Low Protein Diets
Why is a low protein diet necessary?
Protein is needed, but can cause problems for diseased organs
Protein is necessary for a healthy body. When protein is metabolised by the liver and digested, urea is produced as a waste product. If the liver is diseased, then food metabolism is compromised. If the kidneys, which are responsible for excretion of urea, are not functioning properly (renal failure), or if high levels of protein are continually present in the diet, urea builds up in the bloodstream causing loss of appetite and fatigue. A low-protein diet will reduce the workload on these organs.
It is usually the case that serious liver and kidney disease are accompanied by the need to limit salt or sodium intake due to high blood pressure or fluid retention. Table salt (the primary source of sodium in the diet) should therefore be limited, along with other foods with a high sodium content, as an additional feature of the low-protein diet.
Too much protein can worsen your health
It is generally accepted that a healthy person needs 40-60 grams of protein each day to remain in good health. However, it has been reported that the amount of protein typically consumed by people in affluent societies (American diet typically comprises 12-15% protein) may overtax the kidneys - to the extent that up to 30% of kidney function may be lost by the time someone is in their eighties. High-protein diets for weight loss often recommend 30% or more protein in the daily diet, and in prolonged use can cause serious metabolic changes leading to bone loss and kidney stones!
Reduced protein intake can improve your health
Low protein diets (4-8% protein) are used routinely to treat patients with liver disease, kidney (renal) failure, and disorders involving the urea cycle, the metabolism, and amino acids.
How is a low-protein diet achieved?
Reduce amount of protein
Some of each type of protein should still be consumed each day from the two main sources:
Animal products (fish, poultry, eggs, meat, dairy products) - considered high quality or complete protein.
Vegetable products (breads, cereals, rice, pasta, dried beans) - considered low quality or incomplete protein.
To reduce the amount of protein consumed, protein foods in recipes can be 'stretched' (to consume less) or reduced as against more of the low- or non-protein foods (less in proportion), making a smaller amount seem just as satisfying.
Sandwiches: Use thinly sliced meats.
Fill with salad items like lettuce, alfalfa sprouts, cucumber, chopped celery, apple, parsley or water chestnuts.
Soups: Use lower protein foods (milk substitutes for cream soups, or rice or pasta) to make soups as filling but with less protein.
Main Dishes: Make the main dish of vegetables and grains, and treat meat as the side dish to your meal.
Use small pieces of meat and more vegetables in kebabs.
Make fried rice with vegetables and use less meat or shrimp.
For salads use crisp, fresh vegetables and only a few small strips of meat and egg.
For casseroles, reduce the amount of meat and increase the starch, pasta or rice. In recipes using soup, use a low sodium mix.
Use low-protein pastas and breads in the diet.
For cheeses, use smaller amounts of stronger-tasting cheeses (sharp cheddar, parmesan or romano) for plenty of flavor.
Boost calories to compensate
Decreasing protein in the diet may also mean a reduction in calories. To compensate so as to maintain a healthy weight, increase calories by substituting or adding certain ingredients with minimal protein content, such as:
Increase heart-healthy fats like polyunsaturated vegetable oils (corn, cottonseed, safflower, soybean or sunflower oils), olive oil, mayonnaise-type salad dressings.
Use candy and sweeteners (hard candy, gum drops, jelly beans, marshmallows, honey, jam and jelly - even sugar (diabetics need medical advice).
Use canned fruits in heavy syrup.
Breakfast Cheerios cereal or equivalent ¾ cup
non-dairy creamer ½ cup
½ medium banana
orange juice ½ cup
Snack 1 cherry fruit roll up
Lunch 2 slices white bread
turkey breast 1 oz/28 g
tomato ½ cup
green beans ½ cup
mayonnaise 3 tsp
1 medium apple
fruit punch 4 fl oz/118 ml
Snack 1 popsicle
Dinner lean hamburger 2 oz/56 g
white rice ½ cup
broccoli ¼ cup
cauliflower ¼ cup
tossed salad with 2 Tbsp ranch dressing
pineapple ½ cup
Snack gum drops 1 oz/28 g
Other useful Diets information: Macrobiotic diet | Gluten free diet | 7 day diet | Body for Life | Liquid diet | Lactose diet | Sugar Busters diet | Juice Fasts diet | Sonoma diet | Pregnancy diet
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