The traditional Indian diet is a vibrant one, with various food groups coming together to serve as a satisfying meal. But with the growing sedentary lifestyles, the traditional diet can be harmful in the long run. While our mothers often modified meals to ensure proper nutrition, they accidentally cut the wrong corners. While our quantity of carbohydrate-rich rotis and parathas was on the rise, our consumption of plant and animal-based protein like the curd, millet, soy or meat took a massive dip.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the ideal amount of protein we should consume is 50g and 48g for people living in urban and rural areas, respectively. A more recent Indian Consumer Market 2020 report confirmed that we, as Indians, only spend about one-third of our food budget on protein-rich food. With that data combined with a few other research studies, there is no doubt that there is a massive protein deficit in the diets of Indian households. But what really makes our homes consume less protein? To find the answers, Right to Protein, conducted a 16-city study with over 2000 mothers of children between 6-18 years of age only to discover the Protein Paradox – a unique muddle of knowledge, practice and perceptions answering the many reasons why many Indian household remain protein deficit.
Here are the three key findings stemming from India’s Protein Paradox –
Protein Paucity: Poor protein knowledge resulting to low intake
Knowing that protein is a vital macro-nutrient and taking active steps to include the correct amount of protein in your diet are two very different aspects. About 8 out of 10 mothers are aware of the former, but there is limited knowledge on the actual benefits of including protein in adequate quantities in daily diet. As high as 82% of mothers from mini metros like Ahmadabad, Bangalore, and Hyderabad couldn’t correctly associate protein intake to its functions leading to less protein intake in everyday meals.
Protein psych: The abundance of misinformation
In addition to lacking the right knowledge, myths and misconceptions dilute the importance of protein in India. More than 85% of mothers believe that consumption of protein could lead to weight gain and that they would prioritize the consumption of vitamins and carbohydrates. Another misconception that plagues the Indian households is that protein consumption is a requirement only for ‘bodybuilders’ or that all protein food sources are expensive to meet the required amount of daily protein intake. Another widespread misconception that undermines protein consumption across households is that proteins are challenging to digest and should only be consumed during breakfast. Misinformation despite the awareness of as a macro-nutrient remains one of the key paradoxes discovered in this study.
Protein pinch: The sources remain a mystery
Even if a mother takes the initiative to bring about dietary changes and is shielded from all misinformation, the sources of protein remain a mystery to them. Majority of mothers surveyed could only identify 3 out of 11 protein-rich ingredients. Despite 85% of mothers believing that protein is essential to health, their knowledge of protein sources didn’t go beyond pulses and dairy. This leads to 81% of mothers incorrectly believing that roti, dal, and rice are enough to satisfy the daily protein needs.
So the next time to notice any of India’s protein paradoxes, call them out to resolve them and spread the right to protein!