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Building blocks of immunity: Are Indian women getting enough protein?

This article is authored by Dr. Dharini Krishnan, an award-winning Consultant Dietitian, she believes that for a healthy body and mind, we must combine modern medicine with native Indian practices which are proven to benefit us.

Living in the shadow of a pandemic, many of our conversations have suddenly turned to the question of a healthy immune system. While we hear a lot of talk about nutrient-rich superfoods, one of the basic issues that gets ignored is the amount of proteins we eat on a daily basis.

Proteins are the basic building blocks of immunity. Importantly, proteins form the antibodies that help fight bacteria and viruses that cause infections. When bacteria and viruses enter the body, antibodies tag them for destruction and elimination.

What data shows

It’s alarming to know that Indians are now eating less protein than they did in the 1990s. Some data show that while rural Indians ate 60.2g of protein daily in 1993-94, this number dropped down to 56.5 g by 2011-12. In the same period, urban Indians dropped protein consumption from 57.2g to 55.7g

What’s more, these numbers are even more worrisome for women, because they eat far less than men. Women often eat less protein because they are conditioned to feel they have to feed everybody else, and so they sacrifice their share. In a 2017 survey based on 60 million food logs by over 1.5 million people, it was found that found that women consume 13% less protein less than men.

Cooking proteins properly

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One of the main barriers to women eating enough protein is the bad rap that legumes (dals and beans) have got recently. I often hear patients complain that legumes give them gas. But that happens because people often do not take the trouble to cook them properly.

The kind of legumes we consume also makes a difference to how our digestive system reacts to them. Nowadays when we think of eating legumes, most people automatically think of chana. However, our staples have been dals like toor dal, urad and moong dal, while legumes like chana were eaten more occasionally.

Previous generations also better understood the importance of properly combining together carbs and proteins. With dishes like sambar-rice or dal-rice, proteins, carbs, fats and the many micronutrients of vegetables are brought together. Similarly, dishes like idli combine carbohydrates and proteins to deliver the complete mix of amino acids, which makes it a complete protein, and that may not be present in either one alone.

Vegetarian proteins for all

Getting this mix of amino acids is somewhat difficult for vegetarians as this needs a careful combination of cereals, pulses, beans, nuts, and dairy products. While meats are a more-ready source, non-vegetarian Indians aren’t spared of protein deficiencies either. This is because there’s far more focus on creating rich tasty foods that are heavier on fats and carbs. And meat eaters often tend to neglect other important sources of protein.

The signs that women and girls are eating less protein are apparent. So many women talk about hair fall these days. In most cases, that’s because of lack of protein. Other common symptoms of protein deficiency include lack of bone and muscle strength and excess fatigue. Proteins are needed everywhere. So, if you are not eating enough protein, the effects show on your body.



DISCLAIMER

The views and opinions expressed, and assumptions & analysis presented in this content piece are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.



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Hypertension In Women

Karishma Chawla

Karishma Chawla
27 October 2020

This article is authored by Karishma Chawla. She is a practising nutritionist and a weight loss expert. She advises people on what to eat in order to lead a healthy lifestyle or to achieve a specific health-related goal.

Hypertension is quite often considered a men’s health problem, but that’s a myth. In fact, men and women have a similar risk of developing high blood pressure. But after the onset of menopause, women actually face higher risk than men of developing high blood pressure. Although prior to 45 years of age, men are slightly more likely to develop high blood pressure.

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing inside the lining of arteries. High blood pressure or hypertension occurs when the force increases and stays higher than normal for a period of time.

Hypertension is often referred to as a silent killer. If untreated, it can lead to a major health set back and cause many complications. In most cases, there may not be any symptoms of high blood pressure. Sometimes, in case of sudden or severe increase in B.P., individuals may experience headaches, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision or nosebleeds. Uncontrolled high blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke and kidney failure. These problems worsen when high blood pressure is present along with diabetes. For women, high blood pressure during pregnancy can be dangerous for both mother and child.

What causes it? Reasons for high blood pressure

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• Genetic factors: Hereditary factors – one of the leading reasons for high blood pressure, which worsen when the environmental factors are not healthy.

• Body weight: Obesity and diabetes along with their associated disorders are often associated with hypertension.

• Age:Chances of a high blood pressure diagnosis increase steeply with age. But research now shows that high blood pressure can affect adolescents and the young as well.

• Gender: Risk is greater in men than women, but after menopause, the difference decreases.

• Dietary factors: Some dietary factors that can contribute to high blood pressure include excess calories coming saturated fats, diets that contain high sodium foods, and less calcium and magnesium in the diet

• Potassium: Decrease in potassium intake and low intake of high potassium foods like fruits and vegetables can also lead to increase in heart rate and high blood pressure.

• Contraceptives: Certain oral contraceptive pills may lead to high blood pressure

• Lifestyle: Sedentary lifestyle devoid of exercise can contribute to high blood pressure. Stress, smoking, tobacco intake, and alcohol intake also lead to increase in high blood pressure.

• Other medical conditions High blood pressure can also be a result of other medical conditions such as kidney problems, diabetes, and sleep apnea. Hormone issues such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s syndrome and Hyperaldosteronism (increase in aldosterone) and preeclampsia in pregnancy are responsible for high blood pressure diagnosis.

Measures to reduce high blood pressure

Reduce sodium intake
It is important to note that it’s not the consumption of salt but excessive consumption of sodium is a concern. Sodium is a compound found naturally in foods. One teaspoon of salt contains 2400 milligrams of sodium and the amount recommended for daily consumption is approximately the same. The amount of recommended sodium intake reduces further to approximately 1500 mg under conditions such as hypertension, kidney issues, water retention, and heart condition to name a few. But these problems are usually correlated with high consumption of sugar and fat. Hence it is beneficial to avoid foods such as processed foods, salted snacks, pickles, papad, sauces and instant soups. These are some known sources of excess sodium and not the usual home cooked foods.

It’s important to avoid sprinkling excess salt at the table. Rather use adequate salt during cooking and experiment with reduced sodium salt after conferring with your physician. Tata Salt Liteis a good option for those looking to reduce sodium intake. It provides 15% reduced sodium than regular salt. Inclusion of herbs and spices like like coriander, ginger, turmeric, mint, garlic or lemon juice can also help improves the taste and flavour of the food.

Improve intake of calcium, magnesium and potassium How to Increase Immune System
This can be done by inclusion of low-fat dairy products for calcium and green leafy vegetables for magnesium. Fruits and vegetables rich in potassium are bananas, watermelon, tomatoes, oranges, sweetlime, leafy vegetables, milk and almonds. Eating three to five servings of these foods daily would ensure sufficient potassium intake and regulate blood pressure.

Reduction in refined carbohydrates
Though this is not a direct connection, but the preparations and the nature of these foods usually contain excess sodium for taste and preservation purposes. Add omega 3 foods such as fatty fish, walnuts and flaxseeds to reduce blood pressure.

DASH DietDash Diet has been found to be a good approach for the treatment of hypertension. This diet emphasizes consumption of fruits, vegetables, low sodium, and low-fat dairy foods. It also includes low amounts of saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol to reduce blood pressure. This includes whole grains, poultry, fish, nuts and other foods rich in potassium, calcium, omega 3 and magnesium.

Lifestyle MeasuresLifestyle measures include regular exercise of 30 minutes daily, relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation and yoga, avoidance of rage and anger, adequate sleep, low alcohol intake, no smoking and normal body weight with low body fat percentage.

High blood pressure can affect the physical, professional, personal and economical life of any individual. As women tend to juggle multiple priorities, managing their own health often takes a back seat. It is advisable to take some judicious measures such as dietary and lifestyle modifications in order to prevent the onset of hypertension, control it and minimize its risks.



DISCLAIMER

The views and opinions expressed, and assumptions & analysis presented in this content piece are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

 



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