National Protein Day 2021: Indians lack sufficient protein in their diet. You must make all attempts to increase the protein intake of the diet. Here’s why it is important to get adequate amount of this macronutrient.
National Protein Day: Proteins are known to be the building blocks of the human body
- Indians lack sufficient protein in their diet
- It is important to get good quality protein from the diet
- Proteins can help in building muscle mass
National Protein Day is observed on February 27. It has been known for ages that the Indian diet lacks protein. An adequate amount of protein in the diet would be around about 20% of the total calories consumed. Protein is essential for building up of muscle and repair of the tissues. It also gives us strength and stamina. Unfortunately, the Indian diet has too much of carbohydrates. It is estimated that between 60-75% of Indian diet, irrespective of whichever zone of the country you are talking about, viz., north, south, east, west, central or the north east of India. When almost 65- 70% of the diet is comprised of the carbohydrate, that leaves only 30-35% for the other 2 macro nutrients, namely fat and protein.
The fat content of the Indian diet is also going up and ahead constitutes about 20-25% of the total calories. This means that in many Indian diet, only 8-10% of the calories comes from protein which is grossly inadequate. Very often, the protein ingested is also of poor quality and of low biological value. This is one of the reasons why Indians don’t do so well in athletics, sports and games or when brute strength is needed. All attempts should therefore be made to increase the protein content of the Indian diet.
National Protein Day: How can one get sufficient protein?
For non-vegetarians, this is relatively easy because one can get excellent protein from chicken, fish and eggs. Mutton (red meat) also provides protein, but it is desirable to limit its intake as much as possible because it is not so healthy. Unfortunately, even the so-called non-vegetarians in India take the non-veg dishes only once or twice a week and therefore, although technically they are called ‘non-vegetarians’, even they, do not get enough protein in their diet.
What about vegetarians?
In the case of vegetarians, the problem is still worse, because their choice of protein foods is much more limited than non-vegetarians. This is because non-vegetarians can also have the vegetable sources of protein (if they like), whereas for vegetarians the choice is limited to the few vegetarian items which contain protein. Having said that, there are quite a few items from which they can get protein. To name a few, pulses and legumes like bengal gram, green gram, black gram, rajma, various dhals, pulses and mushrooms are all rich in protein. Cereals like rice, wheat and ragi also contain protein. Milk and dairy products are also sources of protein for vegetarians. The problem with vegetarian protein is that some of the vegetable sources of protein are that they are deficient in one amino acid. For e.g. rice is deficient in the essential amino acid lysine. Similarly, pulses are deficient in the amino acid methionine. Luckily, rice has sufficient methionine and pulses have sufficient lysine. Therefore, with a combination of rice or wheat and pulses taken together, the deficiency of one amino acid can be made up by its excess in the other and therefore one can provide good quality protein of high biological value even for vegetarians.
Practical tips to get enough protein
If possible, one should try to add protein items with every meal, i.e with breakfast, lunch and dinner. If one makes a conscious effort to add protein in every meal, one can ensure that they can increase their protein content to at least 20 % of the total calories.
What are the other advantages of protein
Proteins have great satiety value. So, if you include protein in your meals, you will not feel hungry for long periods of time. If you take only carbohydrate, you will become hungry very soon and thereby you will tend to overeat. It is the common experience of people that if they have eggs or other proteins foods for breakfast, they will not feel hungry for a long time.
What are the possible side effects of proteins
Proteins are, in general, a little more difficult to digest. Hence if one takes excess amounts of protein (particularly if large amount of legumes and pulses are consumed) flatulence and abdominal distention may occur. One might then have to reduce the quantity of protein one is consuming. If one has kidney failure, one may be asked to reduce the amount of protein that one is consuming. Even here, usually it is the non-vegetarian protein which is reduced and vegetable proteins are generally permitted.
In summary, proteins form one of the three major macro nutrients in the food. Indians lack sufficient protein in their diet. You must make all attempts to increase the protein intake of the diet. This will also ensure that you get sufficient fibre as most of the protein containing foods also contain fibre. So, the next time you sit down to eat, whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner, please look for that helping of protein that you can include with your meal.
(Dr V Mohan, Chairman and Chief of Diabetology, Dr Mohan’s Diabetes Specialities Centre Chennai)
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