Protein: Know Some Common Myths And Effective Ways To Prevent Protein Deficiency
Protein is an essential macronutrient that can be obtained from a wide range of food sources. Consult an expert to help build a balanced meal plan and get adequate protein for your overall health and well-being.
Fatigue, tiredness and thinning of hair could be signs of protein deficiency
- Lack of protein in your diet can cause muscle pain
- It is a myth that protein is only for bodybuilders
- Protein deficiency can cause delay in healing of wounds
Assimilating the latest research and facts around the general dietary composition of Indians, it is both alarming and worrisome that Indians on average eat more carbohydrates (much above the ideal intake), less protein, and fewer fruits and vegetables. Not just animal protein, Indians consume too little of plant protein as well leading to protein deficiency in approximately 73% of Indians (Source: IMRB). The deficiency of protein is quite prevalent and very common among both rural and urban populations. As per the Indian Consumer Market Report of 2020, urban Indians spend mostly on beverages, refreshments, and processed foods, while rural households spend most on cereals causing a protein deficit in the diet. In fact, the most recent NSSO surveys indicate that protein has been slipping out of Indian diets in the last few decades.
The important question then to be asked is, if all the essential factors are favourable, would an individual still consciously procure and consume protein?
The protein paradox
A recent study called the Protein Paradox, developed by the Right To Protein initiative, brings forth a worrying trend of the lack of protein consumption in Indian homes due to poor understanding of protein as a macronutrient, leading to the elimination of adequate protein in the daily diet. The study which surveyed over 2000 mothers across India further reveals that more than 70% of Indian mothers surveyed, believe in myths that could be potential barriers to adequate protein consumption, such as, protein is difficult to digest, leads to weight gain, is only for 'body-builders', and is also expensive to procure. Furthermore, 81% of mothers incorrectly believe that just a regular Indian diet consisting of roti, dal, rice is enough for daily protein needs and most mothers could not correctly identify any more than 3 protein rich foods, from a list of over 20 food items which included 11 protein rich ingredients
The biggest loop leading to protein deficiency points out to the lack of awareness and lack of correct information. There are many myths related to protein consumption that have been passed on from generations and there is a dire need to bust these myths for good.
Busting some common myths related to protein
Myth- Protein leads to weight gain
Fact- The right kind of protein not only provides essential nourishment but also keeps you full for long, thereby decreasing unhealthy cravings and keeping your weight and blood sugar in check. A protein-rich diet also boosts your metabolism, thereby helping you burn calories effectively.
Myth- Protein is only for bodybuilders
Fact- Protein doesn't just help in building muscles, it has various other roles to play too. It provides structure to every cell in the body, helps synthesize hormones, functions as enzymes, and is an integral part of the immune system. It provides strength to skin, hair, and nails. So, it is definitely not just related to muscle pumping.
Myth- Protein is expensive to procure
Fact- You can very well obtain enough protein from natural food sources that are affordable and easily available. When it comes to animal-based protein sources, you can choose lean meat, fatty fish, dairy products, and eggs to fulfil your daily protein requirement. At the same time, and unlike popular belief, there are several plant-based protein sources that are excellent sources of protein, such as soybeans, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, hemp seeds, chia seeds, legumes (chickpeas, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, yellow & green peas), pulses, nuts, and seeds. The options are endless if one takes the time to learn how to identify these sources.
One must proactively watch out for the signs of protein deficiency that are fatigue and tiredness, thinning of hair, increased hair-fall, dry and flaky skin, brittle nails, muscle pain, delayed healing of wounds and swelling (edema) in hands and feet.
The way forward
The biggest hurdle is lack of awareness about the importance of dietary protein. The major cause of concern is that most people don't think protein is essential component of diet, and unlike calcium or iron deficiency, protein deficiency is still not taken very seriously
There is a need of mass-awareness through government led campaigns making the general population aware about importance of protein, its sources, requirements and health implications. Health care practitioners especially dieticians and nutritionists can raise awareness on an individual basis or conduct workshops or seminars to bridge the protein deficiency gap.
Protein is an essential macronutrient that can be obtained from a wide range of food sources. And, if you are still in doubt, always consult an expert to help build your balanced meal plan and don't let the deficiency of protein come in the way of your health and well-being.
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