Nutritional Gap: Understand Lack of Protein in Indian Diets

Our body needs 1gm of protein for every kilo that we weigh and needless to say, Lack of Protein in Indian Diets Globally speaking, protein consumption is rising whereas India comes lowest among the Asian countries when it comes to protein consumption. Because India is a protein-deficient country,  there is an urgent need to educate people about what to eat, how much to eat, and easily available sources of protein.

More than 90 % of pregnant and lactating women are not aware of their dietary needs among which protein should be a chief contributor and its deficiency can lead to poor maternal health and loss of pregnancy. The majority of the people from the lower-income strata and rural areas are protein deficient. Protein is one such macronutrient that we need daily.

The most common myth that exists in our country is that a basic dal, roti, curd meal is enough to meet the protein requirements. Other myths are that protein is only for bodybuilders, or it is hard to digest, and it leads to weight gain. From hormonal functions to tissue formations, protein has a big role to play in our system.


  • Overeating or food cravings: The reason behind overeating is that protein brings more satiety than carbohydrates and fat. If you’re having persistent food cravings, it means you’re not having enough protein.
  • Loss of hair: When we consume protein, our body breaks down into amino acids, which in turn produces keratin, which is the structural protein found in hair. Amino acids are the building blocks for hair and cells, which makes hair loss as a result of protein deficiency.
  • Muscle as well as strength loss:  Protein helps to maintain as well as build muscle. Protein deficiency leads to loss of lean muscle mass which has a lot to do with the positive health effects. Protein deficiency can be detrimental, especially to the elderly.
  • Higher Blood Pressure: Lack of protein in your diet can lead to hypertension which can eventually cause high blood pressure.
  • Changes in hair, nails, and skin: Raised ridges and white lines on the nails, dull-looking skin, and hair are some of the common changes caused by protein deficiency.
  • Weaker bones: Weaker bones are caused by protein deficiency and delayed recovery of fracture and bone mass density can also be a result of low protein intake.
  • Lower immunity: Without protein, our immune system’s ability to fight an infection is lowered. Our immune response is also impaired.

Here’s a list of protein deficiency diseases:

  • Marasmus: It is a disease that affects infants and very young children and those who have it appear really bony with a serious lack of muscle tissue.
  • Kwashiorkor: It is a disease caused in young children in case of calories coming carbohydrate-rich and almost negligible protein in the diet. The kids appear puffy in the abdomen area due to fluid retention.
  • Cachexia: It causes weight loss, is associated with cancer as well, degradation of skeletal muscle, chronic kidney failure.
  • Deficiencies of Protein C and S: These are inherited conditions that cause abnormal blood clotting. Symptoms are redness, swelling in the affected area, pain.


By 1968, the world woke up to the realization that protein deficiency is a global emergency. South Asia and North Africa are protein deficient and that too at an increasingly alarming rate. The researchers have found that India may lose 5.3 % of protein from a standard diet, putting a predicted 53 million people at new risk of protein deficiency.

By now, you must be well aware of what protein can do for your body, so here is a list of protein-rich diet foods available in India, but for some reason ignored by people.

  • Egg whites: They contain 3.6 grams of protein per egg. They are low in fat and cholesterol and high in protein.
  • Tofu: For those who prefer vegetarian sources of protein, tofu is a good option. It contains 12.8 grams of protein per ¼ tofu. It is rich in magnesium and iron as well. It is known to promote good cholesterol in our bodies.
  • Soy Milk: It contains 8 grams of milk per cup. Soy milk is also known to reduce osteoporosis. It helps to keep our bones strong and healthy even when we grow older.
  • Pistachios: They contain 25 grams of protein per cup. They are a great source of fibre as well.
  • Quinoa: It contains 24 grams of protein per cup. Quinoa seeds help in fighting inflammation and are anti-carcinogenic in nature as well
  • Cashews: They contain 5.1 grams of protein per ounce. They are great for our eyes and rich in magnesium as well.
  • Soybean: It contains 68 grams of protein per cup. It has all the essential amino acids and omega-3 fatty acids that are needed for a healthy cardiovascular system.
  • Chickpeas: It contains 15 grams of protein per cup. It aids digestion and therefore keeps our weight in check.
  • Broccoli: It has 4.3 grams of protein. It is known to be anti-carcinogenic as well. It has vitamin K and fibre which helps in bone health and the absorption of calcium too.
  • Milk and milk products: Whey and casein are the two types of protein present in it. Milk if taken in the right quantity aid weight loss as well. Proteins present in milk suppress appetite, keep hunger pangs at bay and provide satiety.

These are all vegetarian protein-rich foods, considering that people of India are vegetarians primarily, we have provided you with an all-vegetarian foods list. If you wish to know about protein deficiency in detail, please contact us. Dr. Good deed is a Neurologist and Gastroenterologist in Healthcare based in Patna.