Diets high in healthy proteins and low in simple carbohydrates can help diabetics stabilize their blood sugar. Why is this so?
Americans eat, on average, about 100 grams of protein per day. This is 100% more than the recommended amount of 50 grams per day. Our body needs about 50 grams of protein per day to build muscle, repair tissue, grow hair and nails, etc.
Excess protein in the diet is converted to glucose (sugar) and used as fuel, just like carbs. But protein metabolizes to sugar more slowly. It takes about 3 hours for protein to be metabolised into glucose and released into the bloodstream.
For diabetics, this is key. The slow conversion of protein to sugar (as compared to carbs) means that a diet high in healthy proteins is helpful in maintaining proper blood sugar levels.
This is also why it is a good idea for a diabetic’s bedtime meal to include lots of proteins. The slower release of glucose stabilizes blood sugar during the night and lowers risk of hypoglycemia during the nightly fasting period.
Lean proteins are best
The healthiest proteins are lean and low in saturated fat. This is true for both diabetics and non-diabetics. Saturated fat is full of unhealthy cholesterol and triglycerides.
Unhealthy saturated fat comes almost exclusively from animal sources (meat and dairy). Saturated fat is a solid at room temperature. It promotes hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis) and increases the risk of stroke and heart attack.
Various sources of protein
So let’s take a look at many different sources of protein and see which are the best.
Meat is the first food that usually comes to mind when we think of protein. It’s true that meat is packed with protein.
Meat protein also provides a complete, full range of amino acids (the building blocks of protein). This makes meat a well-balanced, healthy protein source.
Avoid fried meat because the frying oil adds loads of calories and fat. Grilled, baked, and sauteed meat is better.
Different types of meat provide different quality protein. Let’s take a look:
- White meat: chicken, turkey, and other white meat poultry are a healthy source of protein. They are low in saturated fat and easy for the body to digest. Poultry skin and dark meat are higher in fat and therefore less healthy.
- Fish: fish is an awesome choice for diabetics because it contains heart healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Fish is low in saturated fat and high in healthy unsaturated fat. Tuna, shellfish, salmon, and shrimp are great choices.
- Eggs: eggs are an excellent source of protein but the yolks are high in cholesterol and saturated fat. Limit egg yolks to 1 or two per day.
- Pork: From a health standpoint, pork is the worst type of meat. Pork has lots of saturated fat and should be eaten sparingly. I personally eat very little pork.
- Beef: Better than pork, but as a red meat still not as healthy as fish and white meat. Choose lean cuts of beef.
Milk and Dairy
Dairy is a great source of protein. But again, check the labels for the saturated fat and also sugar content. Many dairy products have added sugar that are unsuitable for diabetics.
- Yogurt: Unsweetened Greek-style yogurt is a great choice. High in protein and also has probiotics to keep your gut bacteria in optimal condition. Bacteria in the gut affect a range of health issues — from mood and temperament to digestion.
- Milk: High in protein and vitamins. Choose skim or lowfat milk. Or do what I do, and replace cow’s milk altogether with high-protein soy milk (see below).
- Cheese: Cheese is a great source of protein. Unfortunately, cheese also is usually high in saturated fat so check the nutrition label. But a little cheese in moderation never hurt anybody. 🙂
Soy and quinoa
Soy milk and tofu are wonderful vegetable-based sources of protein. In fact, soy and quinoa are the only plant based sources of complete protein. Complete protein means they contain the complete range of amino acids the human body needs to produce all necessary proteins.
Replacing cow’s milk with soy milk is a very healthy choice because soy contains little saturated fat and none of the hormones that regular cow’s milk has. Although soy is not a dairy product, it has the full range of amino acids and provides a high quality of protein.
Beans and legumes
Beans are a favorite source of protein for vegetarians everywhere, and are perfect for diabetics too. They are also high in soluble fiber which absorbs bad ldl cholesterol and other toxins as they pass through the intestines. The high fiber and protein content of beans gives you a feeling of fullness that lasts a long time.
Don’t forget protein powder. You may not be aware that protein powder is an excellent source of protein for diabetics. It doesn’t contain any of the harmful saturated fat that meat and dairy often do. Protein powder is convenient and doesn’t need to be cooked or prepared. Pairing protein powder with oatmeal and other healthy carbs makes for a healthy meal.
For diabetics, replacing carbohydrates in the diet with lean protein is beneficial. Learning which sources of protein are best is an important step in improving overall health and maintaining stable blood sugar levels.
Please let me know what you think. Have I forgotten any important protein sources? What has your experience been with
Choose your protein powder
|Whey protein powder||Soy protein powder||Sugar-free protein powder||Organic protein powder|