Diabetes & Proteins – Facts You Must Know

Role of protein

Protein is not only an important component of muscle but also of the nervous system, blood vessels, skeleton, skin, hair, nails, antibodies, hormones even insulin, and also found in every cell. Protein also provides energy like carbohydrates, with each gram of protein providing four calories but the body uses protein mainly for tissue repair. A protein-rich food is important for diabetics to prevent muscle loss which is common among diabetics.

How much protein

Recommended protein intake for diabetics is similar to the recommendations for the general population. Protein should provide 12-15 % of the total energy intake and this should ideally be 1 gm/kg. For kidney (diabetic nephropathy) patients too much protein might be bad for your kidneys, but too little protein could lead to malnutrition and unintended weight loss. Personalized protein intake should be considered depending on the individual conditions as many factors play a role in a well-balanced diet and needs may vary for each individual. However, it is recommended that the protein intake should not be less than 40 g/day. For patients with increased creatinine, protein restriction should be advised in consultation with the nephrologist.

Sources of protein for diabetics

Varied sources of protein-rich foods are the key to obtaining all the nine essential amino acids that are required by the body. Proteins from vegetable sources like pulses, soy, grams, peas, nuts, low-fat milk, low-fat curds, fish and lean meats are recommended. Among animal-based proteins, dairy products are beneficial for insulin and incretin secretion and better glucose regulation compared to other animal proteins. Red meat and processed meat are best avoided. Foods like cereal and pulse (4:1 ratio) can improve the protein quality and give satiety such as Idli, dosa, Missi roti, Khichdi, Dhokla, Khandvi etc.

Recent findings

A recent population-based study conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research–India Diabetes (ICMR-INDIAB) has made dietary recommendations to reduce carbohydrate consumption and increase protein intake for diabetes remission and prevent the progression of diabetes for newly diagnosed diabetes, and prediabetes.

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