When it comes to your child’s growth and development, we cannot neglect the importance of proteins. And when it comes to your muscle wear and tear, protein remains an essential component of your diet. It is commonly referred to as the building blocks of the body since it plays a crucial role in muscle maintenance, skin, hormones, and all body tissues. The challenge is that Indian diet tends to be very cereal-focused. While cereals like aloo, atta, chawal alone might meet the protein quantity, quality of protein remains a big challenge!
Why is protein important?
- Building a healthy, strong body: Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, and skin. Additionally, did you know that your hair and nails are comprised mostly of protein!
- Repairing damage: Your body uses protein to build and repair tissue after injury, and to maintain muscle tone.
- Supplying oxygen: Red blood cells contain a protein called haemoglobin, this is a compound that carries oxygen throughout the body. Protein is essential for haemoglobin to be produced in sufficient quantities.
- Digesting food: About half the protein that you consume each day goes into synthesizing enzymes, which aids in digesting food.
- Regulating hormones: Protein plays a critical role in hormone regulation, especially during the transformation and development of cells during puberty.
Sources of protein:
Protein is generally found in pulses, millets and cereals, dairy products like milk and curd, nuts, non- vegetarian foods like egg, meat, fish.
How much protein do we need? The quantity story
An adult typically requires 54g of protein per day as per ICMR RDA report, 2020.
Population based surveys in India like NSSO (2011-12) shows that Indians do consume this much amount daily in their diet.
Then what is the issue? Why is there a hue and cry on protein deficiency or poor-quality protein?
What type of protein do we need? The quality story
Protein is made up of 20 amino acids, and the body can produce 11 of these 20. This means that the remaining nine must come from food. These 9 remaining amino acids are essential amino acids.
Complete proteins provide all essential amino acids, which cannot be made by the body.
- Milk, Egg, Meat and Soya are examples of complete protein
- Most plant foods (except soya) lack one essential amino acid
Lysine is limiting in cereals and Methionine is limiting in pulses. Data shows that Indians consume cereals the most amongst all food groups, both in urban and rural India. Even though the RDA for protein is met, the protein is of poor quality as cereals are incomplete proteins.
What can we do?
Hence, protein deficiency on quantity remains the biggest myth in Nutrition history! It’s the quality where we need interventions to solve for the actual amino acid gap.
Diversifying your diets with all the important food groups that are a part of Indian thali remains to be the biggest solution for Indian diet. Have those portions of dahi/chaas/milkshakes/paneer, dal, nuts, those omelettes. Add nuts & seeds to your salads, smoothies as they have not only the quantity but also the quality of protein you require!
Lysine remains as the critical protein building block which can be a gap filler as cereals lack Lysine and Indians consume mostly cereals. Good monk, unlike other popular nutrition products is not loaded with unnecessary protein but has lysine to help bridge the protein quality gap in India.
About the Author:
Senior Nutritionist, M.Sc. Foods and Nutrition, DU
12+ years of experience in Nestle, Dabur, GSK