When you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you can get extremely focused on how many carbohydrates you are eating. This is not a bad thing, especially when you are first learning about which foods are high in carbohydrates or sugar. Foods high in carbohydrates can rapidly raise your blood sugar. But other macronutrients, such as protein and fat, are also important to consider.  

Protein may have a few additional benefits for people with diabetes. Protein is the only macronutrient the body cannot make on its own from other nutrients. This makes protein extremely important for human nutrition and is why you must get protein from you diet. For managing diabetes, it plays a key role as well. 

Protein and Diabetes 

Protein plays a lot of important roles in the body. It is the structural macronutrient, making up the structure of cells, skin, muscles, and organs. It also has an important role in the immune system. Protein is used to make enzymes and hormones. It also transports nutrients throughout the body.

The best thing about protein for diabetics is that it doesn’t have a significant impact on blood sugar. Although it is not an unlimited food for people with diabetes, which we will discuss in a bit, it can help you feel less restricted in your diet. You can eat an additional serving of protein if you are feeling hungry without any major impact on your blood sugar.  

Protein is also an extremely satiating nutrient, meaning it helps you feel full and satisfied after meals. This can help you reduce cravings for carbohydrates, which in turn may improve your blood sugar. 

A high protein diet can also speed up metabolism. This means protein can help with weight management by helping you eat less and increasing the number of calories you burn. Losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight is an important part of controlling blood sugar and a great benefit for diabetics. 

Protein Needs for Diabetics

People with diabetes do not need any more protein than a person without it. The recommended amount is that between 10-35% of your calories should come from protein. This would mean if you eat 2000 calories per day, you need to eat between 50-175 grams of protein. You may need more or less depending on your weight, activity level, and age.

In certain cases people with diabetes need to restrict protein intake. A high protein diet can be difficult on the kidneys. If you have been diagnosed with diabetic kidney disease or your doctor has told you to restrict protein, it is best to limit your protein intake. Speak to your doctor for individualized recommendations on how much you need.

Best Protein for Diabetics

When choosing foods high in protein for diabetics, it is important to consider other macronutrients, such as fat and carbohydrates, that also may be in the food. If a food is high in protein but also high in carbohydrates, it might elevate blood sugar. People with diabetes need to watch their fat intake as well, especially saturated fat. Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease and high cholesterol, which can be managed by a lower fat diet.

The best protein choices for diabetics that do not have a significant amount of carbohydrates or fat include:

  • Whey
  • Poultry, especially white meat
  • Fish
  • Lean beef
  • Tofu

Protein sources that contain carbohydrates include:

  • Beans
  • Nuts 
  • Legumes
  • Milk
  • Yogurt

Protein sources that are also high in fat, include:

  • Eggs
  • Fatty cuts of beef
  • Dark-meat poultry
  • Sausage, bacon
  • Cheese

A well-balanced diabetic diet could include all of the protein sources mentioned above. It is simply necessary to be aware that some protein sources may contain carbohydrates or fat and should be balanced alongside with other foods.

Best Protein Shakes for Diabetics

What about protein shakes for diabetics? Protein shakes can be a great option to get in your daily protein. However, many are loaded with sugar and other undesirable additives. When shopping for a protein shake for diabetes, always look for the lowest sugar option.

Protein shakes are also made from a variety of different types of protein. Which protein shake is best for diabetics? Studies have shown that whey protein can help control food intake and regulate blood sugar. It does so by generating the release of certain types of hormones in the stomach that stimulate the release of insulin. This can in turn help the body use sugar from food more effectively. 

Managing Diabetes with Protein

Increasing your protein intake won’t immediately impact your blood sugar or change your insulin requirements. However, a higher protein diet can help people with diabetes eat less and make weight management a bit easier. 

When deciding how much protein you need to eat, the important thing is to take your own individual situation into account. It is best to get personalized suggestions from a healthcare provider about how much protein you need, which may be different from generalized recommendations. 

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