Proteins have always been a dietary star. Just ask those who have been on Atkins, Keto, Zone or South Beach diets. But are animal proteins healthy?
Many non-vegetarians wonder whether following a protein-rich, healthy diet increases the risk of diabetes. Extensive research shows consuming fatty red meat can lead to heart disease, obesity, high cholesterol, and stroke. It’s also established that high-protein diets, including lean animal proteins, promote weight loss and is generally healthier. But what about diabetes?
Here’s the skinny on proteins
Whenever you eat any protein, your body first breaks it down into amino acids. Amino acids, the building blocks in your body, repair and build muscles, bones, skin, enzymes, hormones, and blood.
Most people know where animal proteins are sourced. They come from meat like lamb, poultry, pork, beef and seafood (fish, oysters, lobster), as well as dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt), and eggs.
What most people don’t know is that our bodies cannot store proteins like it stores carbs and fats. So we need to eat protein every day. Either we use it or lose it. But to avoid consuming saturated fats, we need to find lean sources of protein. Naturally, you may ask then why eat any meat, fish, dairy, and eggs at all?
The truth behind the theory
Overall, there has been a lack of research on diabetes and plant or animal proteins. Some studies suggest that saturated fats can be toxic to the pancreas, hindering insulin secretion. A short study (5-12 weeks) with an elderly group in their mid-sixties supported the theory that no significant differences occurred in weight loss between two study groups, one that ate only animal proteins and one that ate only plant protein.
Type 2 Diabetes, or T2D, is determined primarily by lifestyle choices and heredity, but you must take diet into account as it greatly affects the development of the disease. Dietary fat has been of particular interest because fatty acids influence glucose metabolism and insulin regulation.
However, like heart disease, more extensive research needs to be done to confirm the adverse effect of saturated fats on diabetes.
What about plant proteins?
Everyone knows that plant-based foods contain much less protein, and so people who are on a vegan diet need to eat much more to consume the same number of healthy amino acids. Plant proteins alone may also hinder growth, and repair in the body. The body simply repairs itself faster when it is put on a healthy diet rich in lean animal proteins. Nevertheless, there are many health benefits the human body gets by replacing a predominantly non-vegetarian diet with more plant food sources. Well-balanced diets are the healthiest. You should get your proteins from both plants and lean animal sources. That means keeping the non-vegetarian portion of your meals as low fat as possible.