Smoothie season is in full effect.
With the heat rising, I just want to shove more and more fresh fruits and veggies in my face à la Hungry Hungry Hippos.
The thought of a hot chili or shepherd’s pie makes me want to immediately jump in an ice cold pool… and then be served a delicious and refreshing smoothie to wash that horrifyingly hot idea far, far away.
But year-round, smoothies are a great way to get additional nutrients into our diets.
A nutrient-dense, whole foods diet is the foundation of good health, and smoothies can play an important role in helping provide some of this nutrient density.
I think of smoothies as pint-sized shots of nutrition to supplement my diet — they make it easy to eat numerous servings of fruits and veggies. And why I don’t particularly love the term “superfood” since it’s often abused in marketing, certain foods are especially nutrient-dense and make a great addition to smoothies to give you an extra nutritional boost.
Supercharge your smoothie with these 8 Superfood add-ins
1) Fermented greens
The enzymes and probiotics from the fermention process will help your body digest and absorb the nutrients from the rest of the smoothie. The fermentation process also increases the vitamin and mineral content of the greens themselves, and makes them more bioavailable (that is, your body can absorb them more easily).
2) Coconut oil
Healthy fats should always be included in smoothies to balance out the sugars from the fruits and veggies, help your body absorb the vitamins and minerals of the other smoothie ingredients, and keep you satiated. And as we know, coconut oil is one of the healthiest fats out there.
Coconut oil is rich in antioxidants, and helps in the absorption of minerals. Most notably, coconut oil is an incredible source of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which have been shown to have many health benefits. While most of the fats we consume are long chain fatty acids that must be broken down before they can be absorbed, medium chain fatty acids are easily digested and sent right to the liver for energy production. And since they’re sent right to the liver, MCFAs can help increase metabolism and give the body an instant source of energy. To boot, most of the MCFAs in coconut oil are the highly beneficial Lauric Acid, which is antibacterial and nourishing to the gut lining.
3) Collagen peptides
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. Collagen peptides are short chain amino acids that naturally derived from pasture-raised collagen protein. Unlike gelatin, collagen peptides are soluble in cold liquids as well as hot (perfect for smoothies!). Collagen peptides contain the same amino acids as gelatin which are identical to the protein found in skin, nails, hair, bones, cartilage, and joints.
I consume collagen peptides daily for both health and beauty. Because collagen in skincare products doesn’t do squat (the molecules are too large to actually be absorbed by the skin), but collagen in your diet works wonders for both your overall health and your skin — it ensures the cohesion, elasticity, and regeneration of skin, hair, tendons, cartilage, bones, and joints. It is also very healing for the gut-lining (it’s the reason why bone broth is so great for your gut).
Collagen is also a great source of protein — 2 tablespoons of my favorite collagen peptides provides 18 grams of protein. Protein should be included in smoothies to balance out the sugars and keep you feeling full long after your body has digested and used the carbs from the fruits and veggies. Remember, protein and fat should always be coupled! So be sure to add some healthy fats (like coconut oil or flax seeds which are both also on this list) to your smoothie if adding collagen.
Spirulina is an alga that grows naturally in warm fresh water ponds and lakes. It has a very high concentration of the antioxidant beta-carotene, protein, all of the essential amino acids, bioavailable iron, all of the essential fatty acids (omega-3, -6, and -9), and the B-vitamins.
Plus, spirulina is one of the few food sources of natural gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), the omega-6 fatty acid that is found in breast milk and has gained a lot of attention for its potent anti-inflammatory properties.
In 1974, the United Nations named Spirulina “one of the best foods for the future” and a 2008 UN Food and Agriculture Organization report stated that “there is a need for both national governments and inter-governmental organizations to reevaluate the potential of Spirulina to fulfill both their own food security needs as well as a tool for their overseas development emergency response efforts.” That about says it all.
Chlorella is a green single-cell micro alga that grows naturally in fresh water. It gets its name from its very high concentration of chlorophyll. Chlorella is high in protein, chlorophyll, vitamins A and B12, iron, beta-carotene, copper, and zinc.
But nutrient profile aside, chlorella is a great superfood smoothie addition because it is an excellent detoxifying agent. It binds to heavy metals, pesticides, and other toxins, which then make their way through the digestive system and are eliminated from the body. While our bodies do a great job naturally detoxifying themselves, they often need a hand in this especially toxic world.
You want to be sure to use a “broken cell wall” chlorella to ensure that the nutrients are easily digested and highly bioavailable.
6) Camu camu powder
I’ve been supplementing with camu camu powder for awhile now because it’s a whole, real food source of vitamin C (which I always prefer over synthetic vitamins) — just a quarter teaspoon gives you over 250% of the RDA of vitamin C.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant. According to WebMD, “the benefits of vitamin C may include protection against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease, and even skin wrinkling.”
Mark Moyad, MD, MPH, of the University of Michigan studies vitamin C and says: “Higher blood levels of vitamin C may be the ideal nutrition marker for overall health. The more we study vitamin C, the better our understanding of how diverse it is in protecting our health, from cardiovascular, cancer, stroke, eye health [and] immunity to living longer… But the ideal dosage may be higher than the recommended dietary allowance.” And since camu camu powder contains such a high amount of vitamin C, you can choose to take the RDA or more.
7) Flax seeds
Flax seeds are a great source of fiber and the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acid. As you know, we should consume omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids in a 1:1 ratio, but instead consume 10x+ more omega-6s! Not good.
Omega-3 fatty acids are very delicate and go rancid easily, so be sure to refrigerate your flax seeds to preserve the oils. And while flax seeds must be ground in order for your body to absorb all of the nutrients, it is best to buy whole flax seeds (as opposed to pre-ground seeds) to also help protect the oils. But the great thing about adding them to your smoothies is that the blender will do the grinding for you so there is no extra step!
8) Hemp protein/fiber powder
Hemp protein/fiber powder helps keep you feeling full and satiated (the protein) while also promoting intestinal health and aiding your body’s natural detoxification processes (the fiber helps to keep your intestines clean and remove toxins).
Hemp is unique in that it contains more of the digestible plant protein than any other plant. It is also a complete protein — it contains all of the 9 essential amino acids.
Do you have any favorite smoothie add-ins?
Please let us know in the comments below!