Smoothies are a popular way to have breakfast for those with a low appetite and a busy schedule. Many smoothies sold in stores are similar to juice; high in sugar and without significant fiber content. For this reason I do my best to make a batch of smoothies that will last me a couple days. I know I am not alone in enjoying a breakfast smoothie, they can be tweaked to cater to anyone's pallet. Here are some simple additions for the average smoothie to bump it up in nutritional value!
Cinnamon, ground ginger, ground turmeric, cocoa, nutmeg, saffron, & cayenne pepper are all great smoothie additions! When these spices are used in small amounts, they can bring out new flavors without standing out too much themselves. Doing so boosts the antioxidant unit levels in your smoothies by hundreds (source).
Most of the spices I have listed will add an extremely mild flavor or none at all! If unaltered flavor is of utmost importance- stick to turmeric and black pepper. Why? Turmeric is almost flavorless but has incredible antioxidant power, and its bio-availability is increased when a little black pepper is consumed at the same time (source). Need more motivation to eat your turmeric? Turmeric has been shown to have carcinogen blocking effects in studies, and can reprogram cell death to kill cancer cells while keeping healthy cells intact (source).
When I tell people there is cayenne and ginger in my smoothies they assume it is very spicy! I promise if you are adding a small enough amount you will not even notice it. Cayenne and ginger are great to add to your smoothies if you suffer from chronic pain or migraines. Cayenne can reduce abdominal pain and bloating associated with IBS as well as reduce inflammation all over the body (source), while ginger can assist in reducing menstrual cramps and headaches (source).
Don't feel like adding much but want that antioxidant boost? Add cinnamon! Cinnamon is one of the most antioxidant rich foods by weight, meaning just a little bit goes a long way, and it pairs well with just about every smoothie. Want a decadent chocolate smoothie? Add peanut butter and cocoa powder to frozen cherries and green tea for a super antioxidant boost. Cocoa powder is also in the top twelve of most antioxidant rich foods by weight (source)
Ground Flax seeds are extremely important for our health. If you haven't noticed by now, a lot of my information is sourced from NutritionFacts.org. Dr. Greger is the primary author of this non-profit site and also published the book "How Not To Die" on plant based nutrition. He greatly emphasizes the importance of adding a tablespoon of ground flax seeds to our DAILY diet. Whats so great about flax, specifically GROUND flax? Ground flax seed consumption may decrease breast cancer risk & slow one’s menstrual cycle (meaning periods become shorter and lighter) by dampening the effects of estrogen on our bodies. It may also control prostate enlargement as effectively as the leading prescription drug without any side effects and for much cheaper (source). Additionally, eating a daily tablespoon of ground flax seeds for a month appears to improve fasting blood sugars, triglycerides, cholesterol, and hemoglobin A1c levels in diabetics who previously had no flax in their diet. Ground flax seeds reduce the blood sugar spike following a meal when consumed at the same time, so adding them to your smoothies will keep your insulin levels steady (source). When flax seeds are consumed whole they pass through the digestive tract whole and we lose the nutrients & benefits- so be sure to buy them ground or grind them up in a coffee grinder or food processor.
Hemp hearts and Chia seeds are great sources of protein and essential omega fatty acids. These will help you feel fuller longer and also keep blood sugar levels from spiking. For every 30 grams of hemp seeds (a couple tablespoons) there is 11 grams of protein and 13.5 grams of fat, making them the perfect addition to keep hunger away. In that same serving you are also getting 23% of your daily intake of Zinc and 48% of your daily intake of Magnesium (source). Chia seeds are a great complimentary seed to Hemp seeds, whatever Hemp seeds lack, Chia seeds seem to have. For every 30 grams of Chia seeds there is 4.7 grams of protein and 9.2 grams of fat. 6.9 grams of that fat is Polyunsaturated fat & .64 grams of Monounsaturated fat, known as one of the healthy fats. Just over 7000 milligrams of combined Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids are contained in this small package (source)!
Last but never least; Greens
Greens are extremely vital to a healthy diet but are often overlooked. Leafy greens are rich in minerals, vitamins, and fiber and low in calories. Spinach, for example, is an excellent source of plant-based iron. Non-heme iron that is found in plants (as opposed to heme iron found in animal sources) is better absorbed into the body with the help of acidic fruits like Oranges. Adding citrus juices and spinach to your smoothies is the perfect way to ensure you're not missing out on this important nutrient (source).
The easiest way to get greens in is inside a healthy smoothie because fruit flavors will keep your smoothie tasty and sweet. Simplest way to do this is to buy a bag of spinach, kale or spring mix and keep it in your freezer. Another great green to put in your smoothies in juice form is wheat grass. I grow my own Wheat Grass and juice it about once a month to add a shot to several batches of smoothies.
THE OFFICIAL SMOOTHIE BOOSTER LIST:
Below is a sorted list of all the foods I have described above as well as additional "super foods" that can be found easily in the freezer aisle, juiced, or powdered. Keep in mind, the raw material will usually have more benefits than the dried and powdered version. All foods are listed from flavorless to the most flavorful so you can control the taste of your smoothie!
Flax seed (ground)
Hemp hearts (no flavor, just texture)
Nutmeg- just a pinch!
Soy milk- you can get vanilla flavor too
Cayenne- little goes a long way!
Lemon Juice/ Lime Juice
Nut butters (peanut, almond, sunflower seed etc.)
Side note: Spirulina is quite commonly known as a powerful super food- however you can find the reasoning behind why I won't recommend it HERE.
More info on ANTIOXIDANTS
More info on ALOE
More info on APRICOT
More info on AVOCADO
More info on COCOA
More info on FLAX SEED BENEFITS
More info on GINGER ROOT
More info on MACA ROOT
More info on OATS
More info on SUPERFOODS