• Connor McDermott

The Importance of Protein for Your Immune System

Protein is a nutrient found in many types of foods that is vital for life. The body needs a steady supply of protein to make and repair cells. Protein is typically thought to only be used for muscle growth and repair. However, not only does protein stimulate muscle development, protein is also the building block of immune cells.

Protein is an important component of a healthy immune system and needed to help fight infections. An insufficient intake of protein can lead to a decline in immune functions and increases a person’s likelihood of getting sick. Having a strong immune system requires a well-balanced diet containing proper amounts of all essential nutrients - including protein.

Your Immune System Requires Protein

The reason? The antibodies produced by our immune system to help fight diseases are made of protein, and they rely on new protein synthesis to function and multiply. Consequently, it is no surprise that getting too little protein in your diet can cripple your immune system. This is why the healthy choices you make are so important: because even if you are otherwise healthy, you can weaken your immune system with a poor diet.

Protein to Power Your Immunity

Adequate intake of protein can usually be attained by consuming whole foods that are high in protein such as animal protein. Some nutritious options include:

  • Lean cuts of beef

  • Pork loin

  • Skinless chicken

  • Turkey

  • Fish and seafood

  • Eggs

  • Low-fat dairy products

If you do not eat meat or animal products, then legumes (like soybeans and lentils) as well as nuts and seeds are also solid sources of protein.

Another reason to increase your protein intake is because many protein-rich foods also contain other immune-boosting nutrients. For example, many protein- enriched foods are also high in zinc (such as chicken, beans, peas, nuts, and seeds). Zinc helps promote the formation of white blood cells and antibodies, which fight disease.

Adding Protein to Your Smoothie Routine

Smoothies can also be a great way to incorporate additional protein into your diet. The most basic smoothie is made up of two components — something frozen and a liquid. From there, you can add protein-packed ingredients to your liking. Protein smoothies usually start with one

fruit or vegetable and a liquid, as well as a major protein source like Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or protein powder. On top of this, you can also add toppings and additives to your smoothie. Some great additives that are high in protein and zinc include:

  • Pumpkin

  • Chia

  • Hemp seeds

  • Flax seeds

  • Peanut and other nut butters

  • Wheat germ

Because smoothies are versatile, you can add any number of different ingredients to modify the protein content and tailor the smoothie to your liking.


1. PubMed Central Full Text PDF. Accessed May 20, 2020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6723551/pdf/nutrients-11-01933.pdf

2. Snapshot. Accessed May 20, 2020. https://search.proquest.com/docview/1411618055?accountid=14612&rfr_id=info%3Axri%2Fsid%3Aprimo

3. Snapshot. Accessed May 20, 2020. https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/dietary-guidelines-and-myplate/how-much-protein-should-i-eat

4. PubMed Central Full Text PDF. Accessed May 20, 2020. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC538513/pdf/neh042.pdf

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