If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you know that 2 of your main concerns are 1. “Do I have to take medication?” and 2. “What should I eat?”.
Now, we all know that nutrition is important. Some of us don’t have to be quite as ‘careful’ as someone with diabetes. Those who do have diabetes, however, must be very conscious of their food intake.
The nutrient I’ll discuss today is protein. We know it’s important, but WHY is it important? Well, every cell in our body consists of protein. It is our building block. It is the substance that builds our bodies and also aids in upkeep of our bodies. We must get enough protein every day to feed our cells and our muscles. Not ENOUGH protein, however, can cause confusion, weakness and fatigue.
There are many sources where protein is found. The most well known source of protein is, of course, meat. Animal proteins are considered complete proteins, in that they have all the amino acids that our body needs. Beef, fish, chicken, pork – all are protein sources. People with diabetes may want to increase their fish intake a bit, as fish contains Omega 3 fatty acids. The 3 best fish choices as far as Omega 3’s are concerned are tuna, halibut and salmon.
Did you know that plants are also a source of protein? Examples of plant proteins are soybeans, peas, beans, nuts and seeds. Plant proteins are considered to be ‘incomplete’ proteins, because they do not have all of the 21 amino acids (like animal proteins) WITH THE EXCEPTION of hemp seed. Hemp seed is the only seed, the ONLY plant protein that has all 21 amino acids that make up a complete protein. (Hemp is also a perfect source of Omega fatty acids with a perfect ratio.) Soy comes in behind hemp with 20 amino acids (it does not contain methionine, but hemp does).
Another question that must be answered is “How much protein must I eat every day?”. The total varies. Some say 10% of the total caloric intake should be protein, some say 20%. Generally, the rule is : 1 gram of protein = 4 calories. So, if you are on an 1800 calorie diet, and 20% of your caloric intake is protein, that equals 360 calories from protein (90 grams of protein per day). There are approximately 7 grams of protein in an ounce of meat or fish, so 90 grams of protein a day = 13 ounces of meat. (Your medical provider will give you guidelines about what percentage of your diet should be protein.)
Because plant proteins are incomplete (with the exception of hemp), you would need more of them, especially if you are substituting the plant proteins for animal proteins. A few examples: hemp seeds are 31% protein, almonds are 18% protein, and tofu is 8% protein. (Please don’t ask me to do the math on THEM!) Keep in mind that when you do consume plant proteins, you must also be mindful of the natural sugars that are present.
Eating 4 or 5 small meals a day is preferable to 2 or 3 large meals per day. Eating the small meals every 2 ½ -4 hours will keep your metabolism steadier. Remember to include a small amount of protein in each meal or snack.
I hope this information is beneficial to you. Enjoy!
*I do not work in the medical field, so any information I have provided is from my own personal research and is not to be taken as medical advice. If you have questions or concerns, PLEASE talk to your medical care provider.