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Is Turkey Good for Diabetes? Glycemic Index and Insulin Response
Diabetes

Is Turkey Good for Diabetes? Glycemic Index and Insulin Response

Wendy Lord, RD
Written by Wendy Lord, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on October 31, 2022
93 Views
4 min

Following a healthy diet when you have diabetes can be challenging. You must have a good understanding of the food you eat, including your protein sources. In this article, we share the nutritional value of turkey and find out if it is good for diabetes.

Is turkey good for diabetes
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People with diabetes are encouraged to include protein in every meal they eat to ensure good blood sugar control. Unfortunately, not all protein foods are of equal quality. Some have a high fat content, which must be limited in the diet for diabetes.

Like red meat, fish, and chicken, turkey is a source of protein. You can buy a whole turkey, different turkey cuts, turkey sausage, or deli turkey, and there are various ways you can use it in your meals.

In this article, we explore the nutritional value of turkey, the effect it has on your blood glucose levels, and what kind of turkey is best to include in your diet.

Is Turkey Good for Diabetes?

Yes, turkey is good for diabetes, with unprocessed turkey breast being the best choice because it contains almost no fat. It is also a great source of protein, the nutrient your body needs to keep your muscles strong.

Diabetes increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Therefore, it is important to reduce saturated fat intake to ensure that cholesterol levels remain within the normal range.  

Red meat, fried fish, and poultry with the skin contain high levels of unhealthy fat, while lean meat such as turkey or chicken breast can help reduce the amount of fat you eat. 

Protein is an essential component of the diet for people with diabetes. To help manage blood glucose levels, it is recommended that you include lean protein with each meal, and your portion should cover a quarter of your plate or be about the size of the palm of your hand.

Does Turkey Raise Blood Sugar?

Studies suggest that lean protein sources, such as turkey breast, do not raise blood sugar levels. Instead, when you have diabetes, meat increases insulin release, which lowers blood glucose levels. 

Therefore, when you eat lean meat as a component of a meal that contains carbohydrates, the protein helps you manage blood sugar levels more effectively.

Furthermore, turkey contains almost no fat compared to red meat. Research shows that the intake of large quantities of animal protein, rich in saturated fat, reduces insulin sensitivity and raises blood glucose. 

Is turkey a low-carb food?

Unprocessed turkey breast is a very low-carb food. However, deli turkey and turkey sausage, for example, are processed meats containing varying amounts of carbohydrates and significantly higher fat and salt content. 

Therefore, if you have diabetes, turkey breast is the best choice out of all turkey products for optimal blood sugar control. 

Turkey Nutritional Value per 100g

A six-ounce serving of turkey contains 48g of protein, only 3.5g of fat, and no carbohydrates. It is low-fat meat with a high nutritional value, suitable for those living with diabetes. 

Net CarbsTotal CarbsFatsProtein
0g0g2.06g28.8g
CaloriesFiberSugarsGlycemic Index
1390g0g0

Turkey Glycemic Index

Protein sources such as turkey do not have a glycemic index because they are not a source of carbohydrates. Carbohydrate-rich foods are ranked according to their potential effect on your blood sugar levels when you eat them.

Unlike foods such as sourdough bread, whole grains, and potatoes, turkey does not cause a drastic spike in blood glucose. Even though the amino acids in protein can be converted to glucose in a process called gluconeogenesis, meat is not included on the glycemic index list. 

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When people with diabetes include protein foods in their meals, they can lower the overall glycemic index of the meal. For example, to manage blood sugar levels after eating, you can pair turkey with a baked potato and plenty of vegetables. 

What Kind of Turkey Can a Person With Diabetes Eat?

Unprocessed turkey is the best option for people with diabetes because it contains almost no fat. Because people with diabetes have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, they should avoid saturated fat found in red meat and processed meats, such as hot dogs, corned beef, and luncheon meats, including turkey loaf.

The American Diabetes Association recommends lean meat choices for those with diabetes, including white turkey meat, fresh or frozen cod, and chicken. You can use ground turkey instead of ground pork or beef in recipes such as bolognese. 

Remember, if you have diabetes, you can eat protein foods with a high unsaturated fat content, such as tuna and salmon, due to the anti-inflammatory effects of omega-3 fatty acids.

What’s Healthier for Diabetes: Turkey or Chicken?

Both turkey and chicken are healthy meat options when you have diabetes. The nutritional value of 100g of skinless chicken breast is 120kcal. It contains 22.5g of protein, 2.62g of fat, and 0g of carbohydrates. 

Although the protein content of chicken is slightly lower than that of turkey, and the fat content is slightly higher, chicken is also considered to be a low-fat protein food, especially if you eat white meat. 

A Word From a Nutritionist

Lean protein, such as turkey, is an essential component in the diet of people with diabetes. It has a high protein content, low fat content, and contains no carbohydrates, making it an ideal choice for better blood sugar control.

However, how you prepare your turkey is just as important as the kind of turkey you eat. Breast meat has the lowest fat content, and processed turkey, such as luncheon meat and sausages, has the highest fat content. If you fry your turkey, you are adding fat and reducing the benefits of eating it.

It is recommended to use healthier cooking methods for those with diabetes. Use less added fat and grill, steam, boil, bake or roast your food instead of frying it.

For a satisfying dinner recipe, try roasting a skinless turkey breast and top it with a mixture of chopped fresh herbs, salt, and pepper. Toss some baby potatoes in a bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper, and roast them alongside your turkey meat.

Conclusion

Turkey is an extremely lean protein food that can be enjoyed as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Including turkey breast in your meals can help improve your blood glucose levels and prevent your blood sugar from rising too high after eating.

Unprocessed turkey meat is the best choice for someone with diabetes, as processed deli turkey or turkey sausage have a higher fat content. When you cook it using only a small amount of fat and serve it alongside a low-GI carbohydrate and plenty of vegetables, you have a satisfying meal that supports your diabetes management.

Wendy Lord, RD
Written by
Wendy is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for writing about nutrition, health, and medicine. Her aim is to translate the medical jargon to make information accessible to everyone so that they can make informed decisions about their health.
Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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