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The pros of protein: Don't be conned

Sep. 01, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

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 46-56 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 18-25 grams; a quarter cup of nuts has 5-10 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.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of "The Dr. Oz Show," and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Medical Officer at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. For more information go to www.RealAge.com.