Written by Diana Licalzi, MS, RD, CDCES
Protein is a fundamental part of our diet. Not only do we need protein to ensure that we get enough of it, but it’s also important to keep our protein, carbohydrates, and fat consumption properly balanced.
The recommended protein and carbohydrate intake is the same for people with diabetes as it is for those without it. U.S. Dietary Guidelines suggest that between 10 and 35% of our calories come from protein, preferably closer to the upper end of that range. That means if you follow a 2,000-calorie diet, you should consume about 50-175 grams of protein per day, depending on your personal needs and characteristics.
Protein shakes, which typically contain approximately 20 grams of protein, offer a convenient and effective way to supplement our daily intake.
Are protein powders safe for people with type 2 diabetes?
Proteins, because they digest more slowly than carbs, are less likely to cause a spike in glucose. If you are having difficulty consuming the recommended level of protein, then a protein powder drink may be a helpful supplement. And if you’re a person with diabetes, on the move, and in need of a quick nosh, many on-the-go snack bars tend to be high in carbohydrates and added sugars that may cause a surge in your blood sugar level. In such situations, a protein powder drink is a far better alternative.
But protein shakes shouldn’t be used as a meal replacement, nor should they be used to replace food intake as your primary source of protein, otherwise, you will miss out on the nutritional benefits of whole foods.
Which protein powder should I place in my shopping cart?
Not all protein powders are created equal.
There are literally hundreds of protein powders on the market. So how does one choose? As a general rule, we recommend choosing plant-based protein sources over animal-based sources, natural sweeteners instead of added sugars or artificial sweeteners, and the fewer artificial flavorings and other additives, the better.
To avoid you having to buy and try dozens of these products, we listed below our seven favorites. As you might expect, they are plant-based, naturally sweetened, and contain minimal other ingredients. Each has a distinctive taste, however, so choose the one whose flavor suits you best.
Calories per serving, serving size, protein per serving, and dietary fiber per serving are about the same for each product. All are non-GMO, plant-based, dairy-free, and they all taste good. But there are differences, and we have categorized them by their most prominent characteristic.
Simplest Protein: Naked Pea & Hemp Yeah! (Tie)
The unflavored version of Naked Pea Protein has only one ingredient, Yellow Pea Protein; nothing else. You will need to add fruits, dates, monkfruit, or stevia if you wish to have a sweetened taste. Chocolate and Vanilla flavors are offered, but they include coconut sugar. Pea protein is easily absorbed by the body, making it a better alternative than other protein sources. Each serving size delivers 27 grams of complete protein. It is very attractively priced at $.03 per gram of protein and comes in a 5lb tub for $57.99.
Hemp Yeah has only 2 ingredients, Organic Hemp Protein and Natural Oregano extract. No sweeteners, so you will have to add them to your taste.
Best Bang for Your Buck: Naked Pea & Orgain (Tie)
Orgain at $.05 per gram of protein is the cheapest flavored protein on our list, but slightly more costly than the unflavored Naked Pea. In addition, Naked Pea is only offered in a 5lb tub, while Orgain is available in a much more manageable 2lb size. Orgain has three sources of protein, contains sunflower oil, and is sweetened with Stevia and Erythritol, both of which are safe for people with diabetes as they have no impact on blood glucose or insulin levels.
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Orgain Protein Powder
Best Tasting: Truvani
Truvani contains only 6 ingredients. Its protein sources are Organic Pea, Chia, and Pumpkin Seed protein, and it is sweetened with monk fruit extract. It has a pleasing sweetness with no aftertaste but at $.15 per gram of protein, it is on the expensive side.
Unique Formulation: Garden of Life
Garden of Life contains several ingredients and many sources of protein. Sweetened with Stevia and Erythritol, it has a pleasant taste and is very reasonably priced at $.09 per gram of protein. What makes it unique from the other powders is the inclusion of live probiotics and enzymes in its formulation.
The Best of the Rest: Sun Warrior
Sun Warrior also has several sources of proteins and some gums added for product enhancement. Sweetened with Stevia, packed with amino acids, tasty but also the most expensive powder on our list at $.18 per gram of protein. Nevertheless, it is a healthful, plant-based protein powder.
Let your taste buds and wallet decide
For people with diabetes, the two important considerations in using a protein powder are choosing one that doesn’t contain any saturated fats or any added sugar. Our list of seven above has taken care of this for you, so choose the one that best fits your budget. Taste, in most foods, is a personal matter and this is no different for protein powders. So, if you try one and are not happy with the flavor, sample another one on the list until you find the one that suits your taste buds the best.
Do you have a protein powder that you really enjoy that didn't make this list? Let us know about it in the comments below!