Indian Diet is Dangerously Low on Protein!

A Look at Indian Protein Deficiency. And how to fix it.

Protein -A missing link in Indian diet that is often heavily overlooked.

A recent survey titled ‘Protein Consumption in Diet of Adult Indians: A General Consumer Survey (PRODIGY)’ indicates that 9 out of 10 people consume inadequate amounts of protein in India.

Statistics revealed that 93% of Indian population are unaware of ideal protein requirement per day with pregnant ladies on the top (97%), followed by lactating mothers (96%) and adolescents (95%).

Like Iron and Calcium deficiency, protein deficiency is also a common threat for Indian population. Most Indians think that protein deficiency is not an important concern. Lets have a look what could be the consequences of protein deficiency.

· Slow metabolism

· Mood swings

· Low energy levels and fatigue

· Pain in muscle,bone and joint

· Loss of muscles and strength

· Low immunity

· Poor sleep

· Poor hair health

· Weak and brittle nails

· Low protein diet can contribute to insulin resistance

What is Protein?

Protein is a macro nutrient- a string of amino acids. It is the major component of blood,bone,skin,muscle,organ,hair,nails as well as brain cells. It is considered as the building blocks of our body and the maintenance and repair of tissues.

Why Indian diet lacks protein?

It is very disappointing to note that almost all Indian diets are deficit in one of the major macro nutrient - PROTEIN. Causes of this alarming situation are many which is an area of much needed rectification. Lets look at them.

A Lacking Vegetarian Diet

Majority of Indian population are vegetarians out of which statistics reveals that 91% vegetarians were found to have higher protein deficiency compared to 85% of non-vegetarians. It was recently stated in BMJ Journal by an eminent endocrinologist that Indian diet is mostly focused on starch and fat with insufficient protein in their plate.

Though most of us aware of the fact that vegetarian sources are “ Incomplete Protein ” and their bio availability is lesser compared to non veg options. But this doesn’t mean vegetarians cannot get the required Protein in their diet. A proper combination of plant and dairy(if you consider that to be vegetarian) based protein in sufficient amounts can always fill the deficit.

Lack of Knowledge

Most Indians are unaware of the optimum protein intake needed in our daily diet. As a result of this lack of knowledge, working women and housewives are found to be 70–80% deficit in protein since they are the main food-masters of the household.

Myth about Protein Sources

70% of women believe protein in fruits and vegetables are easily available and 73% urban Indian population think leafy vegetables contain more protein. These scenario maps India high on the list of protein deficit countries.

Lifestyle Choices

With a fast paced lifestyle, 70% of population rely on ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook foods which are usually loaded with either fat or sugar to make it palatable to our taste buds. These packed foods are often deficit in protein.

Over Dependency on Rice and Wheat

Indian diet is super dependent on rice and wheat products and our daily diet is majorly driven by it . But we should not forget that pulses are the powerhouse of nutrients and being declared as a “Super Food” in 2016.

Many people do not know that combination of pulses not only gives a good calorie amount but also is low in Glycemic Index which is beneficial in controlling healthy blood sugar levels.

Fallacy about Protein

A mis-belief works among Indians that protein plays major role for athletes, weight lifters or sportsmen. This is just wrong.

Every adult irrespective of their lifestyle and physical activity level require 0.85–1 gm of protein per kg of body weight and the minimum intake should be 50 gms/day. This is almost 1.5–2 gms for athletes or sportsmen. This is also higher for pregnant and lactating women. But the fact of the matter is that a optimum protein intake is needed for all.

Why do we need protein?

As we discussed earlier protein is not especially for body builders, undernourished people or those who want to build muscle. It is equally needed for the general population in correct amounts.

Study reveals that most of us are unaware of the actual benefits of Protein.

Some of them are:

  • Protein is essential for strengthening our immune system.
  • It regulates the activity of cells and organs by stimulating action of enzymes and hormones.
  • Builds lean muscle mass and burns fat.
  • Increases metabolic rate.
  • Important for pregnant and lactating mother along with children to support growth and development.
  • Provides satiety(effect of fillingness) by accelerating action of Satiety hormone-Leptin, thereby decreasing binge eating practices. This reduces the risk of obesity to a large extent.
  • Provides defense mechanism against antigens.

How to get the right amounts of Protein from natural food sources ?

Protein should be at least 25% of your plate and you should include it in major meals like breakfast,lunch and dinner with judicious choice of protein snacks in between. You can do the following:

· Vegetarians can include combination of pulses along with cereals (to get all the essential amino acids). Besides pulses, other sources are legumes,green peas,soybean,paneer,tofu,sprouts,amaranth seeds etc.

· Among dairy sources milk,curd,yogurt,cheese can also provide good amount of protein in diet.

· Rotation of whole grain cereal and millet are important for optimum protein intake.

· One should include fistful of nuts,roasted peanuts or chana along with seeds cocktail as a protein snack.

· Non-vegetarians can include fish,eggs and lean meat in their diet for high protein amounts.

So go ahead and follow these tips and fill the much needed protein lack in your diet. Let’s make India a healthy nation.

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