Nutrition is known to be one of the key determinants of long term health outcomes. From early years right up to the twilight decade, what one eats directly impacts one’s health today and tomorrow.
Protein is one of the most critical components in our daily diets. Why is it critical? Very simply the body can’t really “store” protein. Excess protein consumption gets converted to fat but there isn’t any way excess fat can get converted to protein. So if your body doesn’t get its fill of this critical building block, you can’t “make it up” the next day or the day after. And this is what we call the protein gap.
And in India, it’s a really wide gap! 73% - that’s the probability of you have a protein gap in your diet.
While the recommended daily protein intake stands at 60-90 grams, Indians usually consume only about 10-30 grams. The gap has got nothing to do with income or where you live- this deficiency is more prominent in urban India and this can be largely attributed to the availability of processed foods and the typical Indian meal that consists of more fats and excess starch. Even the quality of protein in basic foods such as lentils has declined over the decades.
The problem with the protein gap is it is very insidious. Deficiency in other nutrients typically manifest in multiple ways with visible symptoms but a protein deficiency often goes neglected. It initially manifests in fatigue, poor hair and nail health, cravings for food. But a lot of us dismiss these as being the by-products of a stressful fast paced life. Imagine the impact on the younger generation. The stunting of an entire generation of young Indians will have not just an impact on our overall athlete prowess( read medals tally at the Olympics) but place a great burden on society with higher healthcare costs.
In a world where humanity now faces challenges like no other, both man made and natural, we can ill afford to leave ourselves vulnerable. We need to ensure that we give ourselves the best fighting chance with the right nutrition. Whether by finding and distributing the most readily available, affordable and sustainable forms of protein or just changing our own individual eating habits, urgent action is not optional anymore.
There have been several steps in the right direction - from introducing eggs in the mid-day meals to raising awareness like India Protein Week that’s happening this week (24th to 31st of July 2021). But really, the responsibility lies in our hands. The least we should be doing is ensuring that we and our loved ones have no Protein Gap!