The Truth About Protein
Expert advice on how much is good for you.
Proteins are a large group of nitrogenous organic compounds that are essential constituents of living cells. They consist of polymers of amino acids, essential for growth and repair of tissues, and can be obtained from meat, eggs, low-fat dairy and legumes. However, the perception that too much protein is harmful is not unfounded. Consuming animal protein through meats, poultry and dairy in excess can lead to increased levels of cholesterol and saturated fats. This further ups your risk of cardiovascular diseases. So make sure you consume your required daily allowance (RDA).
The Right Amount
There is no change in your daily protein requirement until you are 60. You can continue consuming 0.75 gm protein per kilo of ideal body weight. So if you are 40 and your body weight is 58 kilos, your daily protein requirement is 43.5 gm. At 60, the level goes up to 1 gm per kilo body weight. Most Indian diets fail to provide adequate protein. The salads and dals we eat daily do provide protein, but are not consumed in sufficient quantities. However, protein supplements alone may not be the answer. Those switching to a gluten-free, soya-free diet should include legumes (chickpeas, kidney beans, peas), lentils, sprouts and nuts to get adequate protein.
Check for Excess
An increasing number of people are consuming protein shakes or supplements in lieu of regular meals in order to lose weight. Please understand that a supplement is just that—a supplement. It does not have all the benefits of a regular meal. Besides, a glass of protein shake might have as much as 20 gm of protein—possibly half of your daily requirement. And by the end of the day, you would have consumed more protein than your body actually needs. Excess protein intake can tilt the pH balance of your body, which in turn can lead to biochemical imbalances, causing hyperacidity and other digestive issues. It can also strain your kidneys, increasing the level of uric acid in the blood, leading to joint pain and gout. Excess intake, especially of animal protein, could also leach calcium from your bones, leading to osteoporosis. A balanced diet with adequate servings of legumes, pulses, low-fat dairy, nuts or animal food should meet the daily protein needs of most adults.
Ishi Khosla is a clinical nutritionist and founder, theweightmonitor.com and Whole Foods India. She is also the founder president of Celiac Society of India, Delhi. She recently launched her book Eating at Work, published by Simon and Schuster, India.