BY PUJA GUPTA
New Delhi, July 24 (IANS) Due to the fear of Covid-19 pandemic, ‘immunity’ has replaced weight loss as the new ‘It’ word. Everyone is either talking about ways to boost it or what to eat to keep immunity levels high. And rightly so, as prevention seems to be the only way to give the rampant infection a skip.
The only way we ensure a robust immunity is to work actively at boosting it and focus on one’s diet and lifestyle.
To get a tough immune system, we need to follow a few lifestyle course corrections like ensuring you get enough sleep, exercising regularly, keeping stress in check and eating the right foods that provide macro and micronutrients.
We need to focus specifically on protein, as this macronutrient is made up of amino acids which are utilized by the body to manufacture antibodies to protect us against a wide range of infections states Kavita Devgan, Nutritionist and weight management consultant.
Unfortunately though this is a challenge that needs to be taken head on as a recent study done by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and CGIAR research program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) has revealed that across all strata of society, Indians have excess consumption of cereals but not enough proteins, fruits, and vegetables in their diets, and thus on the nutrition front Indian diets are below optimal, she points out.
To mark Protein Week 2020 that begins on July 24, Devgan suggests how you can ensure you score enough:
Definitely include a good protein source in all three main meals of the day and additionally have a protein snack every day too.
Look closely at your plate to check whether you are eating enough foods such as meats, eggs, dairy, seafood, nuts, seeds, legumes and beans that deliver a good amount of protein.
Include mixed nuts and seeds in your diet. Cashews, almonds, walnuts, peanuts and all seeds are loaded with protein, so mix them up, sprinkle a bit of herbs and pepper and munch on them. Blend them into nut butters and spread on bread and crackers or toss them into your bowl of oats or muesli.
Focus on lentils and beans. At 15-18 grams of protein per cooked cup (240 ml), lentils are a great source of protein.
Include high protein grains like quinoa, bajra, buckwheat and amaranth that deliver good amount to your diet.
Not all food sources of protein contain all the nine essential amino acids our body requires. Food of animal origin such as egg, milk provide high quality protein while plant sources are low in protein quality. As majority of the protein in Indian diets comes from vegetarian sources, our diets tend to be low in quality protein.
A balanced diet is the way to ensure enough protein. Balance your protein. Combine plant foods wisely to cover all essential amino acids. For example, legumes (cooked dried beans, dried peas, and lentils) are low in sulfur-containing amino acids (such as methionine), but they are high in another amino acid called lysine. Grains (rice, wheat, bajra, etc.) are just the opposite. So, by eating both together or during the course of a day, you can get what you need. Dal chawal, khichri, pita bread with hummus are good examples of complementary proteins.
If your protein need is not being met by your diet or the needs are high (like in the elderly, the teenagers, the pregnant and lactation women or those recovering from an illness), supplementation with a high-quality protein source could help to bridge the gap.
It’s time to take protein seriously, add it adequately to your daily diet, to prevent serious health issues and keep your immune function optimum.
(Puja Gupta can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)