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Wednesday, Jan 19, 2022
Outlook.com
Outlook.com
Opinion

Healthy Diet With Sufficient Amount Of Protein A Must For Everyone, Not Just Athletes

Protein plays a very important role in growth and development, maintenance of muscle mass, transport of oxygen, healthy hair and nails, and as a source of energy, writes Dr. Anita Jatana.

Healthy Diet With Sufficient Amount Of Protein A Must For Everyone, Not Just Athletes
Image for representation.
Healthy Diet With Sufficient Amount Of Protein A Must For Everyone, Not Just Athletes
outlookindia.com
2020-07-22T16:41:29+05:30

It was business as usual for all of us till January 2020 as we were going about the motions of life with little or no time for leisure and recreation. Then, a spanner was thrown in the works and Covid-19 came into our life. A paranoia about the virus set in with one question in everyone’s mind — how, where and who will the virus strike? Almost six months since the world was hit by the pandemic, there is emerging information on Covid, but there are still many questions that remain unanswered. As we wait for a vaccine or drug to defeat Covid, we must remember it’s crucial to maintain social distancing, practice hand hygiene and maintain a balanced diet to build immunity.

‘A healthy outside starts from the inside’ is the motto which drives me personally. So, ‘A good diet for a healthier you’ is the aim.  There is no magic bullet that can help build immunity in a single sweep. One must consume recommended quantities of nutrients from all food groups. In short, consuming a balanced diet is of utmost importance to build and sustain immunity.

Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Zinc, Vitamin A, Vitamin E and iron are known immunity builders.

Protein plays a very important role in growth and development, maintenance of muscle mass, transport of oxygen, healthy hair and nails, and as a source of energy. It is the fabric of our body’s defense systems, antibodies, enzymes and hormones. Proteins are made up of amino acids and two essential amino acids have a direct link to cementing immunity—Arginine and Glutamine. Immune cells that are on the receiving end include leucocytes, cytokines, phagocytes, and they have a role in keeping the immune system healthy by warding off infections.

The protein requirement varies according to age, gender, weight and level of physical activity. Protein requirement increases during pregnancy, lactation, illness and convalescence. A healthy adult needs one gram of protein per kg body weight per day on an average. For example, if a person weights 60 kg, he/she will require 60g protein per day on an average basis. The requirements are higher for a person engaged in sports or strenuous physical activity, and for children in their growing phase. 

Not All Proteins Are Same

Not only the quantity of protein but also the right quality of protein is important to reap its benefit. Proteins are made up of nine amino acids. However, not all sources of proteins will have all nine amino acids. Most of the animal-based proteins like eggs, Chicken and Fish are complete source of proteins. In vegetarian sources like soy, milk and milk products are complete protein sources while other vegetarian sources such as dals and nuts are incomplete proteins i.e., they do not have all the nine essential amino acids in the amounts needed by the body.

To ensure that one gets good quality proteins and all the nine essential amino acids, one needs to pair the protein carefully, combining cereals and pulses e.g. Dal + Rice, Milk + Cereal, curd+ rice, Chappati + dal, peanut butter with whole wheat bread as sandwich.

It’s important to ensure the right quantity and quality of protein is included in one’s diet daily.

How To Meet Protein Requirements?

A balanced diet is the key to meet protein requirements. Adequate protein should be consumed daily. Milk and milk products, chicken, eggs, legumes, nuts should form part of one’s diet. Since most of us do not consume these foods sufficiently every day, protein deficiency is commonly seen amongst Indians. If one is unable to meet the protein requirements through diet, a nutritional supplement with protein and other micronutrients can help to bridge the gap especially during special conditions.

It is time to review the importance of protein in our diets. It was perceived to be a nutrient essential for body building or for sports persons, but it is of prime importance for everyone. Let’s start by ensuring that our diet has adequate quantity and quality of it.

(The author is Chief Dietician, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, Convenor Indian Dietetics Association, Delhi.)

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