Top 10 Superfood Smoothie Additions
That mile long list on the menu board of most juice bars can be intimidating. Most likely you ask for a few in your made-to-order smoothie because, with names like those, they must be good for you! But, do you know what they actually do for your health? Let us help break it down for you.
HOW TO EAT THEM: They have a slightly nutty flavor and are available in either whole or ground up into a powder. The best way to purchase them is in their whole form, as once they are ground they are more susceptible to becoming rancid due to their fat content. Their nutrients are most bioavailable when ground, you can either throw them whole into your blender or go the extra step to grind them yourself in a spice grinder or a coffee grinder – but your blender should do the trick!
WHAT THEY DO FOR YOU: These little guys pack a punch. Most known for their healthy fats, flaxseeds are high in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) or a member of the omega-3 fatty acid family. ALA provides anti-inflammatory benefits that have shown to aid in cardiovascular health, joint health as well as providing healthy hair, skin & nails. They add a little but of bulk to the consistency of your smoothie, forming a water-soluble gel that helps to keep your digestive system regular and healthy. They are also a high source of lignans, which help colonize healthy bacteria in the gut, provide cardiovascular benefits and have shown to help prevent certain types of cancer.
HOW TO EAT THEM: Chia seeds expand in liquid, releasing their natural oils and create a gel, you might notice this if you toss them in your smoothies! This characteristic has been touted for chia’s ability to starve off hunger and promote fullness. Chia seeds have a slightly nutty flavor that is mild enough to add to any flavor combination. Just 1-2 tablespoons of this powerful seed will do the trick!
WHAT THEY DO FOR YOU: They are a great source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, similar to flax seeds; however, chia seeds do not need to be ground to make their nutrients available. A great source of fiber, to keep your digestive system regular, as well as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, copper, iron, niacin, and zinc. Whew!
HOW TO EAT IT: Turmeric may have a bold color but its flavor is very mild, so adding it to smoothies won’t change the taste. Sold in the spice isle, ground turmeric is an easy addition to any smoothie, so give it a generous shake into your next batch!
WHAT THEY DO FOR YOU: A powerhouse in the spice aisle or root veggie aisle. Turmeric is a bright yellow spice traditionally used in Indian curry dishes. It is one of the most well studied and documented spices for its beneficial health properties. Turmeric has incredible anti-inflammatory benefits, which are largely suggested for its disease-preventing properties. Turmeric has found to help prevent or alleviate some of the top chronic and debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s, arthritis and even certain types of cancer.
HOW TO EAT IT: A little goes a long way! Avocado is a concentrated source of all these amazing nutrients, just adding 1/4 avocado to your next smoothie will provide enough nutrient packed goodness.
WHAT IT DOES FOR YOU: A creamy addition to any smoothie, avocado adds a satisfyingly rich texture. Avocado is a great source of healthy fat, a key smoothie addition as many fruits and vegetables contain fat-soluble nutrients, meaning these nutrients require the presence of fat to be fully absorbed. Avocados health fat sources not only help with absorbing beneficial nutrients, it also provides a hefty does nutrients itself. Avocado contains a plethora of anti-inflammatory chemicals such as plant sterols as well as monounsaturated fats, most specifically oleic acid, that benefit heart health and contribute to luxurious hair, skin and nails!
HOW TO EAT IT: Spirulina is a blue-green algae that is most commonly found in a dried, powdered form.It is important to purchase spirulina from a trusted brand, as concentrated sources can contain traces of heavy metals and certain toxins that exist in the environments the algae grows in. Purity standards can protect against many of these contaminants when you purchase a transparent product from a known and trusted brand.
WHAT IT DOES FOR YOU: It is a contains a number of beneficial nutrients that aid in function of numerous systems throughout the body. A great source of B complex vitamins, beta-carotene, vitamin E, manganese, zinc, copper, iron, selenium, and gamma linolenic acid (an essential fatty acid) aid in boosting our energy systems, immune system and even benefiting our beautiful skin!
HOW TO EAT IT: A serving of just 2 tablespoons contain 9g of protein, 20% of your daily value of iron and 15% of zinc! Adding this protein to you smoothie will give you a great nutty flavor and dose of easily digestible protein. Hemp hearts are the edible insides of the hemp seeds, they are soft, chewy and make for a great topping or addition to a smoothie. Hemp protein are made from hemp hearts that have been pulverized into a fine powder, great for mixing into smoothies.
WHAT IT DOES FOR YOU: Hemp hearts are derived from the Cannabis sativa L. plant; however, they are the non-marijuana variety so your smoothie will be psychedelic free. Technically a nut, the hemp heart is the center of the hemp seed once the shell has been removed. The heart is the most nutritious part of the plant, including potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and vitamins A and E. Hemp hearts are a welcome protein source for vegetarian and vegans. Known as a complete protein, hemp seeds contain all of the essential amino acids that our bodies can not make. Hemp hearts are also a great source for iron and zinc, two notable nutrients for vegetarians and vegans.
HOW TO EAT IT: Not quite as sweet as our beloved cocoa, this superfood is a little more versatile. Found in two main forms: cacao nibs are made from breaking the beans into small pieces and add a crunchy texture in smoothies. While cacao powder is most similar to cocoa powder, creating a smooth product that blends right in! Either route, this unprocessed product adds a rich, nutty flavor to your favorite smoothies. Blend 2 tablespoons cacao powder with banana, almond butter and frozen berries for a play on a chocolaty PB&J!
WHAT IT DOES FOR YOU: Raw cacao contains an abundance of flavonoids, making it one of the most antioxidant-rich foods in the world. These flavonoids play a role in preventing free radical damage and boosting collagen production. Cacao contains over 300 important compounds, including protein, fat, certain B-vitamins and minerals such as calcium, sulfur, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc and copper. Consuming raw cacao can help regulate blood sugar, lower cholesterol & slow the aging process!
HOW TO EAT IT: Acai is a small, reddish-purple berry native to South America. A far way to travel from the US, acai berries are best purchased as the frozen pulp. Supplements and powders are not recommended, as supplements are poorly regulated and many have proven to contain little to no active acai compounds. A higher calorie fruit, due to its high proportion of healthy fat keep serving size in mind. With a flavor best described as a cross between a raspberry and dark chocolate, acai is delicious when added to a savory smoothie or make it into an acai bowl and top with fruit, nuts and eat with a spoon!
WHAT IT DOES FOR YOU: This little berry has gotten a lot of attention. This berry contains a unique combination of antioxidants, amino acids and omega fatty acids that have contributed to its nickname as the “beauty berry”. This list of nutrients promote the bodies immune system while also boosting many of the metabolic pathways in our body to combat the aging process and promote healthy hair, skin and nails! The ORAC or Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity is a number used to measure the antioxidant capacity of foods, Acai received a score of 3,500 which is well over that of other fruits such as apples and bananas.
HOW TO EAT THEM: A bright red berry native in Asian countries. They are most commonly found in the US in their dried form. Also known as wolfberry or lycium, these berries can be found in asian markets or in the bulk section for a much more affordable price. A subtly sweet, tart taste most similar to dried cranberries, goji berries make for a great topping to a smoothie or are great blended them right in!
WHAT DOES IT DO FOR YOU: Arguably the healthiest dried berry on the market. Goji berries retain the highest amount of antioxidants of commonly found dried fruits on the market, suggesting the antioxidants found in goji berries are more stable than those found in raisins or blueberries during the drying process. Low in sugar, goji berries on average contain 10-15g less sugar than dried raisins or cranberries. A significant source of protein (4g per 1 oz serving), potassium, iron and vitamin A, goji berries pack a punch for such a small berry!
HOW TO EAT IT: Native to Peru and grown high up in the Andes, maca is a very sturdy and durable plant enduring intense sunlight, harsh winds and freezing temperatures. A member of the cruciferous family which includes broccoli, cauliflower, kale, turnips and radishes. Maca powder is made from the roots of the plant, most often found ground into a fine powder. Maca has a sweet and nutty flavor with a subtle butterscotch taste. Macas’ flavor is complimented when paired with chocolate or cacao, savory nut butters and dates in a smoothie or can be mixed into oatmeal or even pancake batters!
WHAT DOES IT DO FOR YOU: Maca contains a range of beneficial nutrients including vitamins B, C, D, E, iron, potassium, copper, magnesium, selenium, phosphorus and calcium. A diverse source of amino acids, fiber and carbohydrates, maca is known for its energizing and mood boosting properties. Maca has also gained a considerable reputation for its ability to boost sexual desire and function in both men and women. How is that for a mood boost!
Smoothies are an endless possibility of combinations. They are a terrific way to add in some serious nutrition to your breakfast routine or mix up a grab&go lunch or snack. Pack them with fruits, vegetables and maybe throw in a superfood or two; there is no right or wrong way to make a smoothie…as long as it tastes good!
~ Abby Hueber, RD