In an era where awareness about health, nutrition and fitness has taken center stage, there still is much to be known about the essential ‘building block’ of life – protein. Many reports indicate that majority of Indians are not aware of what is their ideal daily protein intake requirement. It then comes as no surprise when surveys reveal that consumption of this macronutrient has been on a gradual decline (Source: NSSO), leading to protein deficiencies in approximately 73% of Indians today (Source: IMRB 2017).
These startling statistics reveal the urgent need for sound awareness around protein, which is also the first step to tackling its widespread deficiency. This is where public health campaigns
like the government’s “Eat Right India” and others such as “Right To Protein” come to play. These initiatives are cultivating conversations around the nutrient to ensure that people are not only aware but, get access to necessary tools towards protein sufficiency leading to overall health and wellness.
Though the common problems accompanying lower-than-normal levels of protein in the body (such as skin abnormalities, increased hair fall, brittle nails, and most importantly, a weak immune systems) are concerning, the good news is that these are easily manageable at home. Monitoring daily protein intake through freely accessible tools like Right to Protein’s Protein-O-Meter and Protein Calculator and guides like the Protein Index is a good habit to follow.
These tools can help individuals make dietary changes at a macro level. However, long-term health transformation calls for consideration of one’s physical and physiological factors that may have an effect on protein malnourishment and/or malabsorption.
• When the cause of protein deficiency is poor dietary intake, it can be treated by turning to common sources such as dairy, tofu, eggs, fish, red meat, chicken and nuts
• When deficiency occurs from other causes except poor dietary intake, the underlying condition causing inhibited protein uptake or excessive protein loss must be immediately treated
• Vegetarians and vegans, who do not consume animal sources of protein, should chose plant-based foods that include almond/soy milk and pulses and whole-grains
• Pregnant women should consume more protein-heavy foods to sustain the healthy development of their baby and maintain proper weight levels
• For someone whose main concern is weight loss, opting for higher protein diet is recommended, since protein is more satisfying than fat or carbs
• Adults who are above the age of 55 years, should increase their protein intake to prevent sarcopenia or reduction in muscle mass, which may cause significant physical ailments as they get older
Ideal daily protein intake
Children should get their daily protein from natural sources and whole foods, and those who don’t eat meat may need 10 per cent to 15 per cent more protein intake to get the same benefits as meat-eaters.
At the same time, do you know how much protein is too much? As per the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) given by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) for Indians, 0.8 to 1 gm protein per kg body weight per day is sufficient to meet the basic nutritional requirements. An effective way to do so would be to ensure that at every meal 1/4th of the plate is filled with protein.
Eating healthy may be perceived as a complex task, but this Protein Day (27 February), it would be a good idea to make these simple adjustments part of our daily ritual.
* “Right To Protein” is a consumer advocacy initiative, which is seeks to draw attention to this core macronutrient by marking February 27 as India’s first ‘Protein Day’.