Did you know that pre-diabetes and type II diabetes are on the rise and are estimated to affect 422 million people worldwide? And our risk increases, especially after 40 years old. As we age, we also experience a progressive decline in muscle mass. That’s why protein has never been more important in our diets.
Protein combats blood sugar increases that lead to diabetes, and it also builds lean muscle that supports us and powers us through our day. It helps slow digestion, prevents post-meal sugar spikes, and keeps us from feeling hungry an hour after we have just eaten. This in turn keeps us from overeating, gaining fat, and reaching dangerous blood sugar levels.
The best sources of protein come in natural form and are low in calories and fat. Here’s what I recommend to check all those boxes and to satisfy your hunger in the healthiest ways.
Although eggs unfairly spent years on the Bad Rap list, they are an excellent source of protein. Two-to-three servings per week is the sweet spot when it comes to maximizing their benefit. The beauty of eggs is they can be prepared any number of ways, are inexpensive, and require very little prep time. Enjoy with a sprinkling of cheese or a side of cottage cheese, an additional source of protein.
2. Beef, pork, veal, lamb, skinless poultry, and game meats
Choose choice cuts for the leanest forms of each meat. Many people think of pork as fatty, but a pork tenderloin is quite lean and Canadian bacon is a great breakfast meat choice. Chicken and turkey – particularly the white meat portions – are naturally lean and easy to use in almost any dish. Game meats such as venison, elk, and bison tend to have even less fat and higher protein, so they are a win-win.
3. Plant-based proteins
Beans and lentils are often overlooked as sources of protein, but they have been shown to benefit blood sugar regulation and slow digestion. Other plant-based proteins include peas, hummus, edamame, soy nuts, nut butters, and tofu. If you’re craving a meat product, try a vegetable-based alternative such as meatless meatballs or impossible burgers. Plants have plenty of protein and your body can easily absorb them and use them efficiently.
Including fish and shellfish, seafood offers a valuable source of protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Salmon is a star, but rotating through various fish options will keep your menu interesting. And don’t forget sardines! They have many health benefits and are packed with heart-healthy Omega 3’s. Try to incorporate seafood into your meal plan two times a week.
Although body weight, activity, stress, sleep, and genetics all play a role in blood sugar maintenance and staving off diabetes, following a healthy diet will go a long way in making you feel your best!