Everybody loves smoothies.
They’re great not only because they make a delicious and refreshing treat, but also because they have the potential to become a healthy breakfast or midday snack.
I say potential, because they have to be made with the right ingredients if they’re going to support your health and your weight. Choose wisely and you’ll have a luxurious, delectable nutrition-packed meal. Choose poorly and you might as well order a milkshake at the local McDonald’s.
That’s why today I want to show you the some of the healthiest and most delicious ingredients you can add to your next smoothie. Choose from these ingredients and you can’t go wrong…
Bananas are one of the most common ingredients for smoothies and can even be considered a classic, for good reason.[i]
With their creamy texture and right balance of sweetness, bananas can make any smoothie taste amazing. People who do not want added sugar can use bananas to sweeten their drink.
More importantly, they have lots of fiber, potassium, and vitamin B6, which can keep your immune system working properly and help boost brain function.
You can add whole bananas to your drink either frozen or fresh, or you can also use banana powder instead if you don’t feel like adding the fruit. Banana powder is made from dried, finely-milled fruit and is very rich in potassium. This makes it an ideal ingredient for an energy-boosting drink, especially after you complete an intense exercise routine.
Acai contains more antioxidants than any other food currently known to man. It also has minimal calories and high amounts of protein, fiber, trace minerals, vitamin C, and monounsaturated fats. This berry has the power to lower the risk of atherosclerosis, decrease cholesterol levels, and even kill cancer cells. Blend in the frozen pulp with your smoothies and mix it with cacao and other fruits to maximize their rich flavor.[ii]
Camu camu is a cherry-like fruit that is indigenous to Brazil and Peru, where it grows on rainforest shrubs. It has been utilized by locals for its medicinal properties. This tropical fruit has very high levels of vitamin C, with as much as 60 times the vitamin content of oranges. This means it can offer you almost 250 percent of what you need to complete your recommended daily dose of vitamin C.
Aside from this, camu camu is also rich in antioxidants, as well as other minerals like calcium, protein, potassium, and other phytochemicals. It can even help perk you up when you are feeling down, as the fruit has been found to have mood-balancing properties. Camu camu is available as a whole fruit, but can also be found in its dry powdered form.[iii]
Spirulina is a blue-green algae that thrives in most lakes. It contains a multitude of different nutrients, including B, E, and K vitamins, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, beta carotene, chlorophyll, and trace minerals such as iron, copper, selenium, zinc, and manganese. It is rich in calcium, with as much as 26 times the calcium content of milk. Spirulina also consists of about 70 percent amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein.[iv]
Spirulina can benefit your body in a number of different ways. For one, it has the ability to relieve allergy symptoms by limiting the production of histamine in your body. In line with this, it boosts your immune system function and prevents you from developing or contracting autoimmune disorders. Additionally, spirulina has properties that allow it to absorb and remove any heavy metals that you may ingest. Finally, it has been suggested that consumption of spirulina can help improve your skin and complexion.
Perhaps the only downside to spirulina is its flavor, which many people may find unpleasant. However, this can be easily masked by mixing in coconut water or acidic fruits like mango and pineapple into your smoothie along with the spirulina. You might also want to buy the powdered variety, as the liquid form may cause your smoothie to take on a strange consistency.
Leafy Green Vegetables
Blending greens into your smoothies is a great way for you to get your daily dose of several nutrients, including vitamins A and K, manganese, calcium, fiber, and antioxidants. You can add in fresh vegetables, which can be blended for a longer period of time in order to make them as smooth as possible. You can also opt for vegetable powder or liquid greens, which will both work just as well.
One good vegetable to add to your smoothie is kale, which is considered by many to be one of the healthiest vegetables in the world. It contains compounds called glucosinolate and isothiocyanate, which work to decrease your chances of contracting cancer. Broccoli is another vegetable rich in fiber. You can add it in raw or steam it first to make your drink smoother. Spinach is another great choice, as it contains lutein which can help boost eyesight and provides almost double the daily requirements for vitamin K.[v]
Beets possess anti-inflammatory properties which can help reduce swelling. They are also rich in folate, iron, potassium, fiber, and B vitamins. To maximize the health benefits, mix beets with oranges or lemons because the body will absorb its nutrients better when consumed with citrus.[vi]
Nut and Seed Butters
Natural butters extracted from any nut or seed are the perfect addition to your smoothie. The healthy fats they provide can help your body absorb other nutrients more efficiently, especially when it comes to vitamins like E and A, which are soluble in fat. In particular, one good choice is almond butter. It contains a substantial amount of vitamin E, calcium, and iron, and also has monounsaturated fat which is healthy and good for the heart. In addition, almond butter helps suppress your appetite because of its high levels of fiber and protein.[vii]
Whey can aid in muscle growth because of its rich amino acid content. In particular, it contains an amino acid called cysteine, which helps in the synthesis of glutathione in your body. As an antioxidant, glutathione works by protecting and strengthening the cells to combat bacteria and viruses and prevent you from developing infections.
Whey also contains proteins and a minimal amount of carbohydrates. However, it may not be the best ingredient for vegans because it is a product that comes from cows.[viii]
Maca, also commonly known as Peruvian ginseng, is indigenous to the Andean Mountains in Peru. It is known for the nutritional value of its roots. Because it comes from a plant source, it makes a great addition to vegetarian- and vegan-friendly smoothies. It contains lots of amino acids, fatty acids that improve brain function, and B vitamins that are great mood-boosters. It also contains calcium, zinc, phosphorus, iodine, magnesium, iron, and vitamins E and C.
For thousands of years, maca has been used by Peruvian natives as a natural medicine because it contains properties that can boost stamina, fertility, and sexual function. It also has the ability to improve mood, lower stress, and increase energy levels significantly.
Maca has a strong and earthy flavor that may not be enjoyed by everyone. However, this can be easily remedied by mixing it into a smoothie along with a few berries, which can mask the taste. Maca is available in liquid, powder, and pill form, but the organic variety is still best because its nutrient contents are the most potent and preserved. It also has the best flavor.[ix]
Originally from Mexico and Central America, chia seeds contain high levels of fiber, protein, calcium, and several trace minerals. They also contain almost three times the amount of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that can be found in most grains. Finally, they are completely cholesterol-free, making them good for your heart.
Chia seeds have quite a number of properties that can benefit the body. For one, it has been suggested that they lower levels of cholesterol in the body as well as manage blood pressure. They can lower blood sugar levels, making them an ideal food for preventing the onset of diabetes. They also prevent the formation of blood clots, increase energy levels, diminish inflammation, and improve digestion.
Because chia seeds are very absorbent, they can be a filling addition to your smoothies. Just soak them in water for about 15 minutes before blending them with the rest of your drink to up the satiety factor and prevent yourself from feeling hungry again before very long. Just make sure to select organic chia seeds and be wary of those that may have been contaminated with pesticides.[x]
Aside from regular milk, you also can use a variety of other types of milk for your smoothie.[xi]
Non-dairy milk is creamier and contains more omega-3 fatty acids that help your body absorb greater amounts of calcium.
Soy milk tends to contain the most protein, while almond milk has higher levels of magnesium and vitamin E.
Rice milk is a good option for individuals who suffer from allergies.
Whichever kind of milk you choose, make sure to pick an unsweetened variety so you don’t end up consuming excess carbohydrates and calories.
Native to the Himalayans, goji berries have a rich red hue and contain lots of potassium and protein, as well as 18 different amino acid proteins. They are also one of the richest sources of antioxidants in the world, including vitamins C and A, which work well to fight free radicals in your body.
Goji berries boast of their immune-boosting properties, which can help protect you from autoimmune diseases. They also keep your kidneys and liver healthy and decrease your risk of contracting heart disease. Gojis also promote good vision and contain oils called sesquiterpinoids, which stimulate your body’s synthesis of growth hormones to helpprevent premature aging.
These berries have a slightly tart, slightly sweet flavor. If you are planning to use fresh goji berries, try soaking them in hot water for a few minutes before blending them into your smoothie so that they become plumper and easier to handle. Goji berries are also available in powder form, which is easier to digest and has a more vibrant flavor, as well as in sun-dried form.[xii]
Aloe vera is a powerful plant that is very popular for its potent medicinal qualities. Its many health benefits include calming and healing wounds, reducing inflammation, and easing pain in the muscles and joints. It can also boost hydration with electrolytes, improve digestion, and contribute to the management of bowel movement. Aloe also has the ability to decrease cholesterol levels, equalize blood sugar, and prevent the growth of kidney stones and tumors.
Aloe vera is commercially available in grocery stores. When making your smoothie, make sure to add only the gel that can be extracted from inside the aloe leaves, and not the entire plant. This tasteless ingredient can be added in copious amounts without altering the flavor .[xiii]
Cacao Powder or Nibs
Cacao is a seed that grows in Central and South America. As the raw, pure form of chocolate, it is unprocessed and thus contains all of the nutrients that are otherwise stripped away when commercial chocolate is manufactured. Cacao is one of the richest sources of antioxidants, which combat free radicals in your body. In addition, it also has iron, potassium, and magnesium.
Cacao has a number of different effects on the body, such as increasing blood flow, regulating blood pressure, managing blood sugar, and adjusting good and bad cholesterol levels. It can also help boost cognitive function, mood, and vision, and is a good source of energy.
As it is unprocessed, cacao is quite bitter and should be used sparingly. A single teaspoon should be enough and is best balanced out with sweeter bananas and berries. The powder variety is also a better choice than the nibs, because they taste better and are, of course, easier to blend.[xiv]
Coconuts contain essential fatty acids that can increase hydration. They also have natural alkalizing properties. Adding coconut to your smoothies will lend a creamier texture to your drink. Plus, this ingredient goes well with anything else you want to add.
Coconut water also has the same hydrating properties that coconut meat does, with lots of electrolytes and virtually no fat. Coconut water also has a slightly sweet taste that makes it a good base for your smoothies. Try using this in place of juice for a healthier and less sugary treat.
Finally, coconut oil is another coconut product that would be a great addition to your smoothies. It regulates cholesterol levels, promotes weight loss, and protects the immune system. It can even kill acne-causing bacteria, treat pneumonia, and combat Alzheimer’s disease.[xv]
Honey and Bee Pollen
Honey contains antioxidant and antibacterial properties making it great for healing wounds, combatting allergies, and diminishing coughing and inflammation. Meanwhile, bee pollen contains protein and several vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12, which are essential for building immunity. Bee pollen is often used as a treatment for ailments like fatigue, indigestion, acne, asthma, anemia, arthritis, and allergies. It is also a good source of energy and can work to repair damaged blood cells.[xvi]
Wheatgrass is a good source of protein, fiber, amino acids, fatty acids, chlorophyll, antioxidants, and vitamins A, B, C, and E. It can provide you with a much-needed energy boost, strengthen your immune function, and detoxify and alkalinize your body. It is better to buy wheatgrass in a glass container instead of plastic so that it is not exposed to light and air, which will cause it to become less potent.[xvii]
Flaxseeds contain lots of protein, fatty acids, and fiber, which can help prevent spikes in your blood sugar. They also have lots of alpha-linolenic acids, which are a kind of omega-3 that can decrease inflammation and promote better blood flow, thus preventing blood clots and high blood pressure. Flaxseeds can also decrease cholesterol, strengthen bones, and aid in digestion. It is best to grind flax before adding it to your smoothie so that your body can better absorb its omega-3 fats.[xviii]
Hemp contains high levels of protein and fiber and has eight essential amino acids. It also has several fatty acids, including omega-3 and omega-6, stearidonic acid, and gamma-linoleic acid, which can promote good skin and healthy metabolism, as well as decrease inflammation and cholesterol levels. Hemp is also known to strengthen immunity, boost brain development, and equalize blood sugar levels. Shelled varieties are the easiest to blend into smoothies, and their nutty flavor goes well with sweeter berries.[xix]
Green tea makes a great base for your smoothie because of its health benefits. Not only is it full of antioxidants that can strengthen your immunity and catechins that can prevent cancer, but it can also give you a caffeinated energy boost and minimize sun damage on your skin.[xx]
[i] Bananas: Health Benefits, Risks and Nutritional Facts, Medical News Today, Retrieved July 2, 2015.
[iii] Camu Camu Powder: How To Incorporate The Superfood Into Your Life, Huffington Post Canada, Published January 10, 2014, Retrieved July 2, 2015.
[iv] Spirulina: A Luxury Health Food and a Possible Panacea for Malnutrition, mercola.com, Published September 29, 2014, Retrieved July 2, 2015.
[viii] Whey Protein 101: Surprising Benefits of Powders and Shakes, Kris Gunnars, Authority Nutrition, Retrieved July 2, 2015.
[ix] Maca Powder: Health Benefits And Concerns Of The Fashionable Smoothie Ingredient Explained, Rachel Moss, Huffington Post UK, Published February 17, 2015, Retrieved July 2, 2105.
[xii] Benefits of Goji: 9 Health Perks Of Drinking Goji Berry Smoothies, Marisa Falconi, Huffington Post Canada, Published May 15, 2013, Retrieved July 2, 2015.
[xv] The Numerous Health Benefits of Coconuts and Coconut Oil, Ryan Carmody, healthysmoothiehq.com, Retrieved July 6, 2015.
[xix]Ask the Diet Doctor: Should I Eat Flaxseeds, Chia Seeds, and Hemp Seeds?, Dr. Mike Rousell, Shape.com, Published October 2, 2012, Retrieved July 6, 2015.