The most basic smoothie includes ingredients in three categories. One, fruits or vegetables, such as berries, mangos, carrots, to make up the majority of the flavor. The second is something to thicken the smoothie and make it creamy, which is usually a banana. The third component is a liquid, usually milk or water, to help make the smoothie drinkable instead of something individuals have to use a spoon to eat. Although basic smoothies are delicious as well as healthy, they could be even better. Everyone can kick up their smoothie game a few notches with these top smoothie ingredients and boost their health in significant ways!
Flaxseed is a powerful and popular superfood, containing a high amount of alpha-linolenic acid, which is an omega-3 fatty acid that is excellent for the heart. Flaxseed is also an excellent source of soluble fiber. In its powdered form, flaxseed is the perfect addition to a smoothie, as it can help reduce cholesterol, aid in healthy digestion, and reduce the risk of serious diseases such as cancer or heart disease. Regarding digestion, since flaxseed contains soluble fiber, it helps individuals stay fuller for longer, which means they will experience fewer crashes in energy and reduce excessive snacking.
Some research suggests flaxseed can also help manage high blood pressure and symptoms of menopause. However, it is important to point out consuming too much flaxseed can cause adverse side effects, which is why individuals should gradually increase how much they include in their smoothie and try not to exceed a tablespoon or two.
Similar to flaxseed, chia seeds are excellent sources of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, reports indicate they contain more fiber and omega-3s than flaxseed! Thus, some of their health benefits are similar, such as aiding in digestion and lowering the risk of heart disease. Beyond this, however, chia seeds also contain roughly 5.6 grams of protein per one-ounce serving, as well as significant amounts of calcium, iron, and antioxidants. By adding chia seeds to a smoothie, individuals can also reduce their risk of diabetes, promote a healthy complexion, increase energy, and assist in weight management. They are undoubtedly powerful little seeds! Thus, individuals may want to try putting a teaspoon or two in their next smoothie.
Dark, Leafy Greens
When it comes to adding nutritional power to smoothies, the first ingredients most think of are spinach and kale, two dark, leafy greens. These two greens are excellent sources of iron, fiber, folate, calcium, and vitamins A, C, D, K, and B6. Vitamin A is essential for eye and skin health, calcium increases bone strength, and some reports indicate in addition to its benefits for digestion, the fiber in kale and spinach also helps reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. As mentioned, kale and spinach also contain lots of iron, which helps reduce the risk of anemia and boosts blood health.
While there are some differences in how much of these nutrients spinach and kale each contain, individuals cannot go wrong with either when attempting to improve the health benefits of their smoothie. If individuals are just starting out, however, we recommend spinach, since kale packs more of a bitter taste and is more difficult to get used to.
The most significant health benefits of Greek yogurt come from its protein, calcium, and vitamin D content. Some brands will also contain probiotics, which help balance bacteria in the body and aid in digestive health and boost the body's immune system. As a dairy product with calcium and vitamin D, Greek yogurt is fantastic for promoting healthy bones. It also contains less sodium than regular yogurt, which helps manage high blood pressure and provides (on average) twice the amount of protein than regular yogurt.
Protein helps increase and prolong feelings of fullness, which helps reduce unnecessary snacking, thus decreasing calorie intake. This is especially important for vegetarians, who cannot obtain their protein from the traditional source: meat. Greek yogurt also contains less sugar and lactose than regular yogurt, which eases the impact on the stomach for those who are lactose intolerant. Besides these benefits, Greek yogurt is thicker than regular yogurt since it is strained more, which helps boost the creaminess of a smoothie.
Avocados are chock full of healthy nutrients, including potassium, omega-3 fatty acids, folate, fiber, as well as vitamins C, K, E, and B6. Most of the benefits connect in some way to all of the healthy fats this stone fruit contains, since in addition to keeping individuals full, boosting healthy skin, and promoting heart health, consuming healthy fats also helps the body absorb other nutrients.
Thus, individuals can better utilize the benefits of the other nutrients in avocados, such as having healthy babies (folate), improving digestion (fiber), building healthy bones (vitamin K), protecting against some types of cancer (folate), and decreasing symptoms of depression (folate). Reports also indicate consuming healthy fats also helps stabilize blood sugar, since the fats slow the body's breakdown of carbohydrates and may even support a healthy immune system.
Spirulina is often referred to as blue-green algae, but individuals should not let that dissuade them from considering this ingredient for their smoothie. They should just be sure to purchase spirulina grown from a lab to be safe. Seven grams of spirulina powder contains roughly four grams of protein, eleven percent of the recommended daily intake (RDI) of iron, and twenty-one percent of the RDI of copper. It also contains fifteen percent of the RDI of riboflavin (vitamin B2), as well as at least a small amount of almost every nutrient the body needs. Countless reports indicate when considering nutritional content gram for gram, spirulina is perhaps the most nutritious food in the world.
Spirulina is capable of reducing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides, thus reducing the risk of heart disease. This ingredient also has potent antioxidant properties, improves symptoms of diabetes (e.g., managing blood sugar), and may even have dramatic positive effects in treating oral cancer according to some reports. Iron, as many may know, helps prevent anemia. The aforementioned antioxidant properties in spirulina help minimize oxidative damage from exercise, which can reduce muscle fatigue and improve both muscle strength as well as endurance. It can also help improve allergic rhinitis, reduce inflammation, and reduce high blood pressure.
Matcha is a powdered form of green tea used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, and in the past few years has seemingly been taking over the Western world. Like other forms of green tea, matcha contains high amounts of antioxidants. However, since matcha uses the whole plant, it has a higher antioxidant value than other green teas. This improves the health benefits typically gained from antioxidants, such as reducing and preventing cell damage and reducing the risk of chronic disease by stabilizing harmful free radicals in the body.
Matcha contains high amounts of epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which is a catechin known to possess anti-cancer properties. It also reduces LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, which as previously mentioned, help prevent heart disease. Like other green teas, matcha is known to help assist in weight loss when combined with moderate-intensity exercise given its ability to boost metabolism, improve cognitive performance, and reduce liver enzyme levels (elevated levels indicate liver damage).
There are two main types of cinnamon: Ceylon and cassia. The former is considered true cinnamon, though the most common is cassia. For the best health benefits, it is much better to add Ceylon cinnamon when possible to smoothies. What kind of health benefits can individuals expect? Ceylon cinnamon has benefits individuals will be familiar with now, such as powerful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Some studies show cinnamon can help lower blood pressure, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol, and boost high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, which when combined promote heart health, including reducing the risk of heart disease.
Some research suggests cinnamon can also help manage cancer, reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease, and even help with HIV, although this evidence remains contentious. Regardless, cinnamon is an excellent way to boost health in familiar ways with its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Besides which, it also adds a delicious flavor to smoothies without increasing sugar.
For a low-calorie add-in that packs a punch in both flavor and health benefits, look no further than ginger. This superfood helps soothe muscle and stomach cramps, fight infections, and is linked to lowering cholesterol and blood sugar. As it is also great for improving digestion and combatting nausea, it would be especially ideal for those who cannot stomach much food for breakfast. It is also a great choice to add to a lighter pre-workout smoothie.
Individuals can easily slice in small chunks of fresh gingerroot or shake in a few dashes of the powdered spice into their smoothie before blending. Although both the fresh and powdered versions contain health benefits, the freshly grated gingerroot is best for getting the most nutrition. Ginger's slightly spicy flavor pairs wonderfully with greens, lemon juice, and berries. Additionally, the zing of the spice is great for giving individuals a natural energy boost for a little extra alertness in the morning.
Turmeric is the super spice that will lend any drink a gorgeous golden color and fantastic flavor. Its secret is that it contains the compound curcumin which is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. In numerous studies, scientists have found the golden yellow spice to help prevent many dangerous illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease. Individuals can receive all of these benefits with just a couple teaspoons of the powder.
Consuming about two teaspoons of the powder daily will help the body reap the most benefits. But do not forget to also add in a pinch of black pepper. Although it may seem odd to add pepper into a smoothie, the piperine that the pepper contains helps the body absorb turmeric's curcumin. When blended alongside fruit, individuals will not notice any pepper at all and be well on their way to feeling better.
Natural Almond Or Peanut Butter
Nuts are one of the healthiest ways to incorporate a good dose of protein into a smoothie. However, unless individuals like a bit of crunch in their smoothies, whole or chopped nuts are not the easiest to blend. Instead, they should reach for some natural almond or peanut butter (and make sure it is a creamy version.) Almonds and peanuts are packed with calcium and magnesium, and their makeup of fiber and healthy fats will ensure individuals will feel fuller for longer.
When choosing a nut butter, it is best to read the labels. Some brands load their nut butters with sugar, hydrogenated oils, and preservatives. For the healthiest choice, individuals will want to see the ingredients list on the label is very short. Natural nut butters really only need nuts, salt, and maybe a touch of honey. Any other ingredients will just complicate and weigh down a smoothie unnecessarily.
Berry smoothies are probably the pinnacle of the smoothie world and for good reason. There are so many to choose from, as each berry has a unique flavor profile and health benefits. Blueberries are known for their high levels of vitamin K, the vitamin A in goji berries are fantastic for eye health, and acai boasts the highest antioxidant count of them all. In general, every type of berry is a great source of fiber and vitamin C. It is also good to note while they are low in calories, berries still enliven smoothies with lots of wonderful sweet and sour flavor. Thankfully, berries also complement each other beautifully when mixed, so individuals will not have to be forced to choose just one.
Classic fruit or vegetable smoothies are great, but sometimes they can feel a little too light. The secret to a filling, thick, and creamy smoothie that will sustain anyone until lunch is blending in some old-fashioned oats. However, it is important to check the label before adding oats, as raw steel-cut oats are far too hard to blend in and will leave individuals with unappetizing crunchy bits. The old-fashioned version is just soft enough to break down and blend with the other fruits and liquids.
While the oats will fill individuals up, they will also benefit their body in other ways. Oats are a great source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, and are especially ideal for those who need to get their bowel regularity back on track. Additionally, they will help keep an individual's heart in its best shape by lowering their body's bad cholesterol and regulating their blood sugar. Besides, individuals will love the rich, nutty flavor of the oats, which complement any fruit perfectly. A combination of bananas, nut butter, and cacao with oats are an especially great pairing.