8 Anti-Inflammatory Ingredients That Will Add Major Protein to Your Next Smoothie

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While protein deficiency is rare, making sure you’re getting enough is (very) important—and no, not just for bodybuilders.

“Protein is necessary for muscle growth and repair,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, nutrition expert and author of Smoothies & Juices: Prevention Healing Kitchen. "It’s also vital for oxygenating the body and making enzymes that digest our food.”

But the benefits don’t have to stop there. Protein can be supercharged with anti-inflammatory antioxidants.

“We interact with inflammation-causing free radicals every day from our lifestyles, the environment, and our everyday activities,” says Largeman-Roth. “Even things that are good for us, like exercise, create free radicals. To combat inflammation and the effects of aging, we need to eat foods daily that are high in antioxidants.”

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If that sounds complex, know that it’s not. There are *so many* great protein-rich, anti-inflammatory ingredients that are not only accessible, but versatile, affordable, and easy to throw into a smoothie. No protein powder needed.

Here are eight protein-rich smoothie ingredients that will bring major anti-inflammatory benefits to your next smoothie.

8 protein-rich smoothie ingredients that fight inflammation

1. Chia seeds

These tiny seeds are prized in the nutrition community for the long-lasting energy they provide, and they pack in protein: two tablespoons of chia seeds provides six grams. They're also rich in inflammation-fighting alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is a plant-based form of omega-3,” says Largeman-Roth. “I like the chia seeds from Bob’s Red Mill because they’re organic, gluten-free, and come in a resealable bag that’s super easy to store in the fridge.”

2. Walnuts

“With four grams protein in each quarter of a cup serving of walnuts, plus plenty of inflammation-busting omega-3 fatty acids, this type of nut makes a fantastic addition to your smoothie,” says Largeman-Roth.

3. Oat milk

Whole grain oats boast a boatload of benefits: They're rich in fiber and can help lower both cholesterol and inflammation in the body. “And these days, many people aren’t just eating their oats—they’re drinking them as well. While most oat milks only contain one to three grams of protein per eight-ounce serving, Ripple’s Oatmilk+Protein actually provides six grams, making it ideal for post-workout smoothies,” says Largeman-Roth.

4. Cacao nibs

Cacao nibs are little bits of dried cocoa beans, which are what chocolate is made from. According to Largeman-Roth, like cocoa powder, cacao nibs offer anti-inflammatory properties that may help lower your risk of certain cancers, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. “I like adding them to smoothies for their chocolatey flavor and crunch. Three tablespoons of cacao nibs add four grams of protein, plus lots of delicious texture,” she says.

5. Almond butter

Creamy and rich, almond butter adds a luscious touch to smoothies. “Plus, it offers seven grams of protein in each two tablespoon serving and the monounsaturated fats in almonds help lower inflammatory markers,” says Largeman-Roth.

6. Spirulina

This microalgae brings bright green color to your smoothies, as well as four grams of protein per one tablespoon, according to Largeman-Roth. She also notes that seaweed—including spirulina—boasts incredible anti-inflammatory benefits.

7. Hemp seeds

“One and a half tablespoons of hemp seeds will load up your smoothie with five grams of plant protein, and these fresh-tasting seeds also contribute to the anti-inflammatory power of alpha-linolenic acid,” says Largeman-Roth.

8. Flax seeds

Largeman-Roth loves flax seeds because they contribute three grams of protein and four grams fiber per two tablespoons serving of ground seeds. Plus, they keep your heart healthy by helping to lower cholesterol. “If you want to add the power of flax to your smoothie, it’s better to use ground flax. The whole seeds can just pass through your system without the full benefits,” she adds.

But how much protein do we actually need? Should we be loading all these ingredients at once?

To get your daily protein needs, Largeman-Roth recommends taking your weight in pounds and dividing by 2.2 to get kilograms. So, a person who weighs 150 pounds needs about 68 to 70 grams of protein per day. “This may be higher if you are extremely active or if you're elderly, since older people don’t process protein as efficiently,” she says.

To kick things off, checkout two of Largeman-Roth’s favorite anti-inflammatory, high-protein smoothie recipes below, both from her latest book, The Smoothie Plan.

Strawberry-Chia Smoothie Recipe

3/4 cup oat milk
1 Tbsp chia seeds
1 tsp ground ginger
2 kiwis, peeled and chopped
1 cup frozen strawberries
4 ice cubes

1. In a blender, combine all ingredients and puree until smooth.

Cacao Blast Smoothie Recipe

1/2 cup cold brew coffee
1/2 cup chocolate oat milk
2 tsp cacao nibs
1 Tbsp almond butter
1/2 banana
1/4 cup ice

1. In a blender, combine all ingredients and puree until smooth.

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