By : Apeksha Thakkar Clinical Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator and Nutrigenomic Counselor

Type 2 Diabetes and the Role of Proteins

The incidence of diabetes has only alarmingly risen in the last few years, and several studies have observed a link between this lifestyle disease and protein.


In 2019, diabetes was the direct cause of 1.5 million deaths worldwide. And as per the estimation by The International Diabetes Federation (IDF), India has 72.9 million people with diabetes and stands second in the world with the largest number of people with diabetes.

Health impact

People with diabetes are at an increased risk for heart attacks and strokes, kidney disease, diabetic retinopathy leading to blindness and nerve damage (neuropathy) in the feet leading to foot ulcers, infection, and amputation.

Understanding Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes (non-insulin-dependent / diabetes mellitus), the most common type of diabetes, is a disease that results from the ineffective use of insulin by the body. Insulin in the body keeps in check the blood sugar.

Type 2 Diabetes which was seen earlier only in adults is now seen increasingly in children and adolescents due to the rising levels of obesity, lack of physical activity, and poor diet.

In diabetic conditions, the nutrients we eat are important to ensure that blood glucose levels stay as normal as possible.

Role of proteins in Type 2 Diabetes

Protein, which is made up of amino acids, is an essential nutrient that is found in every cell in our bodies.

Our body uses protein to make hormones, like insulin and glucagon.
Protein in the diet stimulates insulin secretion in those with type 2 diabetes.
Dietary proteins and amino acids are important constituents of glucose homeostasis which involves balancing insulin and glucagon to maintain blood glucose via increased insulin secretion.
Numerous studies have shown that an increased dietary protein intake helps people with type 2 diabetes improve their blood sugar control and reduce their weight by decreasing blood sugar spikes after a meal and helping to stay satiated.

The Requirement for Protein with Type 2 Diabetes

As per the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the recommended dietary allowance for Indians is 0.8 to 1 gm protein per kg body weight per day, even for those with diabetes, unless there are associated complications like kidney disease.

An effective way is to spread the protein intake evenly throughout the day i.e. at every meal, 1/4th of your plate is filled with high quality protein. 

The Quality or Quantity Protein: Make Your Choice 

The protein in our diet is classified as either complete or incomplete based on whether it contains all nine essential amino acids. 

Proteins from eggs, meat, fish, poultry and dairy products are complete proteins as they contain all of the essential amino acids. 
But plant proteins lack one or more essential amino acids hence a combination of a variety of sources works best to improve quality in case of vegetarian diet. For e.g; Idly, dosa , Khichdi, Dhokla, Khandvi etc
But there are exceptions like soy-based plant foods like soybeans and tofu which are excellent sources of proteins with all the essential amino acids present.
Soy protein intake is also associated with lower risk of obesity, lower incidence of type 2 diabetes, and a lower risk of glycosuria (excess sugar in urine).

Are All Proteins Created Equal?

Proteins from animal sources come with calories and saturated fats, contributing to blood sugar spikes, weight gain thus increasing  the risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity,  cardiovascular disease as compared to plant protein intake.
Hence it is well-advised to limit red meat and processed meats that are high in saturated fats and choose lean and low-fat options from animal sources.


Protein Supplements and Type 2 Diabetes

Snacking is an important part of a diabetic diet and a protein shake is a healthy and convenient option. Protein digests more slowly than carbohydrates which keeps the person feeling full for longer and reduces the chance of a blood sugar spike.
E.g. Whey protein powder can suppress appetite, slow gastric emptying, and thus reduce food intake. It stimulates insulin, thereby reducing postprandial (after a meal) blood glucose levels, and plays a role in the management of diabetes.
But be aware, as packaged protein supplements often are high in sugar content, which can create havoc on the sugar levels. Therefore, be sure to check the label first.

The Takeaway

Dietary protein improves glucose homeostasis, blood lipids, and insulin sensitivity, aids in weight loss by increasing satiety and reducing food intake, thus contributing to the management of type 2 diabetes.

Hence a diet high in protein especially plant proteins with controlled carbohydrates, fats, and caloric consumption may be beneficial for managing type 2 diabetes.

However, these are just guidelines: the nutritional prescription for an individual with diabetes must be based on a personalized assessment and consideration of what the patient is able and willing to do.


Diabetes management Recipe 


Soya Peas Kadhi (Serves 4)

 Filled with proteins and flavor, a bowl full of healthy ingredients!


1 ½ cup fresh curd
1 medium onion,
½ cup finely chopped tomatoes
½ boiled Soya chunks
¼ cup boiled green peas
½ tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp red chilli powder
½ tsp coriander powder
½ tsp garam masala powder
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
3 tbsp. besan
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
Salt to taste
Coriander leaves for garnishing


Heat oil in a pan, add the cumin seeds. Once they start spluttering, add onions and sauté till translucent.
Add ginger garlic and green chili and continue stirring till they turn light brown.
Add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes. Then add the dry spices and cook on low flame till tomatoes turn soft.
In a separate bowl, combine curd, besan, half cup of water and mix so that no lump is formed. Make sure the consistency remains a little thick. 
Add this to the pan and let it boil for 10 minutes. 
Add boiled soya chunks, green peas, salt to the mixture with little water and stir and bring to a boil for a few minutes until the soya chunks absorb the flavors.
Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve hot.

Nutritional Information (per serving)


149 kcal


18.6 gm


12.89 gm


2.3  gm


6.44  gm


Share On


Related Articles