Most women in India share heavier and more exhausting responsibilities than men and in the process often ignore their own health. Nutritional profiles among people living in various parts of India reveal a striking difference between ideal nutrient consumption and actual uptake among Indian women.
Data suggests that women consume diets particularly low in protein, consuming approximately 13% less protein than men. This disparity is more pronounced in the North-Eastern states followed by states in North India.
“Protein is an important macro-nutrient and forms the building blocks of all body cells. Of the 20 amino acids that make up protein, 9 are essential which need to be obtained through diet. Since excess proteins cannot be stored in the body, unlike fats and carbohydrates, meeting the daily protein requirements is all the more essential,” says Jigna Sheth, a well-known Dietician from Mumbai.
As per the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), for healthy living, adult females require 1 gram protein per kilogram of body weight every day. This requirement is higher among pregnant and lactating women.
Apart from being the major component of the body, proteins perform multiple and varied functions. Dietary protein supplies the building blocks of muscle tissue. It also supplies the materials needed for neurotransmitters and hormones. Overall, all the body tissues need proteins for working, repairing themselves, and for proper functioning.
Jigna Sheth says, “The role of proteins is especially important in women’s health as it promotes bone health and also boosts the immune system, in addition to providing other health benefits. Protein lacking diets are therefore a major health concern”.
Health benefits of high protein diets include the following:
- Help to keep the body lean: Cutting back on carbs and replacing those calories with protein helps in decreasing the fat tissue.
- Control hunger and give a feeling of satiety: High protein diets give a greater feeling of fullness than carbs and thus help to control hunger for a longer time.
- Make the body burn more calories: Protein digestion requires greater energy than that required for carbs.
- Fight off aging: Muscle mass keeps shrinking with age. By eating more proteins and following a regular exercise regimen, the body can maintain the muscle mass through advancing age.
- Good for skin and hair: Certain amino acids help in reducing the damaging effect of UV light on skin. Proteins also promote hair growth and improve lustre.
Both animal food sources and plant sources can provide dietary proteins. Protein rich foods include milk, cheese, whole grains, pulses, mutton, chicken, fish and egg. However, a downside of consuming animal protein is that there is a greater chance of getting overweight because of the high fat and cholesterol content. On the other hand, a combination of plant proteins provides all the essential amino acids with the added benefit of fibre and phytonutrients.
Meeting the daily protein requirements can be a challenging task for women. By using a protein supplement in addition to regular balanced meals, women can plug this protein gap. Since most women are weight conscious these days, opting for a plant based protein supplement is a good option for them.
Here are some tips to increase the protein content in diet without adding on to fat and calories:
- Consume lean meat (poultry and fish)
- Consume low-fat milk, curd and cheese
- Have a serving of dry fruits (can also be used for garnishing different recipes)
- Have soy, beans, or pulses twice a day
- Have milk shakes with added protein powder at least twice a day
- Replace cereal breakfast with sprouts or eggs
- Replace regular butter with home-made peanut butter
Consumption of healthy diet is the foundation of good health, and for a woman keeping herself healthy should be her foremost responsibility. So, this Women’s Day take a pledge to strengthen your body with protein powered meals.