Does Red Meat Raise Blood Sugars?
Last updated: April 2023
Recently I have heard more and more people use the phrase “I don’t eat red meat because it bad for my blood sugars.” As red meat- along with any other cuts of meat- is a food made up of only fat and protein, eating red meat will have no immediate effect on your blood sugar.
Which nutrients increase blood sugar levels?
Foods can be broken up into three macro-nutrient categories: carbohydrate, fat, and protein. Blood sugars increase when we consume:
Foods high in carbohydrates include fruits, rice, beans, pastas, breads, milk, and starchy vegetables such as corn, potatoes and winter squash. As these foods are digested into their basic components- glucose is released into the bloodstream. This glucose is what causes blood sugars to rise after eating food containing carbohydrates.
High protein foods, however, do not have glucose as part of their elemental structure, instead they break down into amino acids. Amino acids aid in building muscle and repairing cells in your body.
Fats can be either saturated or unsaturated fats and fuel cells providing a required source of energy for our brains for survival.
Red meat's effect on blood sugar levels
Foods are often a combination of these three macronutrients. Take red meat for example. Beef contains both protein and fat, but no carbohydrates. Where then does the misconception that red meat hurts blood sugars come from?
Red meat is typically high in fats, especially saturated fatty acids. Foods containing fat are higher in calories which may lead to poor weight control if eaten in excess. As mentioned before, fats are essential for brain and cell health, but the American Diabetes Association recommends limiting fats to less than 30% of total calorie consumption with saturated fats making up less than 10% calorie consumption.
The impact of saturated fats on the body
Saturated fatty acids are the types of fat that stay solid at room temperature like butter, lard, and other animal fats. Eating a high amount of saturated fats in your diet can lead to internal inflammation which contributes to insulin resistance. As weight control and insulin resistance both play a large role in the development of type 2 diabetes, it is no wonder people may think that red meat may poorly affect blood sugars.
If eaten in large amounts over an extended period of time, any food high in saturated fats may contribute to worsening symptoms of type 2 diabetes. Current dietary recommendations suggest limiting red meats to 1-2 times per week.
A balanced diet for blood sugar management
The key takeaway is red meat will not directly raise your blood sugars as it is a source of protein and fats. Including carbohydrates, fats and protein are essential for our bodies to function properly. Limiting saturated fat intake to less than 10% of total calorie consumption will help overall health, weight control, and decrease inflammation in our bodies which plays a role in insulin resistance. If you do choose to include red meat into your diet, choose leaner cuts of meat such as reduced-fat ground beef, or trim some of the fat off of cuts of steak before cooking.
How much red meat do you usually eat?
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