Nutrition Meets Food Science

Go “Pro” With Adequate Protein in Diet: Part 1

Have you ever seen an advertisement of protein shakes and wondered what exactly it is? Why is it gaining so much of popularity? What makes it so special that superstars like Akshay Kumar etc are endorsing such products? These are some of the questions that we will delve into and find their answers.

Let us start by a simple definition of proteins. Proteins are one of the macronutrients, which are composed of units called amino acids. Now don’t get confused about amino acids as we will clear all your doubts here. To put it in simple words you can think of protein as a chain of pearls or beads, these beads are amino acids which are joined together by covalent bonds that act like a string.

If we study proteins closely, we would find that our body is majorly composed of proteins. Whether it is our skin, muscles, blood or even hair you name it and there is a protein present.

There are certain properties of proteins, which make it so special and crucial for a healthy body and life. Why do we need proteins? Proteins have many functions for our body besides just being part of our body and tissue. Proteins do their work mostly in cells and carry out many tasks.

One of the most important need for proteins by body is for growth and maintenance of the tissues. Children grow and much of their growth is through proteins which make new tissues of muscle, skin, and other parts of the body including organs. Actually these extra proteins are needed right from fetus stage within pregnant mothers so in order to feed the fetus women need to consume extra protein. Even after birth the mother feeds proteins through breast milk so she continues to need extra protein in her diet to supply to the child while it grows.

Even adults do need proteins to maintain and repair any wear and tear happening daily. Sports persons need much more as there is greater wear and tear of their body proteins which need to be replaced.

Most of the thousands of reactions in our body are biochemical reactions that are possible due to catalysts called enzymes. These are proteins, which are involved in such functions as digestion, energy production, blood clotting and many more.

Some proteins act like messengers and are called hormones. They control a variety of reactions. One example is insulin which controls the uptake of glucose into the cells.

Some of the proteins provide structure to the body tissues by giving them stiffness and rigidity. Keratin is found in skin, hair and nails; collagen in bones, tendons, ligaments and skin; and elastin in lungs and arteries.

Proteins also play an important role of maintaining pH in body tissues and blood.

An important function of proteins is in the immune system. They form immunoglobulins which work as antibodies that protect us from invading bacteria and viruses.

There are also proteins that help transport nutrients. One example is hemoglobin which contains protein and can help transport oxygen in body to various cells from lungs. Lipoproteins transport cholesterol and fats.

Proteins can also provide energy in case other energy providing substances like carbs and fats are not available. Thus proteins perform many functions in the body.

Having said all that we are clear now that protein is a very important nutrient that should be consumed in required quantity. However, what is the required quantity? Well, that depends on a variety of factors.

Generally an adult needs about 0.8 to 1.0g of protein per kg body weight depending on the physical activity he or she does. More active ones, especially sportspersons need more than sedentary persons.

Children are growing so they need more. Infants need up to 1.6g per kg weight and children also need more than 1g per kg weight while they are growing. As mentioned above pregnant and lactating women need more proteins.

This brings us to the next question how can one fulfill their daily protein requirement. Let us dive deeper into this and find out the answers.

Nature has provided us with a variety of proteinaceous foods. To name a few there are chickpeas (Bengal gram), kidney beans (rajma), milk and paneer, different dals (lentils) and green peas etc. In case of non-vegetarian diet, one can go for fish, chicken, lean beef and egg white etc.

If you are looking for ways to increase protein content in your diet, here are some suggestions:-

  • Try scrambled egg with parsley and green chilly
  • Peanut butter can also enhance your protein content
  • Preparing Bengal grams with rice can add a lot of protein to your diet
  • Matar paneer is a highly protein rich and tasty dish

Apart from the above-mentioned foods, if you have a sweet tooth, you can try including some protein rich desserts to your diet. There are plenty of protein rich ingredients, which can be used to make healthy plus mouth-watering desserts. Some of these include peanut butter coconut ladoo, delicious paneer kheer and Firni. Other than these items there are other ingredients like buckwheat flour, amaranth flour which can be used to prepare sweet dishes like halwa and laddo or even cheelas (sort of sweet chapattis)

All the above mentioned foods can not only prove to be appetizing but are also loaded with proteins.

Now let us have a look at some more factual information:-

  • 1 egg contains 6 g protein
  • 1 bowl of soybean chunks contains 28g of protein
  • 1 bowl of Greek yogurt contains 12 to 17.3 g of protein
  • ¼ cup of almonds contains 7.5 g protein
  • 30 g pumpkin seeds contain 9 g protein
  • 1 cup cooked chickpea (chana) contain 12 g protein
  • 1 cup quinoa contains 8g protein
  • Meat products like fish, chicken and lean beef are rich source of protein

When you only think of protein from nutrition point of view and not worry about whether people would like the food prepared using protein rich foods and ingredients, it does not help. People eat food not just for nutrition and health but more importantly for taste and flavour. So unless one makes very delectable dishes out of the ingredients rich in protein people would not like to eat them. In the next part a number of recipes that would show how delicious recipes would make people eat more of protein rich foods.

Ms Manpreet Kaur

Intern/Tech. Assistant, PFNDAI

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