A smoothie can be your best friend or worst enemy, depending on what you put in the blender. Mixtures whipped with sweeteners, sweet flavored yogurt, or even excessive amounts of fruit could have a sugar content close to that of a bowl of ice cream! That too-sweet situation could cause disease-causing inflammation in the body and depress your immune system--not exactly healthy.
On the flip side, the right smoothie can turn ingredients that might not be the tastiest yet are still highly nutritious into a delicious blend bursting with antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. Plus, they're perfect for on-the-go lifestyles. "Smoothies are a fast, portable, and delicious way to get a diversity of nutrients into your body," explains Navitas Naturals Chef Julie Morris, author of Superfood Smoothies: 100 Delicious, Energizing & Nutrient-dense Recipes.
So, in the spirit of true superfood smoothies, we call out 11 smoothie add-ins to have on standby as smoothie ingredients.
Superfood Status: Perfect for thickening up a smoothie, these tiny energy-promoting seeds thicken and turn into a gel. Chia is a robust source of protein and is rich in trace minerals. The seeds also contain more than three times the concentration of essential fatty acids in most grains.
Winning Combo: "It's a very neutral flavor, so it pairs well with virtually any food," Morris says. "It's one of the most versatile superfoods on the planet--literally, put it in anything."
Try This: Opt for organic chia seeds, since certain pesticides can build up in a plant's seeds.
Superfood Status: A bit bitter on their own, they're a great smoothie ingredient because other flavors can mask the bitterness. One of the world's richest sources of antioxidants, goji berries contain 18 amino acids. Traditional cultures cherish the berry for its immune-boosting and vision-protecting properties. It also helps keep your liver and kidneys healthy.
Winning Combo: Organic goji berries or goji powder, coconut water, and lime
Try This: Goji berries also pair well with cacao, Morris says.
Superfood Status: Don't like cooked kale on the dinner table? Enjoy the green powerhouse raw in a smoothie instead. Dubbed one of the world's healthiest veggies, kale contains isothiocyanate and glucosinolate compounds that help lower your risk of cancer.
Winning Combo: Kale, apple, banana
Try This: Fresh, organic kale from your local farmer's market
Superfood Status: An antioxidant-rich tropical fruit, camu-camu boasts a vitamin C concentration up to 60 times greater than an orange. It's also rich in potassium, calcium, protein, and other phytochemicals. "Just a quarter teaspoon gives you over 250 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamin C, and you'll never taste its strong tartness," Morris says. "Camu is a 'why not?' functional ingredient."
Winning Combo: Camu camu powder and tropical fruits or vanilla
Superfood Status: Great in creamier smoothies, cacao is the raw form of chocolate and is one of the world's richest sources of antioxidants and magnesium, explains Morris. Cacao also contains iron and potassium.
Winning Combo: Raw cacao, almond butter, banana or added to berry smoothies
Superfood Status: Boasting a strong, earthy, slightly butterscotch flavor, maca is rich in mood-boosting B vitamins, amino acids, and brain-boosting fatty acids. The root has long been used in traditional medicine to raise libido and combat fatigue, Morris explains.
Winning Combo: Mix maca powder with cacao, nuts, creamy ingredients; avoid using with fruits (pineapple, dates, and bananas are an exception)
Superfood Status: Wheatgrass is loaded with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fiber, antioxidants, and even a bit of beneficial fatty acids. It will help boost your energy and immune function while detoxifying your body. It helps alkalinize your body to balance out high acid culprits like coffee and meat.
Winning Combo: Wheatgrass and spinach, or with fruits like strawberries, pineapple, and banana
Try This: Use organic wheat grass powder for convenience or grow your own from organic seeds.
Superfood Status: Coconut oil contains lots of lauric acid, a potent immune system protector, and the same compound found in breast milk.
Winning Combo: Coconut oil, bananas, almond milk, strawberries, honey
Try This: Nutiva's organic virgin coconut oil is one of our staff favorites.
Superfood Status: Avocados are rich in vitamin E, a nutrient that could help protect your brain from Alzheimer's disease. They even contain plant-based proteins.
Winning Combo: Avocados and cucumbers
Try This: Try pairing with blueberries, banana, and almond milk if cucumbers aren't your thing.
Superfood Status: Whey protein contains the amino acid cysteine that helps convert glutathione in the body. Glutathione is a potent antioxidant that prepares cells for battle against bacterial or viral infections. (Note: Since this comes from a cow, it isn't suitable for vegans.)
Winning Combo: Organic whey, banana, Greek yogurt, peanut butter, cacao
Try This: Look for raw, organic, grass-fed whey protein for the ultimate superfood punch
Superfood Status: Hemp contains all of the amino acids to form complete protein, making it a go-to protein source for vegans and vegetarians. Not getting enough protein can make you tired, cranky, and even cause skin rashes and changes in skin color.
Winning Combo: Hemp protein powder, almond milk, peanut butter, banana