Why diet of Indians cannot meet the protein requirement?


India is known to be a protein-deficient state. In one of the studies of eminent Endocrinologist Dr. Shashank Joshi published in BMJ Open journal recently showed that, India is a nation that consumes excess starch and fat but inadequate proteins. Protein deficiency is the reason that we Indians have poor muscle mass.

Problem is compounded by the fact that Indians are mainly vegetarians. It is not as if vegetarian food does not have proteins, but the protein in a fruit for instance is not as easily bio-available for digestion as the protein in eggs is. In effect, vegetarians need to increase their intake of protein-rich foods.

Thus, an Indian diet is not absolutely void of protein but the amount of high biological value /complete protein (mostly those of animal source including low fat dairy products, poultry, and eggs) is low. Moreover, people are not aware of the different sources of protein and the quantity of protein actually present in a food.  Our religious taboos and myths further does not allow us to include protein from animal sources on a regular basis. Further to this, adoption of changing lifestyle has made it more hectic which has worsened our food habits. The  food that we eat mostly include high carbohydrate (of which most are as simple sugar) and fat and very little protein.


How to improve protein intake?

Both, vegetarians and non-vegetarians can get their protein requirements from food, but vegetarians may find it difficult to get enough, since the sources of protein in plant foods are limited. A vegetarian diet must include:

  • Sprouts
  • Pulses
  • Soyabean along with milk
  • Milk products

Likewise, in case of diabetes in weight loss programmes, vegetarians are always advised to take protein shakes and protein rich supplements.

Traditional Indian meals include cereal-pulse combinations that can be easily absorbed by the body, like dal-rice, idli sambhar, chole puri, etc. This diet intake, improves the overall quality of protein for vegetarians.

On the other hand, non vegetarians can get enough protein from animal source but factors like poor appetite, lack of awareness, personal feelings and presence of illness stops an individual from consuming a balanced diet. So, even a non-vegetarian individual can include a protein supplement to bring consistency in the amount and quality of protein in their diet.

Authored by:

Dr Kakalee K Saha, Lifespan Diabetes Clinic


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