Does protein play a role in diabetes diets? As you might expect, when we talk about diabetes and meal planning, we mostly focus on carbohydrates (carbohydrates). Diabetes is also called sugar in common parlance. The connection between sugar and diabetes is strong and hard-wired into our minds. Not only people with diabetes, all health conscious people are talking about reducing carbohydrates in their diet. In all this madness, we often miss the importance of protein.
There are three “macro” nutrients in our diet: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Proteins are the building blocks of our body and are vital for growth, muscle and bone development. They are also important components of hormones and many enzymes at the cellular level and are important in building immunity. About half of the protein in our body is found in our muscles. Protein is also broken down by the body into glucose and used for energy, a process known as gluconeogenesis.
India is a carb loving country. In general, our protein intake is suboptimal. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the recommended daily protein intake for an adult is 0.8 to 1 g per kg of body weight. This means for an average 70kg Indian, around 56-70g of protein should be consumed daily. Most Indians are well below this figure, often not even reaching 50 grams per day. This has an impact on our muscle mass. Studies have shown that Indians of all ages have low muscle mass (“sarcopenia”) compared to populations with better protein intake.
There are several prevalent myths about protein consumption, such as “diabetic patients should not consume much protein”, “high protein diets can harm your kidney”, “protein is difficult to digest”, “causes weight gain’ and is ‘only for bodybuilders’. Some of these myths come from the western world where protein intake is much higher than that of Indians. Excess protein intake can be a concern in some d ‘these countries, while for Indians it is a struggle to meet normal protein requirements.
How does protein intake affect diabetes?
1. When you eat carbohydrates in combination with protein (or fat), your body may take longer to convert the carbohydrates into glucose, leading to lower blood sugar levels after meals in patients with type 2 diabetes 2.
2. Although 1 g of protein provides four calories, just like carbohydrates, it reduces caloric intake by providing satiety, which also helps control blood sugar.
3. A low-protein diet leads to muscle loss that increases the risk of falls and fractures in older diabetics. In any case, these people could be more prone to falls due to nerve, muscle and eye damage from long-standing diabetes.
4. Low muscle mass contributes to insulin resistance. Therefore, it is not just adipose tissue but a lack of muscle mass that also contributes to insulin resistance and its long list of consequences.
5. Recent data suggest that low muscle mass—and by inference low protein intake—promotes the development of fatty liver disease, which can lead to liver cirrhosis and even cancer.
How should we approach the protein problem if we have diabetes?
We should aim to get 15-20 percent of our calories from protein daily and ensure a minimum of 0.8g/kg of body weight protein. Ideally, it should be greater than 1 g/kg for people with diabetes, unless they have kidney involvement. Even for those with kidney complications, an intake of 0.8 gm-1 gm/kg is recommended!
Our requirement also depends on our exercise level, so a higher intake of 1-1.5g/kg is recommended for some. Athletes often need to consume much higher amounts.
Try to get protein at every meal for maximum benefit. Eating a protein-rich meal with other protein-free meals is not the best method of health management.
Not all proteins are created equal. Its quality is also important. Animal proteins are generally superior to plant proteins, although there have been many attempts to improve the latter in recent times. Amino acids are the units that make up proteins. Some of these cannot be made in the human body and must be taken in through the diet. These are called essential amino acids.
The best sources of protein are dairy products like milk, curd, paneer, as well as eggs, meat, fish and poultry because they contain all the essential amino acids.
Plant sources of protein include lentils, beans and nuts. Soy is an exceptional source. If you are a vegetarian, consume dairy and dals. If you like the taste, add soy. If you’re vegan, have a nutritionist calculate your protein intake and make sure you’re not falling short! A combination of grains, millets and legumes provide most of the amino acids, which complement each other to provide better quality protein.
A variety of protein always helps. A good start is that every time you eat, look for the protein on your plate. Make sure there is protein in all the main meals you eat.
To give you an idea of what common foods to eat, check out this list:
100 g of chicken = 30 g
100 g of fish = 22 g
100 g of cooked green soybeans = 12 g
1 large egg = 6-7 g
1 cup of milk (200 ml) = 7 g
1 katori of dal or beans = 5-6 gm
1 cup of yogurt = 4 g