August 17, 2021 5 min read

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    The Importance of Protein in the Diabetic Diet

    Protein is one of the three macronutrients, along with carbohydrates and fat, that provide fuel for the body. Protein is needed to grow new tissues, aid in injury recovery, and keep the muscles healthy and strong. Unlike carbohydrates, which are quickly turned into glucose, protein is broken down into glucose at a much less efficient rate. Protein can be turned into glucose anywhere from an hour to several hours after eating.

    The Importance of Protein in the Diabetic Diet

    On average, about 10-35% of your daily calories should come from protein. The remainder should be comprised of limited carbohydrates and healthy fats. However, the ADA no longer provides a recommended diet for people with diabetes. Nutritional needs, including protein, vary based on a number of factors such as height, weight, activity level, and health.

    Certain diets like the keto, Atkins, and paleo diets place an emphasis on low-carb, high fat and high protein foods. Although they can be restrictive, many people find them to be healthy guidelines for keeping blood sugar levels under control. However, instead of a "one menu fits all" approach to diet, you should meet with a dietitian or healthcare professional to create a tailored meal plan that suits your unique needs. In any case, your diet should be filled with high-fiber, heart healthy foods that are low on the glycemic index.

    Foods high in protein

    The American Diabetes Association compiled a great list of foods that are a good source of protein. However, it's important to note that lean "isolated" proteins are the purest sources of protein, while some plant-based protein substitutes may be higher in carbohydrates. Of course, how you prepare each protein affects your meal's nutritional content and resulting blood glucose levels as well. Don't worry, we'll list some of our favorite low-carb, high-protein snack ideas below!

    Low-carb, high-protein snack ideas

    Plant-Based Proteins

    • Beans such as black, kidney, and pinto
    • Bean products like baked beans and refried beans
    • Hummus and falafel
    • Lentils such as brown, green or yellow
    • Peas such as black-eyed or split peas
    • Edamame
    • Soy nuts
    • Nuts and spreads like almond butter, cashew butter, or peanut butter
    • Tempeh, tofu
    • Products like meatless "chicken" nuggets, "beef" crumbles, "burgers", "bacon", "sausage" and "hot dogs"

    Fish and Seafood

    • Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids like albacore tuna, herring, mackerel, rainbow trout, sardines, and salmon
    • Other fish including catfish, cod, flounder, haddock, halibut, orange roughy, and tilapia
    • Shellfish including clams, crab, imitation shellfish, lobster, scallops, shrimp, and oysters.

    Poultry & Meat

    • Chicken, turkey, cornish hen
    • Buffalo, ostrich, rabbit or venison
    • Dove, duck, goose, or pheasant (no skin)
    • Select or choice grades of beef trimmed of fat including chuck, rib, rump roast, round, sirloin, cubed, flank, porterhouse, T-bone steak, or tenderloin
    • Lamb: chop, leg, or roast
    • Veal: loin chop or roast
    • Pork: Canadian bacon, center loin chop, ham, or tenderloin

    Cheese and eggs

    • Reduced-fat cheese or regular cheese in small amounts
    • Cottage cheese
    • Whole eggs

    Supplements

    • Marine collagen supplements, collagen derived from fish skin, provide 10 grams of protein and only ~35 calories per scoop. Make sure to choose a supplement free of added sugars and flavors.
    • Gelatin, a partially cooked version of collagen, is another great protein choice for diabetics. Glycine, an amino acid that's found in gelatin, may help to manage blood sugar levels. Store-bought gelatin sheets won't make the cut here. Clean, sugar-free, unflavored gelatin supplements are not only better for your diet, but they are also more versatile in the kitchen.

    Gelatin Powder

    High-Protein Healthy Snack Options

    Some of the best snacks for diabetics are the ones highest in fiber. Fiber helps slow down the digestive process, which means the energy from the food is released over a longer period of time. These snacks also contain lean sources of protein, often in the form of protein powder, to help you keep track of exactly how much protein you've eaten. They make for great snacks in the early afternoon or even before bed to promote insulin resistance overnight. Speak with a doctor or licensed dietitian to find an eating schedule that suits your lifestyle and health needs.

    • Whole grain crackers with roasted veggie and greek yogurt:Drizzle bell peppers, onion, and even artichokes in olive oil. Eat them warm from the oven over greek yogurt and whole grain crackers or chill overnight for a filling and tasty afternoon snack!”
    • Roasted chickpea "chips": With about 15g of protein and 13g of fiber per cup, chickpeas are one of the healthiest legumes for diabetics. Swap oily potato chips for dehydrated or roasted chickpeas and season with garlic, cayenne pepper, or curry powder for a deliciously addicting crunchy snack. Use this recipe to learn how to make perfectly crunchy chickpeas that will stay crisp for a snack the next day.
    • Dark chocolate chia seed pudding with collagen:If you have a sweet tooth, this recipe by Diabetes Strong is for you! Add extra decadence and protein by adding a scoop of unflavored marine collagen powder to this simple and perfectly sweet recipe.
    • Dried fruit and nuts: Make your own antioxidant-rich trail mix by mixing nuts, seeds, and yummy dried fruit together. A 1-ounce serving of trail mix provides about 4 grams of protein plus healthy fats and fiber from the nuts and seeds to help keep blood sugar levels stable.

    Dried fruit and nuts

    • Protein-infused guacamole: A half to a quarter of an avocado infused with unflavored collagen protein makes for a filling and delicious snack! Simply smash your avocado and add a 5g scoop of unflavored protein powder plus lemon or lime juice, black pepper, tomatoes, and diced onion to taste. Scoop it onto crunchy cucumber slices or a couple of whole grain crackers and you're good to go!
    • Spicy Deviled Eggs: This simple and tasty recipe from the Diabetic Food Forum gets an extra flavorful and fulfilling kick by adding in a 5g scoop of clean gelatin powder and a dash of horseradish paste. Turn up the heat by sprinkling with cayenne pepper instead of paprika!

    Hummus with unflavored collagen

    • Hummus and fresh veggies:Hummus made from chickpeas or black beans is a good snack to help you get to dinner time without any tummy rumbles! Chickpeas have a naturally high fiber and protein content which will help you to feel fuller longer. Add a 5g scoop of unflavored collagen powder to a 3 tablespoon serving of hummus to improve satiety andboost your protein levels. Sprinkle with pistachios or pumpkin seeds for crunch and swap the pita or tortillas for fresh veggies like cucumber slices, celery sticks, carrots, or broccoli for a delicious low-carb snack.
    • Greek yogurt with fresh fruit: Between the natural amount of antioxidants, probiotics, fiber, and protein found in greek yogurt with fresh fruit, it's a great snack to keep blood sugar levels stable. You can add an extra kick of protein to this simple snack by adding a 5 or 10g scoop of unsweetened Marine collagen powder.
    • Nut butter protein balls: This energizing and satisfying snack is the perfect grab-and-go lunch or mid-afternoon snack to hold you over. Instead of using vanilla protein powder, opt for a clean collagen peptides powder that's free of artificial flavors and sweeteners instead.

    Summary Points:

    Unlike carbohydrates, which are quickly turned into glucose, protein is broken down into glucose at a much less efficient rate.

    It's important to note that lean "isolated" proteins are the purest sources of protein, while some plant-based protein substitutes may be higher in carbohydrates.

    Marine collagen supplements, collagen derived from fish skin, provide 10 grams of protein and only ~35 calories per scoop.

    Gelatin, a partially cooked version of collagen, is another great protein choice for diabetics.

    Some of the best snacks for diabetics are the ones highest in fiber.

    Discover the Superhuman in you!

    Take our quiz and find which supplements your body is craving.

    Article References:

    1. https://www.everydayhealth.com/type-2-diabetes/diet/keto-paleo-atkins-which-low-carb-diet-best-diabetes
    2. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/best-snacks-for-diabetes#TOC_TITLE_HDR_9
    3. https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/delicious-snack-ideas-for-people-with-diabetes/
    4. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324881#glucose-levels
    5. https://www.diabetes.org/healthy-living/recipes-nutrition/eating-well/protein
    6. https://www.diabetes.org/healthy-living/recipes-nutrition/eating-well



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