Protein and Diabetes: How Does Protein Affect Blood Sugar?

Protein, along with carbohydrates and fats, is one of the three main energy providing macronutrients.It helps the body to grow new tissue, build muscle and repair damage. In addition, it is a part of the composition of each cell in our body and makes up approximately a sixth of our body weight.

Protein has only a small effect on blood glucose levels. In fact, protein tends to help stabilize blood sugars by blunting the absorption of carbohydrates/sugars. As protein breaks down into glucose more slowly than carbohydrate the effect of protein on blood glucose levels tends to occur gradually over a few hours. So, although the initial effects of protein on blood sugars is not seen with blood sugar spikes, as can happen with simple carbs, blood sugars can be affected for several hours due to the slower breakdown in the body.

If eating protein does not increase blood sugar levels much when consumed, and it can help a person feel fuller for longer this mean that you can simply eat protein alone to control your diabetes? The short answer is not exactly. It’s all about balance where protein is concerned.

There are two main types of protein, one is derived from animal products and the second is plant-based proteins.

A diet that contains too much animal protein may actually increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes (1). A diet with plenty of plant-based proteins, on the other hand, may modestly decrease this risk of developing type 2 diabetes (2).

A person with diabetes should choose high protein foods with little animal fat. Here are some examples:

  • Fish, such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna
  • Poultry, such as chicken and turkey
  • Beans, such as lima, kidney, or black beans
  • Lentils
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Soybeans and tofu

High-protein diets may claim to cause weight loss, but this type of weight loss may only be short-term. Excess protein consumed is usually stored as fat. This can lead to weight gain over time, especially if you eat a lot of high calorie protein such as red meat.

What do you need to know to maintain a high protein diet?

  • Check with your doctor if you have any health conditions (such as kidney disease) that may limit how much protein you can have. You need health care advice to make sure this type of diet would be safe for you.
  • Get your protein from healthy sources such as low-fat dairy products, fish, nuts and beans, lean chicken and turkey.
  • Spread your protein consumption across all your meals throughout the day.
  • Choose a well-balanced diet that includes lots of vegetables, fruits, and fiber.

Medical Disclaimer
The articles provided on this website are for informational purposes only. In addition, it is written for a generic audience and not a specific case; therefore, this information should not be used for diagnostic or medical treatment. This site does not attempt to replace the patient-physician relationship and fully recommends the reader to seek out the best care from his/her physician and/or diabetes educator.


1.https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/33/1/43
2.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28397639

DAR-0155 RevA