinless chicken breast. Lean cuts of meat have less saturated fat than a comparable-sized serving of chicken or pork, and if you skip the skin, you can eliminate a large amount of the unhealthy saturated fat in beef.

Protein-rich vegetables are also a good source of the macronutrient, including asparagus and broccoli. Aim for three to four servings of these veggies a day and add them into meals and snacks for variety.