Proteins are back in the spotlight because of their role in immunity boosting. Several immune functions in the body rely on the production of active protein compounds – any kind of protein deficiency impacts the immune system negatively.
Numerous surveys have pointed to a rampant protein deficiency prevalent in the India population. Some surveys indicate that a whopping nine out of 10 people consume a diet deficient in proteins. This is primarily because our meals are predominantly carbohydrate based.
Changing food preferences and habits is not easy. Trying to overhaul one’s usual diet is therefore not a solution to this problem, especially during distressing times such as these. To begin with, greater awareness about protein deficiency in the diet can help. Following that, one can simply tweak the regular menu to ramp up the protein intake in the diet.
Identify the Good Sources
Most of us know that meats, fish, poultry and eggs are good sources of protein, but much confusion prevails about vegetarian sources. Broccoli and lettuce are commonly cited as good sources of protein, which they are not.Beans, legumes and pulses are the vegetarian sources of protein. Whole pulses such as chana, soybean, rajma, lobia, all dals (split and washed) including toor, chana, moong, masoor and urad, and legumes (peas and beans) qualify in this category.Nuts are also a good source. Even the lowly peanut is as good a source of protein as some of the more exotic nuts.Oil seeds, including sesame, sunflower, pumpkin, chia and flax, are just as good as nuts in terms of protein content.For those who consume dairy, milk, curd, cheese, lassi, raita etc., are good sources.
The Inclusion Rule
When planning meals, make sure to include at least one good source of protein. Popular breakfast items such as Upma, Poha and breads are predominately carbohydrates, which is why it is important to include a source of protein in this meal. Milk, curd, egg/tofu or dals/pulses can serve the purpose. Many of our popular snack items also happen to be bread-based or potato-based. If you’re looking to enjoy a protein-rich snack, consider something like roasted gram, Besan Cheela, Paneer Tikka, or Peanut Chaat.
The Combination Ratio
Recipes that combine cereals with pulses can effectively ramp up the protein content of a diet. The traditional Khichdi that combines rice with dal is an excellent case in point. This type of combination ensures a complete supply of amino acids (the building blocks of protein) to the body. However, the ratio of cereal to pulse in such combinations is crucial. Adding a small amount of dal to a large bowl of rice while preparing khichdi defeats the purpose of this combination. Ensure that the cereal to pulse ratio is always 5:1. Combining cereals or starch-rich foods with curd/egg/tofu (sources of protein) also achieves the same purpose.
The Benefits of Sprouting
The technique of sprouting cereals, seeds and pulses is an easy way to enhance the protein content of the food. Sprouting also makes the food more digestible, enabling it to be better absorbed by the body. Yet another advantage of sprouting is that it enhances the content of Vitamin C, folate and other B-complex vitamins in the food.Ensuring an adequate intake of protein in the diet not only boosts immunity but also improves muscle mass. Indians have a lower muscle mass compared to other ethnic groups, which is quite a handicap. Improved muscle mass will reduce the negative impact that it has on our metabolism and enhance overall well-being.
Nutrition Therapist & Wellness Consultant