Protein week: 5 essential nutrients to improve our health
Hectic lifestyles and eating habits over the years have taken a toll on our physical health and Quality of Life (QoL). The recent pandemic has served a warning bell and made us appreciate the importance of physical health more, and we need to hold on to this.
That said, there has lately been a drastic reduction in the Quality of Life (QoL), a multi-dimensional measure of the general well-being status of people, thanks to restricted movement, working from home, increased screen time, and poor eating habits.
Stress too has played a huge part and has led to an increase in ‘emotional eating’, escalated comfort eating and higher consumption of processed, unhealthy snacks.
Reduced availability of fresh foods like fruits and vegetable, milk and milk products further contributed to unhealthy eating of highly processed and convenient foods. All this has taken a huge toll on our QoL.
Besides the physical and psychological health, QoL takes into account the environment we live in, and our cultural and social relationships. It is considered an important factor for measuring our health status.
To counter the drop in the QoL, the world health organisation (WHO) has advised people to stay physically active even when stuck at home to stay healthy, decrease the negative impact of social isolation, and also to maintain the immune system at an optimum level.
Adequate physical activity as recommended by WHO is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week, along with muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week.
If going outside is restricted, one can sort for yoga, aerobics, online exercise classes, etc., at home.
Eating right diet is also an important step to boost our QoL as right nutrients contribute extensively to keep us at the right weight, boost the immune system, and help resist the onslaught of infections, and also add strength, improve mobility and help cut fatigue and tiredness.
In fact, both under and over nutrition impact our physical health and may lead to lower energy and stamina.
Excessive consumption of food leading to overweight or obesity can lead to fatigue. Similarly, undernutrition can lead to loss of weight and nutritional deficiencies. For example, if we don’t score enough energy and protein through our diet, it can lead to depletion of fat and muscle from the body, which leads to chronic tiredness.
Nutrients that matter
Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred energy source and should deliver 55-60 percent of energy of total energy intake in the diet.
Fats are needed to form and maintain body structures, for regulating our metabolism, and to provide energy.
Vitamins and minerals are involved in the metabolic processes and help in release of energy. Their deficiency can cause tiredness and fatigue.
Protein is needed for maintenance, upkeep, and regeneration of all our body cells, and organs - right from hair to hormones, antibodies to nerves, and haemoglobin to bones. It is also needed for mobility, for keeping our metabolism up and for stronger immunity.
Adequate protein is important to avoid weakness, fatigue, inefficient day-to-day functioning and to prevent metabolic syndrome, impaired muscle function, and risk of infection diseases. So, we need to eat enough good quality protein every day to keep our QoL up.
Get enough protein
As per the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) given by Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) for Indians, 0.8-1gm protein/kg body weight/day is the requirement of a normal, sedentary person without any disease conditions. Growing teenagers, fitness enthusiasts and athletes, those recovering from an injury and pregnant and lactating women need it more.
Eating a balanced diet can help get enough protein in our diet, but it is important to ensure both quantity as well as the quality of protein.
Not all food sources of protein contain all the nine essential amino acids our body requires. Animal products supply all, but if you are a strict vegetarian, you can still get all their essential amino acids by eating a wide variety of foods and making smart pairs by combining grains with legumes or seeds or milk products.
If increased requirement is making it difficult to meet protein needs through food, one can opt for a supplement that helps cover the gap.
I believe it is time to take our nutrition seriously. The need of the hour is education. We need to talk more about the importance of all essential nutrients and ensure them in our diet consciously to score good QoL.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)