You may think of smoothies as a way to get in your fruits and vegetables in delicious liquid form. But it’s also a chance to throw in some nutrient-dense add-ins for protein, healthy fat, phytonutrients, energy and more.
Here are some of my favorite add-ins that I’ve been using in my smoothies lately and encourage you to try out:
This Peruvian root is considered an adaptogen, meaning in can help with stress by balancing the stress hormones like cortisol. At the same time, it can have an energizing effect without the jitters of caffeine. One thing that makes maca special is its powerful ability to help balance sex hormones while not being a phytoestrogen. It can be used in cases of menopause, PMS, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and fertility (but of course always check with your doctor first). It can even help men with hormone issues like prostate health and sperm quality. Studies have found that the root can improve male libido without affecting testosterone levels. Maca is also very rich in antioxidants. These days maca powder is pretty easy to find in health food store and some grocery stores.
You can find Maca Root Powder HERE.
Another adaptogenic root (this time of Indian origin), ashwagandha has an impressive anti-stressing ability by lowering the high cortisol levels that keep us in fight-or-flight mode too often. It can be used for stress-induced insomnia. Ashwagandha can also support thyroid health, both for hypo- and hyper-thyroid conditions. And just like maca, it can help with sperm quality but can also improve testosterone levels. Ashwagandha can give a real boost to mood and energy and acts as an anti-inflammatory. Although you should talk to your doctor before using while pregnant, it has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years.
You can find Ashwagandha Root Powder HERE.
Think of spirulina as a super protein, richer in protein (by weight) than any other plant. Also called blue-green algae, this microalgae has been used to lower cholesterol and fight inflammation. It can also help suppress hunger and is incredibly rich in antioxidants. Besides its own nutrients, it also supports mineral absorption. Lastly, if you’ve been suffering from seasonal allergies or the onset of all those back-to-school colds, spirulina’s got you covered there too.
You can find Spiriulina Powder HERE.
While many of the other super-foods come from halfway around the world, bee pollen is one you want to get from close to home. One of the reasons it has become so popular is for its effects against seasonal allergies. But this only works if the pollen is local so that you are getting the pollen in the air that circulates near you. Ease into bee pollen, increasing your dosage with time, since larger amounts can cause strong allergic effects. Besides your sneezing and watery eyes, bee pollen has also been found to help with fatigue and mood disorders, thanks to its nutrient density (protein, minerals and C and B vitamins). It has natural antimicrobial effects as well as containing antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.
Check your local health foods store or grab Bee Pollen online HERE.
Ahh, flax seeds. They seem to be everywhere these days. But for good reason. They are very high in fiber, making them extremely heart healthy. They are also very high in the omega-3 fat alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), making it a great alternative to fish oil for vegetarians. Those fatty acids are boosters for brain and heart health, as well as for skin, hair, nails and to moisten dry eyes. Perhaps lesser known, flax also contains phytoestrogens called lignans. For women suffering from high estrogen levels, lignans help the body rid itself of the excess hormones. But while it is great to see healthy foods going mainstream, it should be noted that the body doesn’t have the ability to break down the outer shell of the seeds, which must be ground. The oils in the seeds are also extremely sensitive to heat and should not be cooked.
These tiny seeds have the perfect one-two punch of protein and fats with fiber offering the final knockout. Chia is extremely rich in those healthy omega-3 fatty acids that are heart and brain healthy. The fiber in the seeds give them the slightly thick and gelatinous texture when they get wet, making them perfect for smoothies. But the fiber also helps lower the LDL or “bad” cholesterol, promote beneficial gut flora and support healthy bowel movements. Chia seeds also contain a healthy dose of the antioxidant vitamin E. An added bonus of chia seeds is that, unlike with flax seeds, they don’t need to be ground to access their goodness and they have a longer shelf life.
You can find Chia Seeds HERE.
You may have heard the term “complete protein” and been confused by that. What makes a protein complete or not? While meat and other animal-based foods include all nine essential amino acids (the ones our bodies can’t make), vegan foods that contain all of them are few and far between. But hemp is a wonderfully complete protein because it has an abundance of them. Also found in abundance are omega-3 fatty acids in ALA form, making hemp very anti-inflammatory. Like many of the foods on this list, hemp is also high in fiber and antioxidants. Plus they have a nice nutty flavor!
You can find Hemp Hearts HERE.
While cacao may be most familiar as the backbone of chocolate, many if not most chocolate bars actually contain no cacao. But cacao is a true super-food thanks to its phytonutrients, fiber and its amazing ability to boost your mood. Naturally occurring magnesium in cacao can offer a calming effect and even relax the muscles. And unlike chocolate, cacao is raw and therefore maintains its mineral content. It is also very high in antioxidants, higher even than green or black tea. Cacao has even been found to be heart healthy because it prevents the oxidation of the LDL or “bad” cholesterol that can create plaque buildup in the blood vessels. Perhaps most important: cacao is delicious!
If you saw my post about collagen, you already know I’m a fan! And what’s not to like? It supports skin, hair and nails; it can be incredibly healing for leaky gut; it’s great for joint health; and it helps balance your blood sugar and slow down metabolism. And because it’s getting easier and easier to find in powder form and is virtually tasteless, it is a natural addition to smoothies.
A simple recipe for any smoothie is:
- Liquid- I just use water but unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk are great non-dairy alternatives.
- Protein- I do a scoop of Vega Protein and Greens in addition to my scoop of collagen.
- Fat – I often have my smoothie as a meal (breakfast) or a hearty afternoon snack. Adding fat to your smoothie with keep your engine burning for hours!. I usually do a 1/4 avocado, coconut oil or MCT oil or you could add a tablespoon of almond or peanut butter.
- Veggies- I always a heaping handful of spinach or other greens. You can hardly taste flavor and you’re getting an even bigger nutrient boost. Berries are also a good choice for their rich antioxidant, low-glycemic and high phytonutrient properties. Always choose organic berries. Frozen berries are cheaper and picked a peak freshness.
Superfoods! I choose from one or two of the above superfoods for added fiber and awesomeness!
If you’ve been looking for ways to amp up your smoothie routine, try any combination of these super-foods. You may just find your new favorite smoothie recipe… and feel great while sipping it!
What’s your go-to smoothie ingredient? Do you have a favorite recipe?
Comment below! And ENJOY!