Lack of protein can also lead to lower immunity levels, brittle nails, hair loss and increased risk of fractures
Hey there! How are you feeling today? Is it:
2. Ready to take on the world
3. Super healthy
5. Low, Lethargic
If you selected the first three options, you are going to have a rocking day ahead. But if not, think about what went wrong yesterday: did you not sleep well? Are you stressed with work? Did you not eat well? All and any of these can drain you down and reduce your immunity.
With Covid-19 still making its rounds across the world, keeping your immune system strong and staying fit is now mandatory. To ensure this, we have a robust immune system that we need to focus on with improved diet and lifestyle.
Ensuring that our diet has all the essential nutrients, both macro and micro, has become very important. To add on to it, focus should now more be on proteins. They play a major role in production of antibodies, which protect us against various infections. Proteins are the building blocks of our muscles, and also comprise an essential part of our skin, enzymes and hormones. They help in muscle contraction, as well as in regulating and balancing the amount of fluids in our tissues. Without protein, life as we know and live would not be possible.
While low protein intake may make you feel tired, fatigued and cranky, severe deficiency may lead to:
-impaired ability to fight infections
-redness, flaky skin and depigmentation; brittle nails and hair loss
-lower bone mineral density and an increased risk of fractures
-reduced collagen formation, which in turn lowers the wound healing process
The mantra for a fit and healthy body is a protein-rich balanced diet along with physical activity. It doesn't work otherwise.
We all know that Protein is a general term used to refer to a diverse category of molecules that contain amino acids. Proteins that deliver all the essential amino acids are considered complete and high-quality proteins. These include all the animal proteins: lean meat, poultry, fish, milk and dairy and eggs. Good sources of plant proteins include dals, beans and legumes, quinoa, soya and nuts. However, these proteins lack one or more essential amino acids. Hence, eating a combination of foods like khichadi, rajma rice or even hummus with pita bread will give you all the essential amino acids.
So, can you now recollect how much protein you had in your meals yesterday?
Difficult? Well if we cannot remember the food intake of the previous day, then how can we say whether we consumed the required amount of proteins or not?
Protein requirements depend on age, gender, physiological status and activity level. The average recommendation for a healthy adult is 1gm protein/ kg of body weight, which means, if I am 25-years of age, leading a sedentary lifestyle and weighing 55kgs, then I need 55gms of proteins every day in my diet. However, for strength and endurance athletes, protein requirements are increased to around 1.2-1.8 gm/kg of bodyweight per day.
The KEY is to balance your proteins throughout the day.
Spread your protein over the day, with three main meals, and two protein-rich snacks. Protein synthesis is higher when we spread that protein among three or more meals, rather than having most of it in a single meal. This also optimises amino acid levels in the blood and promotes muscle repair and growth.
Pair up proteins with carbs. This is important when we are refuelling after aerobic exercise (like running), as protein is needed for muscle repair, and carbs are needed to restock energy stores.
Give a kick start to your day with a protein-rich breakfast. This will help not just to energize your body, but also boost your brain for extra focus and productivity at work. Try to have eggs-bread, omlette/bhurji, milk-oats, idli-sambar, paneer-paratha, smoothies, milk shakes for breakfast.
For lunch and dinner, we can opt for 1 katori of dal, sambar, beans, fish curry, chicken, paneer palak, paneer wrap, egg curry, soybean pulao, chole, rajma, missal buttermilk, raitas, kadhi, yogurt, kheer, shrikhand and custards.
Munch on some peanuts, chana, almonds, walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, dry fruit chikki, chickpea chat, sprouts bhel, peanut chaat when hungry between your meals.
Having at least 3 servings (300ml) of milk everyday in any form (milk in tea / coffee, buttermilk, paneer, curd) is highly recommended.
It’s not really that hard to meet your day’s protein requirements, is it?
(The author is a nutrition expert with Arogya World's MyThali program)