Choosing The Right Protein
By Kavita Devgan
Nutritional deficiencies are one of the leading problems in South Asian countries and currently, protein deficiency is a significant part of the problem, especially in India.
In India, people have lot of myths regarding protein in their diet. They believe that they are getting enough protein through their daily meals. A recent IMRB survey 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.
When we say, ‘Better your Protein’ or ‘Choosing the right protein’, it implies the quantity as well as the 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.
Protein is needed daily (as it is not stored in the body) for proper growth and repair of body tissues, enzyme function, and hormonal activity. Plus, it is a transport molecule, and is responsible for all the oxygenated blood and energy to reach different parts of the body via the blood protein hemoglobin.
That is why all of us need to proactively ensure that our diet is rich in optimal amount of protein every day. While most people do know about the importance of right amount, not many are aware of the importance of eating high quality protein. The message that we must consciously focus on including high quality protein that meets their needs completely must get out too.
What could be your right protein?
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research, the issue of undernourishment among children and women both is rampant, particularly due to the lack of decent quality of nutrients, especially protein. There is a widespread problem of their reduced capacity to absorb and utilize nutrients optimally due to multiple reasons.
In addition, even lesser number of people know that there are two kinds of protein - intact and hydrolyzed. Most protein rich foods and supplements deliver intact protein, but some deliver the already half digested (predigested) hydrolyzed proteins. This is where hydrolyzed proteins can step in and fill the gap, and keep both young children, growing adolescents and women healthy.
It is important to know the difference between the two, as hydrolyzed protein can help tackle the problem of protein deficiency among people of all age groups very effectively.
What are hydrolyzed proteins?
Hydrolyzed proteins are created by breaking down intact proteins into a mixture of amino acids and smaller proteins, and thus as these are simpler molecules, they are far easier for the body to digest and absorb. This leads to better and faster delivery of amino acids from the stomach to muscles and thus deliver multiple health benefits. Some of which are listed below.
Hydrolyzed proteins are a mixture of peptides, mainly tri- and di-peptides and a few free amino acids (pre-digested protein) that are easily absorbed by the intestine and do not need to go through the complex process of breaking down like intact protein, so they are a boon for the elderly, who usually find it difficult to digest food easily. Often meeting their protein needs is a challenge, one that be neutralized via hydrolyzed proteins.
For the same reason these proteins are beneficial for those suffering from illnesses and recovering from surgeries too, as these don’t waste body’s already scarce energy (due to illness), so they don’t tax the body at all, leading thus to faster recovery.
They are great for those who exercise, and for athletes, both children and adults, as they lead to better muscle mass gain, and recovery of muscle damage caused by exercise. This is because these cause superior glycogen replacement and greater anabolic response; they are rapidly and easily absorbed, and the body can use immediately
In addition, hydrolysates have a significantly higher insulinotropic effect which enhances production, and the activity of insulin, compared to intact protein. So, diabetics are better off too consuming hydrolyzed protein. Plus, as hydrolyzed proteins are less allergenic (or immune-response-inducing) they are good for babies who are at risk for food allergies.
Getting enough protein, every day is imperative to function at our efficient best, so ensure it is taken proactively, and read the labels carefully too before selecting the protein supplement to score the right protein for your needs!
(Kavita Devgan is a Delhi based nutritionist, passionate about counselling her clients towards weight loss through right channels. She is the author of Don’t Diet, 50 Habits of Thin People.)