Health Conditions That Might Benefit From A High-Protein Diet

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Protein does a lot for your body. Often referred to as the building blocks of life, this macronutrient is involved in the healthy growth and maintenance of your muscles, bones, hair, skin, and nails. It is also involved in tissue repair. This is why eating a high-protein diet can boost your exercise results — regular weightlifters and endurance athletes pursue a diet rich with protein to help repair muscles, gain body mass, and keep an overall healthy physique. 

But did you know that a diet rich in protein is recommended for certain health conditions too? In addition to helping with wound repair and tissue growth after burns, injuries, and surgeries, someone with polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS can benefit from a good amount of protein too. 

PCOS is a hormonal condition characterized by multiple cysts in your ovaries because of too much androgens in your system and irregular or no periods. People with PCOS also often deal with insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is associated with several other health factors like feeling hungry and thirsty more often, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and metabolic syndrome. This is where a diet rich in proteins can help. Protein keeps you feeling full for longer and prevents overeating and cravings. It also helps stabilize blood sugar levels and boosts your metabolism by helping you burn more calories. In fact, per a 2012 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, women with PCOS who consumed a high-protein diet had bigger weight loss and body fat loss numbers when compared with the ones who followed a standard-protein diet. This isn't all a high-protein diet can do. 

Eating more protein might help people with ADHD

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder or ADHD is a mental health condition that affects both children and adults. Hyperactive and impulsive behavior; not being able to focus on one thing for too long; and poor relational, work, and school dynamics tend to go hand-in-hand with the disorder. Although treatment for the condition requires therapy and medication typically, experts believe that your diet has a role to play in managing some of the symptoms. 

While the diet recommended by your healthcare provider might not look exactly like the one someone else with the mental health condition is on, following a high-protein eating plan is known to help with concentration and how efficiently medications work. The brains of people with ADHD work differently from those without the health condition. Focusing on protein consumption can help boost neurotransmitter production and thereby concentration while also preventing blood sugar spikes that lead to hyper-activeness and impulsive behavior. In fact, according to Purdue University nutritionist and author of "12 Effective Ways to Help Your ADD/ADHD Child: Drug-Free Alternatives for Attention-Deficit Disorder," Laura Stevens (via Additude), it's important to start your day with lean protein and find ways to incorporate the macronutrient into your other meals too. 

People with ADHD are also known to have low dopamine levels and consuming a high-protein diet can help boost levels. Recommended protein sources for ADHD include beans, cheese, eggs, nuts, seeds, and lean meat. You have to be mindful, however, of unhealthy fats that come in the form of processed meat and red meats.  

Cancer patients can benefit from a high-protein diet too

People who've just gone through chemotherapy or any other type of cancer treatment would have probably heard about the unexpected effect protein has on your health. Everything from recovering and maintaining a healthy weight and improving blood clotting to helping repair body tissue and boosting your immune system depends on your protein intake.

According to Candice Schreiber, who is a registered dietician and a JamesCare for Life outpatient clinical dietician, (via The Ohio State University), "Protein helps build and maintain muscle, which is important for cancer patients who might be having problems eating and are losing weight. When they lose weight, it's often muscle and not fat, so protein is vital during treatment." 

However, it is important to note that high-protein diets for these health conditions don't have to only comprise meat-based options. In fact, experts recommend varying your sources of protein and including plant-based options for patients recovering from cancer treatments as well as those with PCOS or ADHD. Plant-based protein was even linked with a lower risk of anovulatory infertility, a condition that's common in women with PCOS, per a 2016 study published in the American Journal of Public Health. Whole grains, nuts, seeds, lentils, and dairy are recommended sources of protein for those recovering from cancer treatments. A high-protein diet also doesn't have to mean giving up healthy fats, fiber, and other important nutrients as part of a nutritious eating plan. The key is to balance the benefits of adding more protein while still getting the best of the other good stuff.