Wellness

Why right protein is important for health?

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The state women and child development department has decided to implement the National Nutrition Month program from September 1 to 30 aiming to curb the menace of malnutrition.

Kavita Devgan

Kavita Devgan Nutritionist

It is important to talk about nutrients because they are highly misunderstood in India. Protein is one of them.

That’s because protein deficiency harms us in more ways than rest of them. We need protein for multiple functions in the body— for building muscle mass, gaining strength, for smooth functioning of our metabolic system, and performing day to day activities.

Recent studies show that its deficiency could even lead to several chronic diseases, an increased rate of metabolic syndrome, and weakness and loss of stamina, which can interfere with day to day physical activity. This proves that enough protein in our diet is essential to maintain good muscle health and to live a disease-free life.

The sad truth though is that there is clear evidence that most of us the Indians don’t get enough protein. In fact a recent nationwide study by InBody – a global leader in body composition analysis in association with IPSOS, leading global market and opinion research firm, across 8 cities in India measured the body composition of 1243 men and women in the age group of 30-55 years, It found that a staggering 68% of people have a lower protein content in their body than adequate, and 71% of the people had poor muscle health. That’s almost three fourths of us.

7 out of 10 people having poor muscle health is certainly a matter of concern. And this need both education as well as dietary intervention. As per the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) given by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for Indians, 0.8-1gm protein/kg body weight/day is the requirement of a normal, sedentary person without any disease conditions. Those who exercise or are recovering from an injury etc. need more. But awareness is low. So there has always been a need for a nationwide campaign to educate people about the importance of muscle health, role of adequate protein intake and exercise for a disease free life. Only then will they begin to look more closely at their diet to ensure enough protein.

Few important points that need to be pointed out are:

Both quantity and quality are important. Besides enough quantity, it is important to focus on high quality protein to ensure that we meet our protein requirement. Animal products like meat, milk and eggs give us high quality protein with all essential amino acids (building blocks of protein). Those who are vegetarian can opt for sources like nuts and seeds, milk and other dairy products, pulses and soya products. Vegetarian sources tend to have some missing elements of protein, so it is important to eat a wide variety of foods and make smart pairs by combining grains with legumes or seeds or milk products.

Often, it gets difficult to meet protein needs through food specially for those who fall in the high requirement groups. In such cases, supplementation with a high-quality protein source might be a good solution. When choosing a supplement, it may be a better option to select hydrolyzed protein, as these deliver the already half digested (predigested) proteins that are created by breaking down intact proteins into a mixture of amino acids and smaller proteins. As these are far easier for the body to digest and absorb they lead to better and faster delivery of amino acids from the blood to muscles. They are less allergenic (or immune-response-inducing) too. Therefore, read the labels carefully before selecting the protein supplement.

The myth about protein powders needs to be broken too. Higher protein per gram is not always a good idea. To build a pound of muscle, the body needs between 10 to 14 additional grams of protein per day. So,if your diet is lacking in protein and you intend to go the supplement route then it makes sense to look for one that provides good quality protein in this range, and to avoid those that provide excessively higher amounts, as too much of protein can be hard on your kidneys and your liver.

So, during this National Nutrition Month let us all focus on this life saving macro nutrient and make sure we get enough of it to ensure a healthy and disease free life.

(The writer Kavita Devgan is a Nutritionist. Views expressed are a personal opinion.)

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