Your Protein Prescription

By Janis Jibrin, MS, RD, Best Life lead nutritionist and co-author, along with Bob Greene and John J. "Jack" Merendino Jr., MD, of The Best Life Guide to Managing Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes.

Posted on | By Janis Jibrin, MS, RD | Comments ()

When you have diabetes, your food focus tends to be on carbs--as it should be--but there's another macronutrient that deserves your attention, too: Protein. Those eggs (or liquid eggs) at breakfast, the turkey breast or smoked tofu in your lunch sandwich, the fish at dinner are all helping you keep blood sugar in the healthy zone.


In The Best Life Guide to Managing Diabetes and Pre-diabetes, as well as on the diabetes program on TheBestLife.com, you'll be taking in about 24 percent of your calories from protein, right in the middle of the 10 to 35 percent healthy range prescribed by the Institute of Medicine. (The "Protein by the Numbers" chart below offers a healthy level of protein at various calorie levels.) This amount allows you to get a few ounces of protein at major meals, and, a little at snacks. It's important to include protein in meals because when it's eaten at the same time as a high-carb food (such as a chicken breast sandwich or pasta with tomato sauce and shrimp), it slows and reduces the rise in blood sugar compared to eating the carb-rich food alone.

It's not just the quantity of protein that's important--you also need to focus on the quality. Most of your protein should be the lean type listed in the What's a Protein? list [where]. These foods are low in saturated fat, which, in excess, raises your risk for cancer and heart disease.  Because diabetes can double your chances of developing heart disease, reining in saturated fat is even more important for you than for the rest of the population. Try to limit your intake of high-saturated-fat protein foods, such as ground beef that is less than 85 percent lean, other fatty meats, poultry with skin, and fried fish, chicken, or meats, to no more than once a week. And limit regular cheese to an ounce or two about twice a week. Your protein staples should come from the list below.

Article written by Janis Jibrin, MS, RD
Best Life lead nutritionist and co-author, along with Bob Greene and John J. "Jack" Merendino Jr., MD, of The Best Life Guide to...