Protein deficiency is an epidemic that is gripping us Indians faster than we know. Unlike calcium or iron deficiency, protein deficiency isn’t taken seriously by most – in both adults and kids alike. And the alarming rate with which it is growing and going unnoticed needs immediate attention. Almost 73 per cent of diets in urban India are protein deficient. On top of that, 93 per cent are unaware of ideal protein requirement. Moreover, only one third people in India think that lack of protein can cause fatigue or weakness.

According to a recent six-city survey, it was found that Lucknow is the most protein deficient, followed by Ahmedabad and Chennai.

Cereal + Pulse + Dairy combination

According to Dr Neelanjana Singh, director, Indian Dietetic Association, “The most common reason behind this deficiency is that Indian diet is 60 per cent cereal. While cereals are not completely devoid of proteins, they lack one essential amino acid. Having said that, pulses and dals that are rich in protein also lack an essential amino acid, Methionine, which is required for growth and tissue repair. This makes the cereal and pulse combination extremely important. To get good quality protein, you need an ideal ratio is 5:1.”

However, even cereal and pulse combination alone is not sufficient. There can be issues in digestion of protein. To counter that, the best protein combination is cereal, pulse and animal protein. This animal protein (dairy) could be milk, meat, eggs etc.

Protein mistakes

A lot of people feel that having a small bowl of dal is enough protein to go with a plateful of rice but this is a myth. Too little dal with cereal isn’t the ideal proportion, explains Dr Singh.

Secondly, just having a bowl of dal doesn’t mean you are getting ample protein. The combination of cereal and dal is important. Some of the best combinations are dal chawal, rajma chawal, kadhi chawal, mushrooms, dosa sambhar, milk, curd and soya.

Protein overload

While protein deficiency is a reality in India, on the other extreme are some fitness aficionados who are having more protein than they require. “If you have too much protein, you are putting too much pressure on your kidneys and liver to process it and excrete it out. Many a times this protein stays in the system and turns into fat.

A person needs 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. However, protein requirement vary according to your activity level and even during pregnancy. A person who is engaging in intensive workouts every day may need 0.5 grams of additional protein, while a person working out moderately may not need extra protein. A pregnant woman may need an additional of 36 per cent more protein.

All in all, it is not hard to meet your daily protein requirement. All you need to do is plan your meals.