How Does the Amount of Protein and Fat I Eat Affect My Blood Sugar?

 How does Protein  Affect Blood Sugar?This week I came across an article that I felt was interesting because it talked about the amount of fat, carbohydrate and protein in a meal and how it affects blood sugar in both diabetic and nondiabetic patients.1  .  I thought it was interesting because a lot of people are worried about the amount of carbohydrate that they eat.  This causes them to then consume more protein or fat in an effort to reduce their blood sugar and better control their diabetes.  This article made it clear that the amount of carbohydrate is still the most significant factor for how your blood sugar will react.  That’s not to say that you should stop eating carbohydrate, because they are very important and integral to your survival.  Portion control is the key.

This article tested the proportion of fat: protein in a person’s meal and evaluated how the body reacted using the same amount of carbohydrate.  In other words, they did a high-protein, low-fat meal, and a low-protein, high-fat meal to see which would raise the blood sugar higher when the person was given the same amount of carbohydrate.  They found no difference based on the fat and protein.  They did find that people with diabetes had a slower insulin response which may cause them to have higher blood sugars for a longer time after the meal.

How much carbohydrate should I eat?

The amount of carbohydrate that you should eat as a diabetic can vary depending on your individual response.  Carbohydrates can be anything from simple sugar to whole grain pasta.  The amount of fiber that is in a carbohydrate serving affects how quickly your body digests and absorbs the amount of carbohydrate that is contained in a serving.  In other words, the more fiber and the more whole-grain you have in a meal the better.  Fiber helps you feel full longer.  A general rule of thumb for diabetics is to have a meal plan that gets on average 50 to 60% of calories from carbohydrate.  You can find the amount carbohydrate on the nutrition label or on your recipe.  Carbohydrate on a nutrition label may be broken down into simple sugars and total fiber.  If the nutrition label indicates that the serving has over 3 g of fiber, you can subtract the amount of fiber from the overall total carbohydrate for that serving.  So for example, if you had whole-grain bread that has 15 g of total carbohydrate and 3 g of total fiber, you would only have to count 12 g of carbohydrate as part of your diet plan.

How much protein and fat should I eat?

General guidelines indicate that as a diabetic you should eat about 30% of your daily intake from fat.  There are several different types of fat, and diabetics should avoid saturated fat and trans fat.  This is because diabetics are at a higher risk for heart disease.  So look for poly and monounsaturated fats on the label, and eat more liquid fats than solid fats.  So when you are cooking, use an olive oil instead of butter when you can.  In order to figure out 30% of your daily intake, multiply the total number of calories that you need eat for a day, times 30% (.3)  Then, divide that answer by 9 to get the total grams of fat for the day.  When you’re reading labels, try to pay attention also to the percent daily value column and eat less than 100% of the percent daily value.

For protein, as a diabetic, you should eat about 20% of your daily intake from protein.  Proteins can be chicken, beef, pork or turkey as well as combination carbohydrate protein foods such as beans.  Beans contain carbohydrate, fiber and protein, and make an excellent addition to your diet because they’re low in fat.  Eating lean proteins by trimming the fat off of beef or removing the skin from chicken and turkey helps reduce the amount of fat that is contained within them.  In order to figure out 20% of your daily intake, multiply the total number of calories they need for a day, times 20% (.2).  Then, divide that answer by 4 to get the total grams of protein for the day.  This study suggests that even though the recommendation is 20% protein and 30% fat, if you were to adjust that a little it would not make much difference in your blood sugar.

How does this affect my overall diabetic diet?

When you’re thinking about your diabetic meal plan, it is still most important to control the amount of carbohydrate that you eat.  Carbohydrate is most directly related to the blood sugar reading that you will see after meal.  Blood sugar control will help reduce the complications of diabetes and your risk for developing other problems such as heart disease or nerve damage.  Fat and protein are the things that help you feel full when you’re eating.  Fiber does this as well, so choosing high-fiber carbohydrates is an excellent way to adjust your meal pattern and manage your blood sugar better.  Reading labels and nutrition information on recipes allows you to be diligent about serving sizes and portion control.

While this study showed that the amount of protein or fat that you eat at a meal does not immediately affect your blood sugar, the amount of carbohydrate that you eat does.  Managing your diabetes with a well constructed diabetic menu plan helps you control your diabetes and helps you feel a lot better and more in control.

1.  Papakonstantinou, E.; Triantafillidou, D.; Panagiotakos, D. B, et al. “A high-protein, low-fat meal does not influence glucose and insulin responses in obese individuals with or without type II diabetes.” Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics 23 (2010): 183-189 Web. 1 Jul 2011.

About Mathea

Mathea Ford, RD/LD, is the owner of Healthy Diet Menus For You, LLC. She has over 22 books on Amazon, check out her work at


  1. […] You need protein to help balance the sugars in your meal, and to get your blood sugars stabilized. Protein also helps keep you full and satisfied, and is shown to help boost brain function during the day so […]

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