This article will help answer some important questions about protein foods and immunity – why we need protein, how it affects our immune system, what are the daily requirements, and how to make sure you get enough protein through your food.
So why do we need proteins?
Proteins have been called the building blocks of life, and rightly so. Every cell in our body is made up of Protein. The most important functions played by protein are:
- acting as enzymes regulating chemical reactions
- playing the role of hormones controlling body functions
- forming the basic structure of the body
- helping in transport and storage of essential products
- and formation of antibodies.
Antibodies are the specialised proteins that help our immune system.
Why protein foods are needed to boost immunity ?
Proteins form antibodies and immunoglobulins, which help protect our bodies from harmful invaders like bacteria and viruses. When these foreign invaders enter your cells, your body produces antibodies that tag them for elimination.
Without these antibodies, bacteria and viruses would be free to multiply and overwhelm your body with the disease they cause. Once your body has produced antibodies against a particular organism, your cells never forget how to make them.
This allows antibodies to respond quickly the next time a particular disease agent invades your body. As a result, your body develops immunity against the disease to which it is exposed.
Cells of the immune system also rely on protein for repair, wear and tear.
Sources of proteins
In India, we follow a diet that is rich in carbohydrates. It is estimated that 70% of India’s population is at a high risk of Protein deficiency. So let’s look at what foods we should add to our diet to ensure we get adequate protein every single day
Millets, also called cereal crops, are a great source of protein. Barley, rye, wheat, rice and oats are all easily available. These foods also contain high amounts of carbohydrates, so should be consumed in moderation. However, Corn, which is similar to millet, is an easily available source of high protein.
Milk and milk products
Milk and milk products contain 2 forms of protein – casein and whey. Whey is a rapidly digesting protein used by bodybuilders. Items like milk, cheese, paneer, butter, ghee and yogurt should be a part of your diet. Yoghurt should be given priority, as it is high protein and low fat in nature.
Dals, pulses and sprouts
Dals, pulses and sprouts are easily available protein sources. They are low in fats, and high in vitamins and minerals. It is recommended to have a bowl of these with each meal, especially for vegetarians.
Eggs are a complete source of protein. Egg whites are a great addition to your diet as one single egg provides 6 grams of good quality protein.
Chicken, fish and meat
Chicken, fish and meat are famous for their protein content. However, it is important to remember to use lean cuts of meat, and the preparation should avoid the use of large quantities of oil. It is best to bake, boil or grill these meats.
Soya bean is the only plant based source of high quality, complete protein. It is low in fat, and helps boost the nutrient density of food.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds are high protein power packed snacks. Replacing a carbohydrate rich snack with these can help you meet your daily requirements of protein. Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, chia seeds and pumpkin seeds are great sources of protein.
Daily Requirements of Proteins
Remember, a well-balanced diet is key to good health and better immunity. It is recommended that females get at least 45 grams while males get at least 55 grams of protein, every single day.
Proteins are absolutely essential for our bodies to function properly, especially our immune systems. A balanced diet with good quality protein will help you stay fit and healthy all year long. I sincerely hope this blog helps you make better dietary choices!
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