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How Much Protein Is Too Much?

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Next time you're at the grocery store, take a look around. You may be surprised at the number of products labelled with the word "protein. "

CBS 2's Mary Kay Kleist asks, are we getting too much of a good thing?

Stephanie Ward's protein-packed diet includes smoothies, beans and a fortified chocolate bar.

"I'm more inclined to buy the ones that have the little label on it that says 27 grams of protein," she said.

Experts say American like Stephanie have an insatiable appetite for protein, thanks to research showing it can help you shed pounds, and keep you fuller longer.

Whether it's natural or added protein, a lot of products in the stores are now grabbing our attention with labels indicating there's added protein.

"Protein is one of today's diet darlings," said registered dietitian Jean Alves, of Rush University Medical Center.

That's why products like granola bars, cereals, juices and almond milk clearly advertise that they've got protein.

Alves said it's important to read labels.

"The basic issue is, is it a good quality source of protein? A lot of these things that are supplemented with additional protein are accompanied by high amounts of sugar, fat, and consequently calories," Alves said.

Some of the hottest added proteins are vegetable-based coming from sources like hemp, lentils and peas.

Jim White, from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, said that's good news.

"A lot of these proteins are dairy-free. They're soy-free. They're gluten free and they're a great additive, especially for people that don't eat meat," he said.

The CDC recommends women need about 46 grams of protein per day. You'll get that much by eating a three ounce hamburger, one hard-boiled egg, eight ounces of milk and one six ounce container of Greek yogurt.

Most of us eat a lot more than what's recommended.

So, how much is too much?

"A good general kind of rule of thumb is try not to exceed more than one gram of protein per pound of body weight," Alves said.

For example, if you weight 120 pounds, eating more than 120 grams of protein one day could be unhealthy.

"In the most severe cases, too much protein can actually cause kidney damage, and possibly dehydration," Alves said.,

Stephanie hasn't had any problems with the added protein in her diet. In fact, she feels fortified foods help fuel her workouts.

"I just want to make sure that I have enough in my body to build muscle," she said.

If you're on a high-protein diet, dietitians say you you'll need to cut back on carbohydrates or fat. Otherwise, you risk putting on weight, instead of losing it.

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