How Much Meat is Okay to Eat?

Charred Fowl on Plate Advanced Glycation End Products

Credit: Thinkstock Spike Mafford

Recently someone asked me if it’s possible to eat too much meat on a diabetes diet.

Q: I started a high protein, lower carb diet for diabetes. But my blood sugars really didn’t improve. Someone told me that lots of meat can make insulin resistance worse. Is this true? Could I be eating too much even if lots of it is chicken?

A: It is possible that eating large amounts of meats, including fish and poultry, reduce insulin sensitivity. Animal proteins contain compounds called advanced glycation end products (AGEs) that affect inflammation and insulin sensitivity. When we cook them, especially with high, dry heat, even more AGEs form.

Baking and frying meats increase compounds that may increase inflammation.Click To Tweet

The good news is that when we trim AGEs from the diet, the amount in our bloodstream also shrinks. In studies among people with type 2 diabetes and others, AGE restriction in the diet leads to less inflammation and less insulin resistance.

Where do advanced glycation end products come from?

AGEs are found in all types of animal products, but they’re also common in highly processed foods like pretzels. Yet diet is not their only source. AGEs are slowly formed in the body (more so when blood sugar is high), and they come from cigarette smoke and other toxins.

Fewer AGEs on your plate means fewer AGEs in your body, and that can mean better insulin sensitivity.

Cooking tips to reduce inflammation and insulin resistance.Click To Tweet

7 Ways to Reduce Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs)

  • Shrink the meat. Meats are a major contributor of AGEs. A 3- or 4-ounce portion is plenty.
  • Keep it moist. Steam, stew, poach and braise more often than grilling, roasting, broiling and frying because dry heat produces more AGEs.
  • Cook low and slow. The lower the heat, the fewer the AGEs. Use your slow cooker often, but don’t brown the meat first.
  • Marinate meats. Acids like tomato juice, lemon, vinegar and wine offer some protection.
  • Fill your plate with fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Plant-based foods are naturally lower in AGEs.
  • Go lean. In general, high-fat foods have more AGEs than lower-fat foods.
  • Grill more veggies than meats. All grilled foods have more AGEs than the raw food or foods cooked with moist heat, but plant foods have much less than animal foods.

There’s no reason to give up meat completely if you enjoy it. But do shrink the portion, and prepare more plant proteins too.

Jill Weisenberger

I'm Jill, and I believe simple changes in your mindset and health habits can bring life-changing rewards. And I don't believe in willpower. It's waaaay overrated. As a food-loving registered dietitian nutritionist, certified diabetes care and education specialist and certified health and wellness coach, I've helped thousands of people solve their food and nutrition problems. If you're looking for a better way to master this whole healthy eating/healthy living thing or if you're trying to prevent or manage diabetes or heart problems, you'll find plenty of resources right here.

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Hi there! I'm Jill, a nutrition & diabetes expert and the author of 4 books.

Jill Weisenberger

I believe simple changes in health habits can bring you life-changing rewards.

And I believe willpower is way overrated.

Right here is where you can discover the mindset and habits to stick with healthy lifestyle choices most of the time - and drop the guilt when you don't.

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