proteinThere are a ton of new annual dieting trends, and recently, the high protein, low carbohydrate (high-fat) diet has become all the rage.

As a nutritionist, I’m skeptical about very low carbohydrate diets, as they’re not healthy in the long run. However, moderately reducing carbs while taking in increased (but not excessive) levels of protein has been shown in a number of studies to give an added boost by helping increase weight loss, loss of body fat, and reduce the loss of muscle tissue. Many experts recommend a diet containing 25 to 35 percent protein for weight loss and between 20 to 25 percent protein for weight maintenance. In both cases, the protein should be high quality protein, which can help with weight loss in four ways:

1. Protein has a thermic effect, meaning it requires more energy to digest than other foods, burning more calories and accelerating weight loss.

2. High quality proteins help preserve lean muscle tissue as fat is lost. Without sufficient protein intake, the body steals them from existing muscle tissue.

3. Glucose absorption into the bloodstream is slowed down in the body with protein, helping to reduce hunger through lower insulin levels. This also makes it easier for the body to burn fat.

4. Protein has an amazing satiating effect, even more so than fat and carbohydrates. Whey protein especially contains a component called glycomacropeptide, or GMP, which promotes the release of an appetite-suppressing hormone (CCK). That makes it a superb food overall, but also later in the day when hungry.

In addition to weight loss, another important side benefit of whey protein is its ability to support the immune system. It promotes the formation of glutathione, an anti-oxidant, which plays a key role in supporting the immune system. This is especially important during periods of stress and disease and for individuals who exercise aggressively or smoke.