The building blocks of human anatomy seem to be tumbling down if some surveys are to be believed. A new study reveals that Indian’s understand little about the intake of protein. Undertaken by Nielsen, it surveyed 2,142 mothers across 16 Indian cities, as part of Right To Protein, a nationwide public health awareness initiative.
The most alarming finding was that only three percent of the population understands the prominent functions of protein or why one should consume it daily. That against the backdrop of protein being the bedrock of crucial body functions, seems startling.
What did we miss?
Protein is widely understood as a macronutrient. Its primary importance is attached to the fact that all lean tissues in the body comprise protein. It’s also one of the things that gives us most energy. But still, 82 percent mothers from Ahmedabad, Bengaluru and Hyderabad were unable to correctly associate protein with its functions and, therefore, considered it of low importance in a balanced diet.
For the average Joe, protein is simply a compound that creates muscle. What we don’t associate it with is tissue repair and bone strengthening, boosting metabolism and lowering blood pressure.
Protein sends satiety signals to your brain so you don’t overeat, thereby helping in maintaining weight. "How many of us know that haemoglobin is a protein and we’d be anaemic if there was a deficiency. Most hormones require protein for their function. Not to mention, a lack of protein can lead to excessive hair fall and alopecia. Our skin is primarily built of protein and in its absence, one can get wrinkles, acne and skin diseases. Proteins are antibodies that help fight infections, that we now need more than ever," says Shikha Mahajan, Holistic Nutritionist, and Founder Diet Podium, Delhi.
Why did we miss it?
We’ve been living in the fool’s paradise of misinformation. This comes from unverified content on social media and other public platforms. Fact-checking is seldom practised before broadcasting, according to Mahajan.
Then, it goes on to be widely shared and read, hardwiring perceptions in the meantime. "Most bloggers, YouTubers, and Instagrammers are running a business or promoting a product and will give twisted, falsified information. Knowledge gets diluted and even overwritten by consumption," Mahajan says.
The very foundation of building information starts in school but nutrition doesn’t find much of a mention in the academic curriculum. We grow up not knowing enough. "And then we’re exposed to a burst of ‘highest-ranking blogs and articles’ that are powered by SEO (search engine optimisation) and adverts that tell us what they want to tell us, not what we should know," says Bangalore-based Simrun Chopra, lifestyle and transformation coach who runs Nourish with Sim.
What has it led to?
Limited or incorrect information powers misconception and myths. People complain of hair fall and skin issues, asking if they can take biotin and collagen, most of which their body is perfectly capable of producing, shares Chopra. On the other hand, myths promote a dismissal of facts.
For instance, the study finds that 70 percent of Indian mothers strongly believe in common myths such as 'protein is difficult to digest', 'it leads to weight gain', and 'it is only for body-builders'. Without context, they’re all untrue.
"Yes, protein takes time to digest but not when taken in the right quantity. Likewise, protein doesn’t make you gain weight, in fact, it’s advised to those wanting to drop the kilos because protein makes one feel and stay full for longer. And no, protein is not for bodybuilders. In reality, it’s for everybody wanting to improve their muscle mass and bone density," says Avni Kaul, Wellness Coach and Founder, NutriActivania, Delhi.
Nearly 80 percent people hold the view that lack of protein does not impact overall health, whereas a protein deficiency can lead to a fatty liver, weak bones, stunted growth in children, in addition to
several other disorders. One shift in attitude can reverse years of neglect. But you’ve got to start somewhere and this seems to be a good point. The easiest way to do so is by plugging yourself into the power of protein.
Keep in mind
Don’t start or stop a protein diet on your own
Consult a doctor before taking protein supplements
Plant-based eaters must include a variety of protein sources and not depend on one or two prominent ones. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, lentils, seeds, nuts… all must be incorporated.
Avoid creating a food plan that predominantly comprises cereals, grains or processed foods as these are lower in amino acids or have nutrients processed out
(Simrun Chopra, lifestyle and transformation coach and founder, Nourish with Sim)
|Protein is bad for the kidneys||Only when you have an underlying kidney or liver issue|
|There’s a time window when you should take protein||Most peer-reviewed studies show that there is no such window|
|Protein bars are healthy||While a protein bar gives you a 20gm serving of protein, it will also give you 20-30gm of carbohydrates and 10-15gm of fat, increasing your calorific intake|
|Vegetarians and vegans don’t get enough protein||They can get enough of it from lentils, legumes, tofu, tempeh etc.|