Nutrition

Is Protein Good for People With Diabetes

Reviewed by

Shifa Fathima

Is Protein Good for Diabetes?

Protein is a macronutrient and one of the primary sources of energy in our body. It helps the body develop new tissues, supports muscle building, and helps repair wear and tear. It is also a constituent part of all the cells present in our body, making up almost a sixth of our weight. 

Our muscles are made up of proteins. Protein is also responsible for building and maintaining our nails, hair, skin, and bones. It supports our immune system and is used for making hormones such as glucagon and insulin. We often obtain proteins from the consumption of eggs, meat, poultry, fish, milk, and cheese.

In addition to helping the body repair and grow, protein is broken down in our body into glucose and is used for energy. The conversion of protein into glucose is less efficient than carbohydrates. Due to this, the effects of protein on our levels of blood glucose can only be seen a few hours after eating. However, people living with diabetes should keep a check on consuming a diet largely based on protein. It is important to learn how such meals react with your sugar levels in order to judge your insulin requirements correctly.

Daily Protein Intake

The amount of protein you need on a daily basis depends on your age, health, sex, and level of physical activity. People with diabetes can consume the same amount of protein as someone without diabetes. On average, 15-20 percent of your daily calories should come from protein. For example, if you consume 2000 calories per day, about 300-400 calories should come from protein, which would be around 75-100 grams of protein.

If you are not in the habit of tracking your calorie intake regularly, you can use another formula to ensure you are consuming enough proteins. Your weight in kilograms is the minimum amount of protein in grams that you should consume per day. This means that if you weigh 70 kilograms, you should consume a minimum of 70 grams of protein per day. Then, multiply your weight by 1.5, and you will get the maximum amount of protein you can consume in a day. So, if you weigh 70 kilograms, you can consume 70-105 grams of protein per day.

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High-Protein Diets

If you are living with diabetes, you may think that switching to a high-protein diet would impact your blood sugar regulation. However, that is not the case. Research has shown that a high-protein diet does not have any significant impact on your blood sugar levels or insulin requirements, especially in the long term.

So, if a person with diabetes moves to a high-protein diet and receives any therapeutic benefits, it is probably due to the reduction in carbohydrate consumption and not due to the protein itself. So a person living with diabetes cannot depend on a high-protein diet alone to keep their blood sugar levels in check. Complete monitoring of the eating and lifestyle habits has to be taken into account.

Do we need extra insulin if we eat meals high in protein?

When you eat carbohydrates along with proteins or fats, the body takes much longer to convert carbohydrates into glucose. The effects it would have on your body depend on the amounts of carbs you consume in relation to the amount of fat and protein. For example, if you eat pizza, you intake tons of carbs from the crust, along with fats and proteins from the toppings and cheese. Eating pizza will surely cause a spike in your blood glucose levels, but how long the levels will stay elevated depends on the amount of pizza you eat.

People who take mealtime insulin must consider the amount of fat or protein being consumed. For big meals, it is better to stretch out the dosage by taking insulin at mealtime followed by a correction later. Alternatively, an insulin pump can also be used for extended bolus. Large mixed meals, such as holiday meals, can be quite problematic as intake of too much insulin beforehand can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar levels. Therefore, it is essential to closely monitor the glucose levels a few hours after such meals.

Diabetic Nephropathy

Also known as Diabetic Kidney Disorder, Diabetic Nephropathy is a serious complication in both type 2 and type 1 diabetes. The condition affects the ability of the kidney to perform their usual work of waste elimination from the body. Over the years, it slowly damages the kidneys. Diabetic nephropathy can be delayed and prevented by managing your blood pressure and diabetes effectively and having a healthy lifestyle.

People living with diabetic nephropathy usually need to consume lesser amounts of protein. For such people, the recommended protein intake ranges around one gram per kilogram of their weight or less. Check with your doctor to know the right amount of protein recommended for you, depending on your condition.

Excess amounts of protein in your diet can also be harmful to your kidneys. However, too little protein can also result in malnutrition and inadvertent weight loss. Kidney disease can progress further and lead to kidney failure, which is a life-threatening condition. If this happens, the only treatment options available are dialysis and kidney transplant.

Personalised Protein Intake

People with diabetes would benefit immensely from getting a personalised recommendation for protein intake. A number of factors play an important role in providing a well-balanced diet. Your nutritional needs may be different from another person with diabetes. So it is best to consult your healthcare provider and get the ideal recommendation for protein intake. You can also discuss the same with a certified dietician or nutritionist specialising in medical nutrition.

Bottomline

Proteins do not directly impact the levels of blood glucose in our bodies. However, the other components present in high-protein foods may affect this level. Make sure to limit your intake of protein to the daily-recommended dosage and focus more on foods that are low in carbohydrates and fats.

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