Protein Week: Role of nutrition and protein in physical fitness, immunity and quality of life

It is time to understand the close association of nutrition with quality of life.

Dr. Geeta Dharmatti

There is no second thought that Nutrition plays a vital role for a healthier and happier life. This year’s pandemic made each one of us realise the importance of working on nutrition and good immunity. Data on Covid infections and its association with health has shown its closer relationship with nutrient deficiency, lifestyle diseases and its higher rate of infections. It is time to understand the close association of nutrition with quality of life.

Quality of life is achieved with general well – being in relation to their value, environment, cultural and social context in which they live and food has an important role to play in this process.

We are connected with food in many ways, apart from nourishment and satiety. It is a part of celebration, festivals and emotions. Malnutrition is either no access to healthy food or over access to food. These are two sides of nutrition over and under. Overnutrition compromises with our quality of life with many health challenges. Protein Energy Malnutrition is undernutrition which needs to be seriously looked into to address the nutrition issues.

Nutrition holistically should be looked into as a balanced diet which has been divided into 6 food groups. – Macros like carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and Micros like Vitamins and Minerals and Water. Tools like Eat well plate, food pyramid etc helps us to learn the healthy eating pattern. Nutrition literacy is important for each individual to work towards good health. Good health is a holistic approach towards good quality of life.

Energy is vital for all individuals to maintain good health and wellness. Nutrition is key to providing energy. This energy body needs to work on internal requirements of the body, and cellular health for good immunity. Energy giving foods are starches, grains, sugars and fats. These should be eaten as per our body’s energy requirement These also spare proteins for body building and also other body’s cellular functions.

Coming to Proteins, they form an important part of our nutrition and an important constituent contributing to our quality of life. The protein requirement differs based on age, gender, weight and physical activity. The protein requirement increases in special conditions like pregnancy & lactation. During illness and convalescence, protein requirement increases. Average requirement of a healthy adult is 0.83 g of protein per Kg body weight per day. For example, if the body weight of a sedentary or moderately active person is 70kgs, he/she will require 58-60g protein per day on average. If a person is doing intensive exercise, exercise or games, they need more proteins. Protein requirement also increases during pregnancy and breastfeeding stage as well as in growing children. When a person is ill, they need more protein to deal with the illness and recover.

Proteins are very important for many vital functions of the body. Amino acids are building blocks of proteins. There are 9 essential amino acids. These amino acids need to be provided through diet. It is important to have good quality proteins which give all essential amino acids. Indian diets culturally have a wonderful blend of foods which makes up for the limiting amino acid and gives the good quality protein. For the best balanced ratio of proteins in diet it is said to have 3: 2.5:1 ratio of Cereal: Protein: Milk protein for vegetarians. We should aim for at least 50 % of our requirement for good quality proteins which have all essential amino acids like animal proteins (dairy, non-veg, eggs and supplements with PDCAAS 1 ) . PDCAAS (Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score) is the protein which has all the essential amino acids in requirement amounts. Each one of us needs to check if our diet has 50 % of our requirement from animal protein. Likewise, the combination protein should be encouraged in our diet for Eg: Idli + Sambar / Rice with dal /Moong dal khichidi / Curd rice / Paratha Curd. These combinations should be encouraged in equal quantities to those of cereals.

These quality proteins help in building immune strength and overall health and wellness. Physical activity has its benefits in health and wellness. Body needs all kinds of exercises like endurance, strength training, cardio and flexibility for good fitness. Exercise needs to be coupled with good proteins and nutrition for best results. Quality of life also entails maintaining a good muscle to fat ratio. Good nutrition with good calorie control and protein intake as per exercise for injury prevention and exercise fitness.

World today needs to work on a good Quality of Life for the overall well – being of population. Quality of life not only means disease free but good physical health, mental health and overall positive impact on health.

(Dr. Geeta Dharmatti is a Consultant Nutritionist and Registered Dietician. Views expressed are personal)

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