Understanding The Role Of Good Nutrition And Protein Intake In Improving Quality Of Life
Protein plays a crucial role in maintenance and formation of tissues in the body. Read here to know more about the role of protein.
Protein is also known as the building block of the human body
- Protein week is observed from 24th to 30th July
- Protein can hep you maintain better health
- Tofu and paneer are popular sources of vegetarian protein
Quality of life (QoL) represents an aspect of health that is different from those generally measured using conventional methods, such as various clinical parameters, X rays, scans and blood investigations. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines QoL as an individual's perception of their position in life in context to the culture and value systems in which they live and in relation to their goals, expectations, standards and concerns. Standard indicators of QoL include physical and mental health, wealth, employment, environment, education, recreation, leisure time and much more.
Also, with an increase in life expectancy, higher emphasis is placed on maintaining good health and achieving a better QoL.
As per the WHO, the key domains encompassing QoL are
1. Physical health domain: It indicates the perception of one's own physical health status and how one could improve one's physical wellbeing. This domain includes activities of daily living, energy and fatigue, mobility, pain and discomfort, sleep and rest, work capacity and dependence on medical aids.
2. Psychological domain: This encompasses physiological well-being which could be described as a person's cognition of his satisfaction with life in general.
3. Social relationships domain: This mainly involves the various roles in life a person plays that enable them to develop and harness relationships with friends and family, having an adequate support system, relations in their professional undertakings.
4. Environment domain: This domain includes financial resources, freedom, physical safety, security, health and social care: accessibility and quality, home environment, opportunities for acquiring new information and skills, opportunities for leisure activities and physical environment (pollution/noise/traffic/climate).
Physical activity and nutrition, both play a vital role in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and thereby enhancing QoL. In adulthood, importance must be given to maintain the muscle mass and with advancing age, focus must be towards slowing down the decline of muscle mass, by consuming adequate nutrition and engaging in regular physical activity.
Several research studies have indicated role of physical activity in improving QoL by uplifting mood and lowering stress and anxiety. Even small bouts of activity have proven to be beneficial.
When it comes to nutrition, both under and over nutrition have been found to impact health, well-being and QoL.
Undernutrition may result in loss of weight and also cause nutritional deficiencies, which may further lead to feeling of 'lack of energy'.
Due the ongoing pandemic, the resultant anxiety, uncertainty, boredom and stress has led to an increase in 'emotional eating' especially 'comfort foods' rich in sugar, salt and fat. It has been reported that there has been a 66% increase in snacking, with midnight snacking becoming more common and higher consumption of processed, unhealthy snacks observed.
Studies have shown that excessive caloric intake especially foods with higher fat and carbohydrate content esp. high sugar have shown to cause obesity, lethargy, fatigue, sleep disturbances thereby impacting physical health, fitness and QoL.
A healthy eating pattern, regardless of age, must consist of a balanced diet with focus on good quality macro nutrients such as Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats in the right quantity along with all the essential vitamins and minerals coming from various food groups such as whole grain cereals, millets , legumes, fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, milk and milk products, chicken, fish and eggs.
Proteins are an important nutrient as they make up the framework of body defence systems, antibodies, enzymes and hormones. One of the pre-requisites of increased muscle mass is through an adequate supply of high-quality protein. Proteins comprise of amino acids and the amino acids that play a key role in immunity are arginine, glutamine and branched chain amino acids (BCAA). Immune cells that are supported by protein include leucocytes, cytokines, phagocytes all of which are involved in keeping the immune system healthy by keeping away infections. Several studies have shown deficiency of protein to impair immunity and increase susceptibility to infections.
Protein intake is thereby important to improve strength, body composition, help build immunity and thereby improve the overall QoL
Several surveys and studies have shown that Indian diets are predominantly low in protein with 9 out of 10 Indians consuming a diet deficient in protein which is indeed a matter of concern. Apart from consuming the right quantity of protein, emphasis must be on including good quality protein in our meals. Dairy products, egg, chicken, fish and soya are complete source of proteins while vegetarian sources such as dals and nuts are incomplete proteins i.e. these sources do not provide all the nine essential amino acids in the amounts needed by the body. To get good quality proteins and all the nine essential amino acids, one needs to combine these protein sources appropriately like Grains+ Dals, Dals/Grains + Nuts/Seeds, Legumes/Grains + Dairy. E.g. Dal + Rice, Milk + Cereal. Besides complementing proteins, to get good quality and quantity of protein in the diet, vegetarians can meet these requirements by consuming milk and milk products like curd/yogurt and cottage cheese (paneer)
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle in the form of appropriate diet and adequate physical activity could be the most useful steps in achieving an improvement in QoL. A wholesome, balanced and nutritious diet with emphasis on protein and other essential nutrients can contribute to a robust immune system and resist onslaught of infections while maintaining good strength and mobility.
(Sheryl Salis is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator & Naturopath. She is also the founder- Nurture Health Solutions and author of Diet in Diabetes Simplified)
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