Protein is an essential macro-nutrient that provides the building blocks for our bodies. Protein isn’t generally something you need to worry about adding to your smoothies because you typically get more than enough protein from your diet.
If you eat meat, seafood or consume dairy and eggs, you do not need to worry about adding protein to your smoothie, even if it replaces one of your daily meals. If you are vegetarian or vegan, adding some protein powder to your morning smoothie might be a good idea if you feel that you need it.
Some people prefer to always add some protein powder to their green smoothies because they say it makes them feel more “balanced”, and helps keep hunger at bay between meals.
How Much Protein Do You Need?
There is no set protein intake requirement that fits everybody since the amount of protein your body needs depends on your age, gender, height, weight and level of daily physical activity. In general, most adults should consume .36 – .50 grams of protein for every pound of IDEAL body weight. You can find many different protein calculators online to determine your specific protein needs.
Protein deficiency is extremely rare in developed countries, even for those on strict vegan diets. On the other hand, too much protein is dangerous and has been linked to heart disease, cancer and a variety of other health conditions including osteoporosis.
While vegans often suggest that protein is nothing to worry about, even on a strict raw food vegan diet, a long-term, low-grade protein insufficiency may manifest some health problems in some individuals.
Don’t Neglect Amino Acids
There are 9 essential amino acids that are required in the diet. They include phenylalanine, valine, threonine, tryptophan, isoleucine, methionine, leucine, lysine, and histidine. Infants and certain individuals with medical disorders may require amino acids in the diet that are not considered essential in healthy people.
Vegans and strict raw foodists are at risk for getting inadequate amounts of methionine and lysine, even if they meet or exceed protein intake recommendations. Both methionine and lysine are abundant in animal-sourced foods but limited in plant-based foods. It’s possible to meet recommended daily values of these two amino acids on a strict, but calorie-sufficient vegan diet, but I recommend that you track your amino acid intake to ensure you are getting adequate amounts.
Protein for Smoothies
Many people are surprised to find out that fruits and vegetables are sources of protein and that it is possible to obtain your daily protein requirements completely from plant sources. If you feel that you need to or want to fortify your smoothie with protein, you have a couple options.
Nuts and Seeds
Adding ground nuts or seeds to your smoothie not only adds protein, but boosts the healthy fat content which makes a green smoothie more satisfying and keeps you full longer. Nuts and seeds are also mineral powerhouses and will make your smoothie not only high in vitamins and antioxidants, but also rich with minerals.
Try small amounts of raw nuts such as almonds, cashews, walnuts, Brazil nuts or macadamia nuts. Pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, hemp, flax and chia seeds all have their own unique nutritional profile and are excellent when ground up and added to smoothies. You can even add a tablespoon of peanut butter or other raw nut butter as well.
Just don’t overdo the fat content of your smoothie or else bloating, gas and digestion problems may result.
If you want to add some protein to your smoothie without the added fat, try a protein powder. Read our article on protein powders to choose the one that is best for you.
What About Milk?
While milk does contain protein, all of our smoothie recipes are dairy-free. I do not recommend using milk or yogurt as a base for smoothies, especially green smoothies. Consuming dairy has been linked to a variety of health problems and can get in the way with your ability to lose weight and obtain optimal health. For more on dairy, click here.
Tracy Russell is the creator of the Green Smoothie Health & Weight Loss Program and founder of Incredible Smoothies. She is passionate about helping people improve their health with green smoothies and a whole foods lifestyle.