Beyond Fruits and Vegetables: 6 Healthy Smoothie Additions
Throwing some fresh fruits and vegetables into a blender and whipping up a cool smoothie is great path to better health. But there are a lot more ingredients you can add beyond just produce. From flax seed to whey protein and spirulina, here we give you six health-boosting supplements that will make your morning smoothie truly pack a healthy punch.
Raw Cacao Powder
Turn your smoothie into a chocolate delight with raw cacao powder. Cacao is the unprocessed form of chocolate, which is roasted to form cocoa. Filled with oleic acid, an essential heart-healthy fat, and with plenty of antioxidants and important vitamins and minerals, cacao is great for heart health: It can lower blood pressure, improve circulation and reduce LDL cholesterol and plaque buildup on artery walls. With more flavonoids than any other food, including blueberries and green tea, raw chocolate’s antioxidants neutralize free radicals, slowing the aging process, and the cacao encourages the production of digestive enzymes, improving digestion. Plus its serotonin-boosting properties elevate your mood. Be sure to purchase it raw, because the heat during processing lowers its health benefits.
An excellent source of complete protein, whey protein is a natural, high-quality protein produced from cow’s milk that is used as a dietary supplement. As an easy-to-digest, animal-sourced protein, whey protein contains all of the essential amino acids, which build lean muscle tissue, aid in brain functioning and serve as the building blocks for healthy muscles and tissues. Whey protein’s high protein content helps suppress the appetite and may increase muscle mass and strength, both of which help with weight loss, as does its high leucine content. Leucine signals the body to increase storing amino acids, which makes the body add muscle. Long used by body builders, whey protein is loaded with branched-chain amino acids, which help muscle repair and preservation and are used as fuel during and after workouts.
The center of the wheat kernel, wheat germ is the primary source of nutrition in the kernel. Loaded with fiber, just one 115g serving of wheat germ meets 60 percent of your daily dietary fiber needs. A powerhouse of nutrients, the germ is high in iron, zinc, magnesium and folic acid, important in preventing birth defects. Folic acid also reduces the compound homocysteine, which, in turn, lowers risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and dementia. Wheat germ is also full of protein and healthy fats, plus contains a great deal of vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that protects cells from damage and supports immune function and liver detoxification.
This tiny seed has been linked to an incredible list of health benefits. An excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, the heart-healthy good fats, flax seeds improve the cardiovascular system, lowering blood pressure and normalizing heartbeat. High in both soluble and insoluble fiber, the omega-3s coupled with the fiber reduce joint inflammation and prevent diabetes and heart disease. Flax seed is known as the best source of lignans available, cancer-fighting phytonutrients that prevent colon, prostate and breast cancer and strengthen the body’s immune defenses. They are also a better source of polyphenol antioxidants – an important group of antioxidants that prevent heart disease – than fruits such as blueberries. Go with ground flaxseed over whole seeds for better absorption.
A South American staple, chia seeds are bursting with antioxidants that protect the cells from free radicals, aging and cancer. Their minerals – such as calcium, phosphorus and magnesium – help maintain a healthy weight and aid in energy metabolism. Because of their protein, fiber, amino acid tryptophan and gelling response to liquids, chia seeds can help you to feel satiated, again aiding with weight loss. This same gelling action produces a coating that prevents blood sugar spikes and slows down digestion, making them useful for diabetes sufferers. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, especially alpha-linolenic acid, the seeds can lower inflammation and improve cognitive functioning. With one-third of the daily recommended intake of fiber per serving, chia seeds regulate bowel function and improve digestive health. Their health fats can also lower triglycerides and bad cholesterol while increasing good cholesterol. Entirely tasteless, just sprinkle them into your smoothie or salad.
This green super food is a type of blue-green algae that grows in fresh water. Laden with protein, vitamins and minerals, spirulina is especially known for its carotenoids, powerful antioxidants that protect the body from cell damage. Studies suggest that spirulina boosts the immune system and aids in fighting cancer. The chlorophyll in spirulina helps detox the blood and improves the body’s defenses. Mostly composed of protein and essential amino acids, it is great for vegetarians, especially because of its iron content. It also helps control high blood pressure and cholesterol, plus its essential fatty acid gamma linolenic acid reduces inflammation. While it is best to take about 2 teaspoons per day, watch how much you add to your smoothie; this supplement is not known for its taste.