The Unexpected Effect Protein Has On Your Health

Protein is on labels everywhere — from shakes to powders to bars, protein seems to be the most important thing our bodies need. It's definitely an important component of our daily meals, but is it actually healthy to focus solely on protein?

Protein is a macronutrient, meaning it's something we absolutely need to sustain life (via Live Science). We require it in large quantities, just like the other macronutrients fat and carbohydrates. Good sources of protein include meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds. For example, 3 ounces of lean ground meat provides 18 grams of protein. Protein helps us feel full and build muscle mass, and amino acids are what make up protein. While our bodies can create amino acids, there are 9 that our bodies can't produce, called "essential amino acids." These are found in foods such as meat, dairy products, quinoa, and soy. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that 10-35% of your daily caloric intake should come from protein.

Can you eat too much protein?

A benefit of eating a high-protein diet is that more muscle mass is created and metabolism speeds up, often leading to weight loss (via Women's Health). While this sounds like a great "diet," especially since it's not necessarily a restrictive one, it does come with a warning.

When you focus too much on one macronutrient, you may not get enough of the rest, according to the Mayo Clinic. Consuming a high amount of protein might mean that you don't get enough carbohydrates and fats, which can lead to nutritional deficiencies and health issues. It might also mean that you consume more eggs, red meat, and full-fat dairy, which can increase your risk of heart disease. If you have kidney disease, it might also worsen your kidney function, as your kidneys work hard to eliminate waste from high metabolism.

The safety of high-protein diets is still being researched (via Live Science). Before starting on any weight loss diet, it's important to consult your doctor.