How Much Protein Should a Person with Diabetes Eat?
Proteins are large biomolecules, or macromolecules, consisting of one or more long chains of amino acid residues. Proteins perform a vast array of functions within organisms, including catalyzing metabolic reactions, DNA replication, responding to stimuli, and transporting molecules from one location to another. Proteins differ from one another primarily in their sequence of amino acids, which is dictated by the nucleotide sequence of their genes, and which usually results in protein folding into a specific three-dimensional structure that determines its activity.
Usually, people with diabetes don’t need any more protein than people who don’t have diabetes, and there are times when less protein is better.
Daily Protein Intake
As long as your kidneys are healthy, about 15 – 20 percent of your daily calories should come from protein, which is the same amount suggested for a regular balanced diet. About 45 to 50 percent of your caloric intake should come from carbohydrates, and the rest should come from fat.
A person who needs 2,000 calories per day needs about 75 to 100 grams protein per day. Foods that are high in protein include meat, fish, fish and seafood, chicken, eggs, dairy products, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
• One-half chicken breast has 29 grams protein
• One cup black beans has 15 grams protein
• An egg has 6 grams protein
• One cup low-fat milk has 8 grams protein
• A 3-ounce portion of steak has 26 grams protein
High Protein Diets and Diabetes
Switching to a high-protein diet may seem like it should make a difference in blood sugar regulation, but the protein probably doesn’t help much at all, at least for the long term.
According to an evidence review done by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, increasing protein intake doesn’t appear to have any appreciable impact on how your sugar is digested or absorbed. And it doesn’t have any long-term effects on your blood sugar or insulin requirements. So if a person with diabetes switches to a high-protein diet, any therapeutic benefit is probably due to the concurrent reduction and closer regulation of carbohydrate consumption, not to any particular intake of protein.
People who have diabetic nephropathy, which is a kidney disease related to diabetes, often need to eat less protein. In this case, the recommended protein intake is about one gram (or less) per kilogram of body weight. If you have diabetic nephropathy, you’ll need to work with your healthcare provider to determine how much protein you need each day. Too much protein might be bad for your kidneys, but too little protein intake could lead to malnutrition and unintended weight loss.
If you have questions about your diet and preventing or managing diabetes, speak with your healthcare provider, a certified diabetes educator, or a dietitian or nutritionist who specializes in medical nutrition therapy for people with diabetes.