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Harnessing power of protein for diabetes prevention

November is National Diabetes Month. Do you have a family history of diabetes? Do you have parent, grandparents, uncles, aunts with insulin resistance, prediabetes or diabetes? If so, today’s column is just for you.

If you’re worried about insulin resistance, which is the early stage of diabetes and can lead to that stubborn belly fat, it’s time to take care of your insulin sensitivity. We usually hear a lot about carbs when it comes to high blood sugar and insulin, and rarely focus on improving our protein intake.

So why protein? Proteins, the foundational elements of health, play a multifaceted role in maintaining well-being. These essential nutrients, whether derived from animals or plants, serve as the fundamental building blocks for various bodily structures and functions. They not only boost our immune system by forming critical antibodies, crucial for defending against infections and diseases, but also aid in muscle tissue repair and growth, making protein indispensable for those pursuing physical fitness and strength. Additionally, proteins such as collagen and keratin contribute to our outward appearance, maintaining the elasticity of our skin and the health of our hair.

One of the most remarkable aspects of protein – that we don’t hear much about – is its ability to modulate blood sugar levels. When you consume carbohydrates along with protein, the glucose response is slower and more stable compared to consuming carbohydrates alone. This can help prevent blood sugar spikes and crashes, providing an essential tool in the management of conditions such as diabetes and insulin resistance.

Muscle mass isn’t just about aesthetics; it’s also closely tied to metabolic health. Research indicates that having more lean muscle mass can improve how your body responds to glucose and insulin, making it a critical factor in preventing and managing conditions like Type 2 diabetes. Dietary protein is a critical component in building and repairing your body’s muscle mass.

Can you eat too much dietary protein? Yes, but it’s rare. Excess protein your body doesn’t use is typically excreted by the body, making it challenging to consume too much. However, it’s crucial to exercise caution if you have any stage of kidney disease, as managing your protein intake should be guided by a dietitian, given the body’s limited ability to eliminate excess protein.

Protein is not merely a macronutrient for aesthetics, but a fundamental building block for human health. Its importance extends beyond muscle growth and recovery, influencing everything from our immune system to our outward appearance. It aids in stabilizing blood sugar, making it a valuable tool for people seeking to enhance their insulin sensitivity, overall metabolic health and prevention of prediabetes and diabetes.

Fran Sutherlin, RD, MS is a local registered dietitian, specializing in using digestive wellness to prevent or manage chronic disease. She has a master’s degree in nutrition, is a personal health coach, speaker, and owner of Sustainable Nutrition. She can be reached at 444-2122 or fran@fransutherlin.com.