Food Tips

Your Ultimate Guide To All Those Crazy Smoothie Ingredients

Smoothie ingredients

PHOTOGRAPH BY TINA & GEIR/GETTY IMAGES

Ever stood in line at Juice Press and realized you can’t identify half the smoothie add-ins on the menu? From hemp hearts and maca to protein powder, there’s no end to the number of “superfood” ingredients people are dumping into their smoothies these days.

“Just because you can drink it through a straw, it doesn’t mean it’s nutritionally perfect for your health goals,” says registered dietitianCarlene Thomas, RDN, LD. “Without learning what accurate measurements and serving sizes look like, you could easily be blending a double serving and consuming it without a second thought.”

Before throwing the ingredient du jour into your cup, Thomas gives us the scoop on these nine popular add-ins.

Ultimate Guide To Smoothie Ingredients infographic

IMAGE BY AMANDA BECKER

Chia Seeds
Chia seeds can give you an added boost of energy and help you feel full longer when added to your morning smoothie. Pro tip: Blending your smoothie thoroughly will minimize the “tapioca-like” texture that freaks some people out.
Tastes best with: Everything! The taste is easily masked in any typical smoothie.

Flaxseed
The high fiber content in flaxseed could help with weight regulation and has even been linked to a lower risk for colorectal cancer, according to theAmerican Institute for Cancer Research. Flax is also high in vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids. Word to the wise: The seeds need to be ground before eating in order for your body to fully absorb the nutrients. Buy ground flaxseed or grind your own with a flax mill or coffee grinder before tossing it in the blender. (Some high-speed blenders like the Vitamix or Nutribullet are powerful enough to grind flax.)
Tastes best with: Flax adds a nutty flavor, which makes it a perfect pair for a banana nut smoothie.

Hemp hearts

https://www.instagram.com/p/BFOgMfakLjh/embed/?v=7Hemp hearts, also known as hemp seeds, are a good source of plant protein and are also high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, fiber, magnesium, and other vitamins and minerals. These are a great go-to topper for smoothie bowls, too.
Tastes best with: With a similar but more subdued flavor than flax, hemp hearts can go in almost anything.

Maca
Native to the Andes Mountains of Peru, maca root has been traditionally used there to treat infertility and hormonal issues. (Though it hasn’t been clinically proven to work, according to one analysis.)
Tastes best with: Try it with a sweet, vanilla nut milk smoothie. Sweeter and stronger tasting smoothies do a better job of covering the strong taste.

Cacao

https://www.instagram.com/p/BEd6LQ3QoqZ/embed/?v=7Flavanols, an antioxidant found in cacao, have been linked to increased memory, clearer thinking, and improved attention, according to research. So beat that 3 PM slump with a cacao smoothie instead of a candy bar.
Tastes best with: Blend it with nut butter and a frozen banana for a healthy treat.

Goji berry powder
Goji berries have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, and have recently been touted as a superfood in the US for their antioxidant and nutrient components, according to a study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Goji berries can be purchased in most supermarket and health food stores, but the powder can be an easier and more cost effective way to reap the benefits in your morning smoothie.
Tastes best with: Fruit smoothies and other berries

Camu camu powder
This superfruit grows in the Amazon rainforests of Brazil and Peru and is loaded with vitamin C. The powder blends in seamlessly with fruit smoothies for a low-maintenance, immune-boosting meal.
Tastes best with: Any fruit smoothie

Spirulina

https://www.instagram.com/p/BDTVUqFPl5J/embed/?v=7This microalgae smoothie add-in contains significant amounts of iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and more essential vitamins and minerals. Store it in the refrigerator or freezer to retain and preserve the algae’s nutrients.
Tastes best with: Spirulina gives your favorite green smoothie an extra bright boost.

Protein powder
Not all protein powders are created equal. The protein and calorie content varies widely between brands and type, so reading labels and knowing your goals is important before plopping a scoop in the blender. Also, be cautious if you have dietary restrictions: Whey protein powder is made from cow’s milk, for example. If you want an extra boost, some powders contain added heart- and gut-healthy omega-3 fatty acids andprobiotics. Blend your smoothie a bit before you add in protein powder to minimize blender clean up, suggests Thomas. “Nothing is worse than putting the powder on top and reblending only to have it ‘poof’ inside the blender,” she says.
Tastes best with: The perfect blend depends on the type of protein powder. Some are sweetened with stevia, which could overpower the taste of certain smoothies. “Just find your personal holy grail product,” says Thomas. “It takes trial and error.”

Calorie counts courtesy of the USDA National Nutrient Database andMyFitnessPal.

The article Your Ultimate Guide to All Those Crazy Smoothie Ingredients originally ran on WomensHealthMag.com.

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