Today on 27 Feb 2021 we are celebrating India protein day.
India is the largest producer of pulses, accounting for 25 percent of the world’s output yet 70 percent of Indians are protein deficient.
The adequate intake of protein, an important macro-nutrient, in everyday diet is often grossly undermined and neglected. In India especially, the lack of awareness is concerning because protein deficiency is a very real and significant issue that needs immediate and urgent action.
According to an estimate, over 70 percent of the country’s population is protein deficient. So the first thought that arises is whether the country faces a shortage of protein-rich foods despite being a world leader in the production of pulses, which happen to be a rich source of protein and make up for a key component in a majority of the population’s diet. At 20 million tons per annul, India produces approximately 25 percent of the world’s pulses.
If supply does not seem to be the problem, the only logical explanation for India’s protein deficiency could be that Indians lack awareness and are not consuming an adequate quantity of protein on a regular basis.
While the recommended dietary allowance of protein for an average Indian adult is 0.8 to 1 gm per kg of body weight; the average intake currently is only about 0.6 gm per kg of body weight, with a decline in the per capita protein consumption in both urban (4 percent) and rural (11 percent), areas observed as per the National Sample Survey 2011-2012. This is in sharp contrast with the rest of the world—protein consumption across the globe is on the rise, averaging at 68 gm per person per day—pegging India at the bottom end in terms of average protein consumption.
Indian diets are predominantly cereal-based with the recent ‘What India Eats’ report by the National Institute of Nutrition stating that cereal and millets contribute 51 percent and 65.2 percent energy in urban and rural regions, respectively, while the recommended contribution is 45 percent; while pulses, legumes, meat, poultry, and fish contribute a mere 11 percent of the total energy per day in urban and rural areas, as against the recommended minimum intake level being 17 percent of total energy from these sources.
Not only do cereals have poor quality and digestibility, but they are also less complete proteins, which do not fully contribute to the required quantity of protein on a daily basis. With this, combined with the urgent added need to consume enough and more protein to build one’s immunity during these testing times—it is imperative to delve into solving India’s protein conundrum.
While there exist a number of protein-rich sources of food—from pulses, legumes, soybeans, nuts and seeds to milk, eggs, poultry, meat, and fish—not all are viable sources for many across the country. This may be either because of cultural, ethical, and health choices, or lack of awareness, affordability, and availability.
FROM AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR DR GOVIND SHUKLA, NUTRITION EXPERT
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Govind Shukla, Specializes in Pharmacology, Toxicology, Nutraceuticals & Herbal Drugs has published More than 100 research papers in National & International Journals. He is also a reviewer of International Journal of Pharmacology & pharmacotherapeutics, Chief editor of IJPNR Journal & Freelance Medical Writer for Different publication Groups including Lambert Academic Publishing Saarbrucken, Germany.