Protein shakes and smoothies are best-known as quick, convenient ways to work healthy ingredients into your diet. However, it’s surprisingly easy to make an unhealthy smoothie, too. Here are 10 nutrient-dense ingredients to add to your morning smoothie to keep you healthy and fueled up all day.
Sure, loading your morning smoothie with fruit juices and sweeteners might taste yummy, but they don’t offer you any health benefits. If you want to kick your smoothie drinking game up a notch, pick a few of these star ingredients and get to blending!
How to Build a Well-Balanced Smoothie
There are tons of smoothie recipes out there, but the ingredients you should use will vary depending on your goals. We can point you in the right direction, though.
Here are five key elements to add to your smoothies to keep them well-balanced:
- Fruit: You probably already add some, but go beyond bananas. While potassium and vitamins B6 and C are all good, try adding blueberries, too—they’re loaded with antioxidants. Or, give yourself a good dose of fiber and other vitamins with mango. One cup of fresh or frozen fruit is a good rule of thumb.
- Vegetables: A handful of leafy greens (like spinach or kale) go a long way nutritionally, but you won’t taste much of a difference. Other sweet veggie options that add some depth and also taste yummy are pumpkin, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, or cucumber.
- A liquid base: This helps you blend and thin everything else out. Choose a healthy unsweetened option, like plant-based milk or water. Even a splash of leftover black coffee works and will give you a caffeine boost.
- Protein: This not only helps curb hunger, but it also helps your muscles recover after a long workout. Some options include Greek yogurt, nut butter, or protein powder.
- Fat: Like all other components of a well-balanced smoothie, every ingredient has health benefits. Healthy fats are good for your heart, promote healthy hair and nails, and also curb hunger. Add a few slices of avocado, some cashews, or a dash of coconut oil to your smoothie.
Within each of these categories, certain ingredients stand out from the rest, so let’s look at our top 10. We’ll share why we recommend adding each of these to your smoothie, along with details about their taste, texture, and health benefits.
Chia seeds are loaded with fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and cancer-fighting antioxidants. With so many health benefits, it’s no wonder why we’d recommend throwing these tiny seeds in your blender.
They’re flavorless, too, so a mere tablespoon won’t alter how your smoothie tastes. If you don’t drink smoothies every day, chia seeds are also great in overnight oats, hot oatmeal, cereal, and yogurt parfaits. Feel free to sprinkle some over your avocado toast, as well, for a savory twist.
Speaking of avocado, everyone can reap some incredible health benefits from this fruit. They’re low-sugar, but high in fat, and rich in vitamins. They also contain lots of potassium, which is excellent for a healthy heart.
A few slices of avocado go a long way in a smoothie, nutritionally speaking, but the texture they add is nice, too. Like bananas, avocados add a rich, creamy texture that can turn grittier smoothie ingredients into a much more palatable consistency.
Cinnamon is well-known for its excellent warming properties in hot desserts during fall and winter, but did you know just a small amount provides incredible health benefits, too?
Studies have confirmed that cinnamon can lower blood sugar levels by quite a bit, which is great news for those who have Type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance. Plus, just a dash of cinnamon tastes fantastic in a smoothie! It can give it just the added boost of yum you’re looking for.
In case you hadn’t heard, berries are one of the healthiest foods you can eat. They’re loaded with antioxidants, high in fiber, and filled with nutrients, like vitamins C and K1, and manganese.
In addition to their abundance of nutrients and health benefits, berries will also give your smoothie a sweet, delicious flavor you just can’t get from artificial powders. So, keep a bag of frozen berries in your freezer and toss at least half a cup into your smoothie.
Many people like adding cold cow’s milk to their smoothie, but if you’re looking for a cholesterol-free option with lower calories, we recommend something like unsweetened almond milk. It packs only 30 calories and 2.5 grams of fat in one, eight-ounce glass.
For comparison, an eight-ounce glass of whole cow’s milk contains around 150 calories and 8 grams of fat.
If you’re working hard on those Popeye biceps, you know the hilarious sailor would tell you to eat your spinach! Unlike the famous cartoon character, though, you won’t grow muscles overnight just from downing a can of spinach.
Still, it’s true that adding just a few handfuls to your smoothie provides lots of health benefits. Folate, protein, and fiber are just a few of the nutrients you’ll get from this leafy green. And don’t worry about flavor—the taste of spinach is incredibly easy to mask with other ingredients.
Turmeric offers several significant health benefits, including anti-inflammatory properties. It can help fight chronic inflammation and other conditions, like heart disease, cancer, and certain degenerative diseases.
This bright yellow spice boasts a compound called curcumin, which is what provides all of turmeric’s scientifically proven health benefits. The earthy fragrance and slightly pungent flavor won’t be as strong after you add other flavorful ingredients, like fruit.
Plain Greek Yogurt
Plain Greek yogurt is just what you need to thicken up your morning smoothie. Without any added sugars, this protein-rich ingredient will help cream together your smoothie, without making it overly sweet.
The fiber in Greek yogurt also helps you feel full for longer periods. Plus, the calcium and antioxidants are added perks of this creamy ingredient. If you also want to add a touch of sweetness to your smoothie, we recommend something natural, like pure maple syrup or honey.
Natural Nut Butter
Nut butter can add some depth and a desirable creaminess to your smoothie that is sure to have you swooning! It’ll definitely take your smoothie recipe up a notch in flavor. Keep it moderate when adding nut butter, though—too much can cause a calorie overload. Just one tablespoon contains approximately 80+ calories.
Although it’s high in calories, natural peanut butter doesn’t contain any additives, but is packed with protein and healthy fats. Again, as long as you keep it moderate, your smoothie will taste amazing and curb your hunger all day.
Ginger is another ingredient that can add one heck of a zing and take a boring smoothie to the next level. This spicy ingredient also helps with nausea, indigestion, and can even relieve menstrual cramps.
Like cinnamon, a bit of ground ginger will also give your smoothie that cozy, warm taste. Feel free to add freshly grated ginger root instead, if you prefer, for an even more invigorating flavor.
Smoothies are the perfect way to ensure you get a well-balanced, nutritious breakfast, even on the busiest mornings. Experiment with any of these ingredients to add an extra boost of flavor, energy, and nutrition. And to keep the healthy trend going, why not have a smoothie bowl for lunch?