A recent survey conducted by the Indian Market Research Bureau across seven Indian cities suggested that nine out of 10 Indians consumed inadequate amounts of protein daily. While everyone often talks about the importance of maintaining a protein-rich diet, not many understand exactly why the nutrient is so pertinent to our wellbeing, and what its deficiency can do to the body.
*Its importance: Protein is a macro nutrient that is essential for the growth and proper functioning of the body. It maintains cell growth, and builds and repairs body tissues. It also helps build stamina, and strengthens the digestive and immunity systems.
"Protein deficiency causes weakness, anemia, delayed wound healing and a decreased resistance to infection. Low protein intake has also been associated with high incidence of toxemia of pregnancy," says Dr Nupur Krishnan, clinical nutritionist. The body is constantly building protein from amino acids.
Deficiency may occur due to kidney disease, cirrhosis of the liver, chronic dysentery, poor digestion and loss of appetite.
*Sources of protein: Milk and milk products like curd, cottage cheese, buttermilk, chhena, butter, tofu and cheese. You can also get your daily dose of protein from soyabean, pulses, eggs, fish, chicken, red meat and nuts, apart from oil seeds like almonds, walnuts, peanuts, cashew nuts and pistachios.
Extreme protein deficiency can result in shock, and eventual death.
*Don't go overboard: Generally, the protein requirement for a healthy adult is 1gm to 1.5gm per kg of the person's ideal body weight. Protein requirement increases in situations of stress (like illness or surgery), or when there is a change in the physiological state of the body (like during a pregnancy or endurance workout). However, the consumption of any nutrient in excessive quantities can be harmful. Flushing out this extra protein also strains the kidneys. Therefore, it is recommended that those on high-protein diets should make sure they drink a lot of water during the day, so that the extra toxins from the body can be flushed out.
Another point to keep in mind is that after the body converts a particular amount of protein into energy, the leftover amount is then converted into fat. Consumption of protein supplements like creatinine, without an active workout routine, can also lead to an increase in the level of uric acid in the blood, and creatine in the body. This, in turn, can cause weight gain, dehydration, and leaching of important bone minerals.
*Effects of inadequate intake: Protein intake of less than 1gm can be considered low, and can lead to muscle waste, and weakness. It can also cause a drop in the body's immunity levels, causing frequent infections. Low protein intake can affect the appearance of the skin and cause changes in the texture of the hair. Extreme protein deficiency can result in shock, and eventual death.
*For those on the go: People who spend a lot of their time travelling and don't eat fixed meals, can carry proteins bars with them. Keeping protein powder handy to make a protein shake on the go is also an option. Boiled sprouts, pulses, roasted chana, boiled eggs or buttermilk are also easy to carry on the go.
- With inputs from Vaishali Marathe, head dietitian, Kohinoor Hospital, Kurla (W); Krupa Mhatre, nutritionist, Gold's Gym India; Indrayani Pawar, team leader dietician, Hinduja Healthcare Surgical, Khar (W); and Dr Nupur Krishnan, clinical nutritionist.