Should You Eat More Protein If You Have Diabetes?

We all know eating healthy foods is what's best for us, but you probably understand just how important it is if you or someone you know has diabetes. When the pancreas cannot produce or use insulin, it can result in a type of diabetes, according to the International Diabetes Federation. Insufficient insulin leads to abnormally high glucose levels in the blood, which can gradually damage the body and result in organ and tissue failure. Usually found in children and young adults, type 1 diabetes is caused by the body's inability to produce insulin, which causes a significant insulin deficiency. Therefore, monitoring blood glucose levels and keeping up with daily injections of insulin are essential for staying well. 

The body of a person with type 2 diabetes doesn't produce enough insulin and doesn't know how to properly manage the insulin that it does produce, as explained by the Cleveland Clinic. Nutrition plays a critical part in managing this type of diabetes, and those with the disease may find it helpful to have a meal plan. Exercise and eating a healthy diet can also be preventative measures for developing type 2 diabetes.

Along with fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy products, protein is one of the five main food groups that constitute a balanced diet (per the U.S. Department of Agriculture). For people with diabetes, however, would it be beneficial or healthy to increase their protein intake?

How much protein should you eat when you have diabetes?

If you want to incorporate more protein-rich food into your diet, you have some delicious options to choose from, including fish, lean meats, cheese, and eggs (per Cleveland Clinic). In addition, you can choose from plant-based proteins like tofu, nuts, and beans. A variety of proteins are on the healthier side, but too much red meat consumption has been associated with an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cancer, notes

Individuals with diabetes may wonder whether it's necessary to add more protein to their diet. As it turns out, it may be better to separate your food groups into distinct portion sizes, as explained by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. In general, the protein portion of a meal should take up approximately one-fourth of a 9-inch plate, according to the plate method. People with diabetes should eat the same amount of protein as those without the disease. Their ideal protein consumption should equal about 10-35% of their daily caloric intake (per Beyond Type 2). 

Nevertheless, a 2018 article published in Diabetes Care pointed out that some research recommends slightly higher levels of protein — specifically 20-30% — as it appears to be beneficial for individuals with type 2 diabetes. For this reason, you may want to speak with your doctor about exactly how much protein you should consume in your diet to manage your diabetes.