Maintaining normal blood sugar levels is an important factor in lowering your risk of diabetes, stroke and heart disease. Even if you are already diagnosed with diabetes, keeping your blood sugar in the healthy range can prevent complications that can affect your heart, kidneys, eyes and feet. Plain or sugar-free yogurt is a healthy food to complete your breakfast, have as a snack or enjoy for dessert. One of the proteins found in yogurt, called whey, could even help lower your blood sugar levels.
Whey in Yogurt
The protein found in milk consists of 80 percent casein and 20 percent whey. Yogurt, made from milk, contains whey protein in the same ratio. Yogurts with a higher protein content, such as Greek yogurt, contain higher levels of whey. Some people also add whey protein powder to their yogurt to boost the protein content. Whey protein powder is 80 to 90 percent whey protein, depending on the extent to which it is concentrated and isolated.
Whey and Blood Sugars
In a study published in the July 2005 issue of the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition," type 2 diabetics ate a breakfast containing white bread and a lunch containing mashed potatoes and meatballs on two different days -- one with the addition of whey protein, and one without. Researchers mixed an amount of whey protein close to 30 g of protein with water on one day. Blood sugar levels were 21 percent lower with whey added to the meal.
Whey and Insulin
Whey can prevent your blood sugar levels from rising too high because it stimulates the release of more insulin from your pancreas, as evidence by the study published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in July 2005. People with high blood sugar often do not have enough insulin to keep their levels under control. However, more studies are needed to determine whether this effect is positive or not. The stimulating effect of whey on insulin release could lead to an exhaustion of the pancreas, which could potentially result in an earlier diagnosis of diabetes or the need for more medications or insulin injection to control your diabetes if you are already diagnosed.
Yogurt, Whey and Blood Sugars
Because only 20 percent of the protein found in dairy products is whey, the total amount of whey found in a serving of regular yogurt is relatively small. For example, an 8-oz. container of low-fat, fruit-flavored yogurt contains 10.7 g of protein, which would correspond to just over 2 g of whey protein. It is unclear whether such a small amount of whey protein could affect your blood sugar and insulin levels. If you have a blood glucose meter, you can experiment to see the difference it makes in your blood sugar. Eat the same meal, with and without yogurt, to determine the effect the whey from the yogurt has on your blood sugar levels.