Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Let’s Talk Protein

Recently there was an article in a newspaper on the rising case of TB in diabetics. A leading endocrinologist attributed this to the weakening of the immune system by high sugar levels in diabetics. The one factor that causes low immunity, according to another endocrinologist is the low protein content in Indian diets. The regular Indian diet is rich in carbohydrates, causing a rise in blood sugar. Anyway, more on that later. Let’s talk about protein, the most ignored food component in India.

Low BP
Yet another new research revealed that high-protein diet lowers BP. People who ate the most protein - just over 100 gms/day, were 40 per cent less likely to develop high BP than those who consumed less. The reason for this is interesting - protein contains arginine (an amino acid) that helps to dilate blood vessels.
How Much?
Coming back to proteins, even the food pyramid underplays its importance. I’m often asked by my clients - How much protein should one consume in a day? This varies according to one’s activity level. But on an average, one should consume 1.0 gm protein/body weight. Roughly, one can also say about 50 gms for woman and 60 gms for men. For an exercising person who does weight training, it varies from 1.5 gm to 2.5 gm/Lean Body Mass (LBM), depending on the workout intensity.
The good sources of proteins are eggs, fish, meat, milk and milk products like curds and paneer, nuts, soya, sprouts, beans, buckwheat, quinoa and rajgira. The last ten on the list are also good sources for vegetarians.   

What About Diabetics?
 There is a myth that diabetics should not eat proteins. I think all that I’ve said so far says it all. Let me add that diabetics should also be careful of rising cholesterol levels. So they should opt for low-fat versions of proteins.
But those with high uric acid levels had better avoid purine rich foods like red meat, sardines, mackerels, mussels, yeast and organ meats like liver and kidney. Purine is the breakdown product of certain kinds of proteins. Purines are further broken down to uric acid. Some people cannot process this uric acid causing its levels to rise. The uric acid crystallizes and gets deposited in the joints and kidneys, causing gout and kidney stones. Ultimately, the joint and kidney tissue will be destroyed.
Cannot Digest
Some people complain of an inability to digest proteins. Pepsin, the enzyme used to digest proteins requires an acid to work. So such people should check their acid levels in the stomach. Also, those who take antacids, especially with their meals, retard the digestion of proteins.   
The best cooking methods would be grilling, barbecuing (without burning it), boiling, baking or roasting in small amount of healthy oil. Red meat, especially beef and pork, are high in saturated fats. So these are best restricted to once a fortnight for normal, healthy individuals. They are best avoided by the health conscious, those who have coronary artery disease or any heart health issues like high cholesterol, who are watching their weight or have sedentary lifestyles.
For some more information on protein, check out this link on thehealthsite,com where I have given my inputs for an article related to protein:

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