The Power of Protein

What is it in our foods that can give us strength and immunity and that which can repair out tissues and that which can lead to growth – have you thought about it?

Be it long flowing tresses or a supple elastic skin or the power of muscles. There is one major contributor to it all and that is the nutrient PROTEIN.

Before we understand how to get the required amounts of protein in the diet we must look at why and where it is required. Of course, growth and maintenance. Out of the several nutrients, we get from our diet. There are three most predominant nutrients- carbohydrates, protein, and fats. Also called the Macronutrients, it is present in a major proportion of our diet. Let us discuss one of the crucial macronutrients. None other than the power provider, Protein!

Let us look at 8 crucial functions of protein:

  1. Growth: Our tissues and cells and cell membranes and DNA and muscles and bones – all are made up of protein. Right from the growth of the fetus in the womb to the increased milk production during lactation to the growth of the child into an adolescent, all require the crucial nutrient of protein, Think growth – Think protein
  2. Repair and maintenance: We are blissfully unaware that there is a 24/7 process of repair of tissues going on in our system. Cells die and new cells take its place, wounds heal and muscle breaks down and is repaired and bones are reformed – all happening continuously while we live life. Isn’t the body great! Isn’t it easy now to understand that we must eat enough of this nutrient?
  3. The immune system: Our immune system primarily contains of cells that are the defense system of our body. Cells as we know are made up of protein, So to have enough immune cells and to make new ones – protein adequacy is paramount
  4. The utilization of nutrients: For the vitamins and minerals to be absorbed and transported and for some of them to be stored, proteins are required. These transport and storage proteins ensure that the nutrients are adequately available and utilized in the body.
  5. The proteins of the blood: Yes – right from the function of oxygen delivery by the iron bound protein hemoglobin to the albumin and globulin which maintain the toxicity of the blood and the proteins for clotting of the blood – proteins are key to the functioning of and balance of the blood.
  6. The Muscles: Muscle is fully made of protein. When we think of muscles, we of course think of the muscles of the arms and the legs. Of course – they are the large muscles and the better these are, the better will we be offset from diseases. The more muscle we have, the better will our insulin work and the better will our glucose control be. Having less muscle is a sign of aging. We must also recognize the other large muscle groups that we have – the shoulder muscles, the back muscles, the abdominal and pelvic muscles, the chest muscles. These core muscles need to be built and replenished too. Then there are those smaller muscles too that ensure the movement and functioning of the various parts of the body – like the neck, the facial, the jaw muscles.
  7. The requirement of protein in skin and hair: Skin needs the adequacy of the protein collagen and hair is made up of the protein keratin. When there is a state of protein depletion and inadequacy, skin and hair is affected in a big way.
  8. The Amino acids: Proteins are made up of units of amino acids. These have multiple roles in the body – they are used to make new molecules of protein, many of them are part of neurotransmitters that regulate the functioning of the brain.

With so many functions in the body how can we ignore this vital nutrient. How can we not pay enough attention to it in our diets? Unfortunately, the typical Indian diet is usually deficient in protein. Another important aspect is that amino acids which combine to form proteins are of two types: The essential amino acids which are required to be part of the diet and cannot be made in the body and the non-essential amino acids which can be made in the body from essential amino acids. Thus, you see how imperative it is to consume not just the right quantity but the right quality and type of proteins. That is why we must mindfully ensure adequate consumption.

So, let’s become protein savvy from today on and let us do our bodies a service!

What happens when your body is low in protein?

The deficiency of protein can lead to several deteriorating health conditions like low muscle mass, fluid accumulation in the body, hormonal imbalances, stunted growth in children, poor skin, hair, and nail health. These are some of the common issues seen in protein deficiency. A daily intake of 0.8-1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight is recommended for adults and for children and adolescents its about 1.1 – 1.3 gm/kg body weight. The Indian Council of Medical Research suggests a Recommended Dietary Allowance for proteins for children and adolescents. It will be great to have a one touch point with your dietitian for a personalized plan for protein specially for the growing years.

How to deliver adequate protein in the food choices?

Adequate protein can come from several foods. Legumes like beans, chickpeas, peas, several nuts, seeds, and whole grains are good sources of protein. Other vegetables and fruits contain protein in smaller amounts. Dairy foods, poultry, and eggs are animal products that have good quality proteins. Foods can be categorized based on the consisting list of amino acids. Complete proteins contain all the 9 essential amino acids. Also called the A-class protein. These are foods such as eggs, chicken, meat, and animal milk. Egg protein is referred to as a gold standard protein. An egg contains all the essential amino acids in an appropriate quantity. Further, there are few vegetarian sources of good quality proteins – Soya, Quinoa, chia seeds, hemp seeds, buckwheat, amaranth, etc.

An easy way to better quality of vegetarian protein – using the supplementary value of protein?

Combination of protein is the key! Foods that lack in few essential amino acids are called Incomplete proteins like the grains and pulses we consume. We can create variations and combinations of different foods that balance out the lacking amino acid in each other. A wonderful idea don’t you think.

These foods will supplement lacking proteins to each other. Using foods that have adequacy of a specific amino acid to complement the food that is limited of the same. For instance, pulses/legumes are rich in lysine, whereas lack methionine. On the other hand, cereals are rich in methionine and lack lysine. (Lysine and methionine- essential amino acids.) The two complement the limiting amino acids in each other. Thus, a combination of cereal and pulse creates a good quality in serving all the essential amino acids. Supplementary value of protein examples:- using combinations like chickpea gravy and whole wheat paratha. Rice and lentil bowl. Dosa with peanut chutney. Peanut butter spread with wheat bread. Green pea paratha.

Another smart way to better the quality of protein is to combine cereal protein with complete protein sources like eggs, milk or meat. Think cereal porridges, egg pulao, curd rice, sprout raita – yum yum – does this whet your protein appetite!!!

Remember this – No more having only roti and bhaji for main meals – they do not cover the protein quality needs of the body.

How to increase protein intake in a vegetarian diet?

Yes – having adequate protein is a huge concern especially for vegetarians. In the daily hustle bustle of life, we may not be able to put together protein replete combinations.

The key is the right combination of proteins and mindfully ensuring every meal has a protein source – for everyone in the family.

Some help can be used from protein rich sources like skimmed milk powder which can be added to milk, or into the kneaded dough or into gravies and smoothies. Soya granules and soya nuggets can be added to vegetables to increase protein consumption.

Soya flour – that has been made after roasting well to destroy anti-nutritional factors is another good method to better protein.

Vegetarian and Non-vegetarian populations can both achieve protein requirements through diet. Since animal meat, products, and eggs are abundant sources of protein. It is easier for non-vegetarians to avail of protein in their diets. Even though plant sources are not a bombardment of protein, yet with mindfulness and combinations, vegetarians can achieve their daily protein requirements. Dairy products can help with gaining good quality protein in generous quantities. The plant sources for proteins are plenty. You can mix match and gain the right amounts with ease.

Proteins for weight gain and weight loss?

High protein intake is helpful in achieving satiety, reducing waist circumference, and maintaining body weight. The maintenance of lean body mass decreased triglyceride levels and increased fat loss. Protein-rich foods give greater perceived fullness. Adequate protein must most definitely be part of a weight losing or a weight maintenance plan.

Just as it should be part of the weight gain or muscle gain regimen. We need to gain muscle, not just fat and therefore protein should be priority.

Those who use the gym for building muscle, will require more protein. Whey protein supplements will be a good adjunct to add to the diet in such a case, especially immediately after a work out to replenish the muscles that have been broken down during the training session.

A 5-Point Plan for protein to improve quality and quantity of protein.

  • Protein treats!

Instead of munching on high-calorie simple sugar snack items. Consider consuming a small punch of proteins during your snack time. A handful of roasted chana. Nuts laddoo or chikki. (peanut/rajgira chikki). A boiled egg white. These are some easy ways to nourish your body with good-quality proteins.

  • Bless your recipes with extra nutrients.

Add other nutrients like fiber, vitamins, minerals, and good fats to your recipe. Protein-rich recipes with extra nutrients turn into a complete package for you. Also, the bio availability of protein increases with certain foods. (absorption rate of protein in the body). Vitamin B-6 found in nuts and whole grains and meat ensures the right metabolism of protein, insulin that is released on consuming grains and fruits facilitate the absorption of amino acids and uptake of it by muscles

  • Include variation.

Even though you are a non-vegetarian, consider including various plant sources in the diet. The drawback of animal products is the high cholesterol, lactate, oxidized fats and low fiber content. This may not be suitable for people with dyslipidemia (abnormal lipid profiles).

Plant-based foods are usually underestimated in their nutrient value. These foods not only contain generous amounts of protein but also phytochemicals and anti oxidants. These are health protective and can help in lowering cholesterol levels and offsetting disease.

  • Experiment with recipes.

Various techniques can be used to increase the quality and quantity of proteins in the diet. Simple cooking ways can help increase your intake. Top your shakes with nuts. Use soya in various recipes as well as other whole pulses. Make sprouts part of main meals. Include egg whites in your breakfast. Include seeds like hemp and chia in your snacks. Use combinations of foods to create versatility. Lean meat can be consumed with liberal amounts of vegetables.

  • Create combinations.

Incorporate different food ingredients to extend the number of amino acids. Using the concept of the supplementary value of protein increases the bioavailability and quality of the dietary proteins and all the essential amino acids can be achieved. To more about proteins and the combination of proteins intakes

We at believe that protein nurture is an extremely important part of achieving good health. Both inadequate amounts of protein and excess protein is dangerous. This blog is the first step in becoming protein savvy. Awareness is the first step. We really encourage you to take a consultation with a qualified nutritionist for your family’s protein plan. Mindful eating, and conscious efforts to improve the quality of your diet will help any individual to be healthy, and support their body. The right approach to nutrition will help you thrive and be healthier at all times.

We at Nutritionwithvibha reiterate that it is Nutrition that can create a sustainable change into health and are here to create awareness and embark on the journey of education for all. Join us and become a Healthy Living Ambassador!

Write in to us at for all your protein queries and for your feedback.

Stay Happy, healthy and blessed!

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