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Protein - The Most Misunderstood Health Nutrient Among Indians

Intact protein is a highly complex and the most commonly consumed form of protein in India

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When it comes to food and health, there continues to be great interest in the power of protein. Protein has become so important to us today that it is protein content we look at these days to judge the nutritional value of a food or beverage. However, despite this increased awareness about protein and its rising popularity, protein is the most highly misunderstood nutrient in India. As per a recent IMRB survey report, 93% of Indians are not aware of their ideal protein requirement and believe that they are getting enough protein in their diet. In India, people have lot of myths regarding protein in their diet. The IMRB survey report revealed that 73% of Indians believe that green leafy vegetables are a reliable source of protein, 29% people think that their regular daily diet is enough for their daily protein needs, and 30% believe that 1 egg a day provides enough protein, which is not true.

Understanding your protein
Protein is the key macronutrient needed for growth and development, maintenance of muscle mass, for functioning of enzymes and hormones, transport of oxygen, healthy hairs and nails, to support immunity.  The average requirement of protein in a healthy adult is 1 g of protein per Kg body weight per day. The protein requirement increases in special conditions like pregnancy & lactation. During illness and convalescence too, protein requirement increases.

Consuming the right protein is important
There are different forms of protein available in various foods and supplements such as Intact protein, Concentrate Protein, Isolate Protein and Hydrolysate protein. All these forms of protein have their different properties and benefits.

When we say, 'Better your Protein', it implies that the quantity as well as form of protein being consumed. It is important to understand how easily the protein will be digested, absorbed and made available in the body for various functions.  Indians derive almost 60% of their protein from cereals with relatively low digestibility and quality. It is here, that understanding the digestibility and availability of protein becomes essential.

Why should you choose hydrolysed protein?
Intact protein is a highly complex and the most commonly consumed form of protein in India. All protein rich foods that we consume in our diet, such as, pulses, chicken, fish, etc. and majority of the commercial supplements contain intact proteins.

Hydrolysed proteins, on the other hand, are a mixture of peptides mainly tri and di peptides and a few free amino acids (pre-digested proteins) that are easily digested and absorbed by the intestine and don't need to go through the complex process of breaking down like intact proteins. Protein hydrolysates have a little bitter taste owing to the production of bitter-taste peptides that are released during the enzymatic hydrolysis of proteins. However, when mixed with milk the taste improves. Protein Hydrolysates have a significantly higher insulin tropic effect which helps to increase in muscle mass and recover exercise induced muscle damages. Ingestion of protein hydrolysate with carbohydrate during and immediately after exercise improves whole-body protein synthesis. Hydrolyzed proteins are less allergenic for babies who are at risk for food allergies or immune diseases. Studies have shown its use in infants with cow milk allergy.

One must keep a daily track of the protein intake. This can be done using easy to use tools such as online Protein Calculators. In nutrition, as with many things, balance is the key to good health. Hence, the key to protein in your diet is finding balance. We need to consume adequate protein in terms of quantity keeping in mind its digestibility.  It will enable us to lead a healthy and fit life.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Dr Nandan Joshi

The author is currently working as a Head of Health & Nutrition Science at Danone India. He has overall 12+ years of experience in the field of Heath & Nutrition Research. His expertise includes Dietary intake research, Nutrition communication and People leadership.

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