Protein is an important macronutrient, essential for the healthy functioning of our bodies. Despite the recent hype about healthy living, many Sri Lankans still remain largely unaware of protein’s importance to a worrying point as surveys by authorities in the field confirm. As nutritionist Hiroshan Jayaranga explains, most Sri Lankans’ lack of knowledge about protein has paved the way for protein deficiency to become a challenge which could have been easily managed otherwise.
What is protein and how vital is it?
Proteins are important macronutrients that act as building blocks of life, responsible for our physical and mental wellbeing. Proteins aid in the restoration of damaged cells and the regeneration of new ones in our bodies. Amino acids, which are only found in proteins, play a critical part in this process.
‘When protein deficiency occurs, hemoglobin level of blood drops low, resulting in weariness, lethargy, loss of focus as well as physical damages like hair loss. We frequently become ill as a result of a weaker immune system. Protein is especially crucial for those at nutritionally critical phases of life like young children, athletes, the elderly, and pregnant women etc.” Mr. Jayarnga explains.
“An average person requires a protein intake of 0.8 grams per kilogram of his/her body weight, according to internationally accepted standards. This means that a 60 kg person requires a minimum of 48 grams of protein each day. A Sri Lankan, on the other hand, gets roughly 44 grams per day.”
Mr. Jayaranga points out that the human body needs the right amount of animal protein which contains all of the essential amino acids. However, a lack of knowledge/understanding of the importance of protein, combined with general ignorance, myths and various religious/cultural factors have been keeping Sri Lankans from fulfilling their animal protein needs sufficiently.
Poultry meat such as chicken, duck meat, turkey, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), are crucial as complete sources of protein for nations like Sri Lanka. This is owing to the fact that poultry meat, especially chicken, is easier to access and less expensive than most other animal protein sources.
Some of the most essential nutritional values of poultry products such as chicken, duck meat, turkey meat and eggs are listed here.
A lean cut of chicken is almost pure protein and remains the most preferred source. It is after all easily digested, provides all essential amino acids, and is an excellent source of Vitamin B12, Choline, Zinc, Iron, and Copper. It increases serotonin in the brain, improves cognitive function, which ensures an overall better mood and more energy. A high protein low-fat diet has also been shown to assist with weight loss and enhance insulin sensitivity.
Duck meat is an excellent source of protein and a great way of adding some diversity to your diet. Duck meat is rich in unsaturated fat, omega-3/omega-6 fatty acids, and provides plenty of non-essential and essential amino acids. Duck fat is also a tasty and healthy alternative to most plant-based oils.
Turkey is one of the best sources of lean protein, with 28g of protein per 100g, supplying over half of an adult’s recommended daily allowance. Turkey meat is also rich in Niacin, Choline, Selenium, Zinc, Vitamin B-6, Vitamin B-12, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron. Unsaturated fatty acids and essential fatty acids.
Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods on the planet, essentially they are a ‘superfood.’ Because they contain small amounts of every essential nutrient, they should be a staple part of any balanced diet. Nutrients found in eggs are also highly bioavailable, which means they are easily digested, absorbed, and assimilated by the body.
Protein’s vast array of benefits do not stop here. There’s more to protein. For example, eating a higher-protein diet can fulfill as much as 30% of your total calorie requirement which can lead to greater satiety at meals. As a result overeating will not be a problem and you have the ability to maintain your desired weight goals. So go ahead, to add more protein into your daily food intake and experience a healthier life and feel the difference. And spread the good message.
Nutritionist Hiroshan Jayaranga
BSc.(Hons) Food Science & Nutrition WUSL
(Specialized in Applied Nutrition)
MSc.Food Science & Nutrition University of Peradeniya(R)