How Much Protein Should a Person with Diabetes Eat?

Foods rich in protein
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Protein is an essential macronutrient (that means it's a large nutrient; the other two macronutrients are fat and carbohydrate) that your body needs to build, repair, and maintain most of your body's tissues and organs. Proteins are also necessary for immune system function, and they help some additional physiological processes. Usually, people with diabetes don't need any more protein than people who don't have diabetes, and there are times when less protein is better.

Daily Protein Intake

As long as your kidneys are healthy, about 15 - 20 percent of your daily calories should come from protein, which is the same amount suggested for a regular balanced diet. About 45 to 50 percent of your caloric intake should come from carbohydrates, and the rest should come from fat. 

A person who needs 2,000 calories per day needs about 75 to 100 grams protein per day. Foods that are high in protein include meat, fish, fish and seafood, chicken, eggs, dairy products, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

For example:

  • One-half chicken breast has 29 grams protein
  • One cup black beans has 15 grams protein
  • An egg has 6 grams protein
  • One cup low-fat milk has 8 grams protein
  • A 3-ounce portion of steak has 26 grams protein

High Protein Diets and Diabetes

Switching to a high-protein diet may seem like it should make a difference in blood sugar regulation, but the protein probably doesn't help much at all, at least for the long term.

According to an evidence review done by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, increasing protein intake doesn't appear to have any appreciable impact on how your sugar is digested or absorbed. And it doesn't have any long-term effects on your blood sugar or insulin requirements.​​

So if a person with diabetes switches to a high-protein diet, any therapeutic benefit is probably due to the concurrent reduction and closer regulation of carbohydrate consumption, not to any particular intake of protein.

Learn more about the consistent carbohydrate diet.

People who have diabetic nephropathy, which is a kidney disease related to diabetes, often need to eat less protein. In this case, the recommended protein intake is about one gram (or less) per kilogram of body weight.

If you have diabetic nephropathy, you'll need to work with your health care provider to determine how much protein you need each day. Too much protein might be bad for your kidneys, but too little protein intake could lead to malnutrition and unintended weight loss.

If you have questions about your diet and preventing or managing diabetes, speak with your health care provider, a certified diabetes educator, or a dietitian or nutritionist who specializes in medical nutrition therapy for people with diabetes.


Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Evidence Analysis Library. "Recommendations Summary: Diabetes Mellitus (DM): Protein and Diabetes."

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Evidence Analysis Library. "What is the relationship between glycemic index and metabolic outcomes in persons with type 1 and type 2 diabetes?"

Maher AK. "Simplified Diet Menu." Eleventh Edition, Hoboken NJ, USA: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, October 2011.

The United States Department of Agriculture. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 25.