It’s a truth that’s generally acknowledged the world over – enjoying a smoothie is a great way to get the nutrients you need. They can be a fantastic breakfast option, function as a post-workout refuel, or come in handy as a snack in the afternoon.
However, it’s often all too easy to juice up a smoothie that’s just chock-full of sugar, has too many carbohydrates and is generally unbalanced. If you’re adding loads of sugary fruits, cupfuls of juices and big spoonfuls of honey to your smoothies. It’s safe to say that you’re probably not on the right track. Even though sipping fresh fruit might feel very healthy, you’re probably going to have an energy slump as soon as the high GI effects work off. Or feel hungry again just an hour after your last sip.
Which is why you need to power up your smoothies with the right ingredients. With the right combination, you can get a nutritious meal’s worth of antioxidants, protein, vitamins, minerals, Omega-3 oils, fibre, and microbes. In a tasty, easy-to-make package, no less. Remember, you need a good combination of protein, fat and complex carbohydrates as well as fibre.
Here are some of the ingredients you want to build a high-power smoothie.
1. The basis of the smoothie is protein and fat
Protein is vitally important in our daily meals, because it helps us to maintain muscle tone, stabilises blood sugar and prevents hunger from setting in. Without it, your smoothie will not be properly balanced. If you’re looking to replace your protein powder now and then, this is for you. The following ingredients are good options for protein and work well in smoothies:
- Nut butter, tahini, ground flaxseeds or a handful of nuts (opt for the pure nut butters without any additional ingredients, and add no more than a tablespoon to your blender. Remember that these can be quite calory-dense).
- Pumpkin seeds. A simple but effective source, and you get much more than just protein. In a few handfuls, you get ample amounts of zinc, Omega-3s, magnesium, and tryptophan, an amino acid which helps to promote better sleep, fewer headaches and improved mood.
- Plain, full-fat Greek yoghurt. This is a great source of protein and calcium. Opt for the type that contains live cultures, such as Bifidobacterium. If it is flavoured or has added sugar in it, it’s best to avoid it.
- Collagen. Not only will your skin, hair, and nails benefit by supplementing with collagen. But your digestive system, joints and waistline will also thank you.
- Chia seeds. A great source of plant protein, as well as healthy fats and fibre. Be sure to add some extra liquid to your smoothie, since chia seeds absorb a lot of liquid once you add them.
- Eggs. Good old faithful yolks and egg whites make a complete protein. They also contain necessary daily nutrients and disease-fighting antioxidants like zeaxanthin and lutein.
2. Add fibre for digestion, satiety and balanced blood sugar levels
Various studies have shown the value of fibre in one’s diet. A high-fibre diet can help to counter chronic disease and contributes to longevity. It also promotes the growth of good bacteria in the gut. Furthermore, dietary fibre counters inflammation in the brain’s immune cells, which cause impaired cognitive function. It’s best to opt for fibre in real food sources rather than processed versions. Nature tends to know best.
- Raw oats. These add thickness, fibre, protein and lots of nutrients you don’t want to miss out on. Click here to find out why you should opt for oat milk as an eco-alternative to nut milks.
- Greens. If you struggle to finish your salad leaves when you’re working to chomp down your veggies, consider the problem solved. Blending greens like spinach, kale and swiss chard in a smoothie gets you a plethora of valuable nutrients. Say hello to iron, folate, fibre, protein and lots of vitamins – and you only need a cup or two.
- Berries. One of the best ingredients you can ever add to a smoothie. Because you get flavour, fibre and antioxidants in a low-sugar package. Opt for açai berries, raspberries, blueberries and blackberries as they are highest in fibre and nutrients. Apples and pears also function well in this regard.
3. The cherry on top for a little extra wellness from your smoothie
Maybe you’ve seen some strange-sounding powders or drops in wellness shops and been curious to try. Here is a simple guide to some of the best additions that can provide better immune function, improve gut health and brain function, or help you sleep better.
- Hemp seeds. Yes, hemp is from the cannabis family. No, it cannot get you high. Another good source of plant-based protein, this fibrous addition to your smoothie will aid in muscle recovery, boost your mood and keep blood sugar levels balanced.
- Turmeric. The wellness benefits of this brightly-coloured spice and medicinal herb are legendary. It has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, as well as antioxidant properties. By adding turmeric to your smoothie, you can not only protect your heart and brain, but also help prevent diabetes, boost your mood, and improve a number of skin conditions, like eczema, acne and psoriasis.
- Raw honey. In addition to providing some sweetness to your smoothie, raw honey gives energy, has anti-inflammatory properties and can support brain function and digestion. Just stick to no more than a tablespoon, because it is very high in sugar and can spike your blood sugar.
- Bee pollen. This is a superfood source of protein, minerals, vitamins and enzymes. You also get phytonutrients and antioxidants in just a tablespoon of bee pollen. However, it’s important to note that bee pollen must be used with caution. It might be best to avoid if you have bee allergies or severe pollen allergies, as bee pollen might worsen matters. If you’re unsure, check with your doctor, and under their supervision, it might work to test one pellet to see how you respond.
- Cacao nibs. It provides a rich chocolatey flavour along with iron, antioxidants, and fibre. For a mocha smoothie with some extra energy, add a shot of espresso.
Naturally, there are so many other fantastic ingredients with which you can build your new favourite smoothie and reap all the benefits of their wellness properties. Pick and choose one or two options from each section and make sure it’s balanced. With a little practice and play, you can figure out which combinations work best for you and your health profile. Bottoms up!
Cleveland Clinic. 2020. 6 Awesome Ingredients To Add To Your Smoothie. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/the-top-6-ingredients-to-add-to-your-smoothie/
McKlee, H. 2020. Healthy, fibre-rich ingredients to add to your smoothie. https://www.onegreenplanet.org/natural-health/healthy-fiber-rich-foods-to-add-to-your-smoothie-to-stay-fuller-longer/
Miller, T. 2014. The bee pollen smoothie recipe full of protein and daily fibre. https://www.chatelaine.com/health/healthy-recipes-health/a-delicious-bee-pollen-smoothie-full-of-protein-and-daily-fibre/