How to tell if you aren’t getting enough protein

A bowl of chopped vegetables and cousous next to limes, corriander and a zucchini

If you aren’t getting enough protein, you run the risk of developing serious health problems. Protein is an essential macronutrient with a whole range of critical functions. When you don’t get enough, you can have a range of symptoms including a weakened immune system and mental health problems.

Here are 5 signs you aren’t getting enough protein.

Weak immune system

Your body relies on protein to be able to defend itself. Protein is vital for creating antibodies and when you don’t get enough, your body is unable to put up an immune defense. A study of older women showed that following a low protein diet caused significant losses in their immune response, making them more vulnerable to infection.

Energy loss

When you aren’t getting enough protein in your diet, your body is forced to find another energy source. This means that protein deficiency can lead to your energy decreasing over time. This is especially prevalent in older people.


Another common symptom of protein deficiency is Oedema. Oedema is swelling in the body, most commonly in the feet, ankles, legs, hands and stomach. When you aren’t getting enough protein, your body increases the secretion of antidiuretic substances in the body which prevent the normal processing and excretion of water. This causes swelling and discomfort.

Brittle hair and nails

Your body also requires protein for hair and nail growth. Hair is composed of 98% protein. If you aren’t getting enough protein, you might notice that your hair and nails are brittle and coarse. In extreme cases, you might also experience hair loss or shedding.

Mental health problems

Long term protein deficiency can even affect your mental health. Psychological symptoms of protein deficiency include tension, irritability and depression. Protein malnutrition during pregnancy may also negatively affect the brain development and mental health of infants too.

Steps to boost your protein intake

If you’re worried you’re not getting enough protein in your diet, there are some simple ways to boost your daily intake. From eating more protein-rich foods to having a daily shake, it’s easy to up your protein.

Here are 10 ideas to help you eat more protein every day:

  • Opt for eggs over cereals in the morning
  • Eat more nuts and seeds
  • Have high protein snacks like protein bars or greek yoghurt
  • Enjoy a high protein food with every meal
  • Add more whole grains and legumes
  • Have protein shakes (including vegan protein shakes) between meals
  • Choose lean meat over fattier cuts
  • Sprinkle nutritional yeast on pasta and salads
  • Try cooking with nut butter
  • Swap out bread for rye or ezekiel 

Protein bars and protein powder are especially easy ways to increase the amount of protein in your diet. They’re low effort and great for days when you’re on-the-go. 

Getting enough protein?

If you are following a plant-based diet, it’s really important to make sure you are getting enough protein every day. Free Soul vegan protein blend is a complete, protein source formulated specially for women’s wellness with added ingredients to support your health including balancing your hormones and boosting your energy.

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**At Free Soul, your wellbeing is our priority, and although we pride ourselves on our expertise in women's health and wellbeing, it is important to acknowledge the individuality of each person. Features published by Free Soul are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease, or replace the advice of your GP. We always recommend consulting with a healthcare provider if you encounter any health concerns, and we’ll always be here to support you so you’re never alone on your journey.