What to look for when going on a protein-rich diet?

Been wanting to increase your protein intake but caught yourself in two minds about it?

Well, then here’s your ultimate guide that will help you resolve this doubt.

Protein is great for you, agreed! But in the quest of consuming more protein, what else are you feeding your body? Being one of the macronutrients, you need to also check what other nutrients does your ‘protein-rich food’ provide you. Often it is the complete protein package that you need to look for.

A Guide to Complete Proteins

Proteins are made up of 20 amino acids which combine in different sequences to form a complete protein. Now, our body can make some of them from the raw material i.e. food we eat while some are needed to be provided directly. Majority of Indians consume plant-based proteins which make it inherently incomplete. Whereas, animal-based proteins provide complete protein!

What is the protein package?

Like mentioned earlier, we don’t eat protein in isolation unless it’s a supplement. Even then, any protein-rich food that we eat, for instance - dal, comes with other nutrients and anti-nutrient factors.

So we need to eat the entire protein package! Let us elucidate some instances

  1. Animal protein like mutton, pork, beef and even chicken provides good amount and quality protein. An 85 gram portion of mutton provides 28 grams of protein. Impressive, right? But one also ingests 4.3 grams of saturated fat and 93 mg of cholesterol with it. Similarly, a 100 gram serving of chicken also provides 28 grams protein and 2.7 grams of saturated fat.
  2. Fish such as salmon not only provides protein but is also a good source of omega-3 fats. It’s considered as a naturally low sodium protein-rich food.
  3. Among nuts like almonds, 28 grams or a handful provides 6 grams of protein and also 3.1 grams of dietary fiber with it.
  4. Dals are a great source of protein with practically 0 saturated fat and almost 15 grams of dietary fiber. However, they are a source of anti-nutritional factors which hampers with the optimum absorption of lentil-based vitamins and minerals.

Quality of protein always matters

While there is the mad scramble for meeting the 1 gram per kg body weight of protein, one must remember the protein package concept. You not only need quantity but also the quality of protein for good health. Too much consumption of red meat and animal based-proteins can increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and even some forms of cancer. 

How to meet the protein requirements?

Pertinent question! It is important to choose plant-based proteins and sparingly use animal-based proteins to strike a balance. The anti-nutritional factor in beans and dals can be countered by methods like soaking, sprouting, fermenting, malting as household processing methods. It is important to not judge food only basis its protein but by its package as well.

Most protein snack bars are designed to minimise or eliminate the bad fats and simple sugars. These protein bars contain a complete blend of soy, whey, casein, among other things like fiber, vitamins & minerals. This is surely another way to look for the ‘complete protein package’.