Whether you have a stash of frozen fruits and veggies lying around or fresh produce that needs to be used up, a smoothie is one of the easiest ways to consume lots of health-boosting nutrients at once, from leafy greens to berries and sweet tropical fruits. Smoothies are also a great way to get a boost of energy when you’re busy, especially if you add a spoonful of protein-rich almond butter or Greek yogurt. In case you’re as tired as the rest of us, we’ve researched 13 new ingredients that will make your smoothies taste even better and add extra health benefits.
Give your smoothies a kick with cayenne pepper.
Preliminary evidence suggests that eating cayenne could speed up metabolism and improve vascular health. The heat from cayenne perfectly complements tropical fruits like mango and pineapple and can be enhanced by some grated ginger or turmeric.
Bee pollen has a light and sweet floral taste—it’s especially delicious paired with a coconut-water-based berry smoothie.
Even better, some research suggests that bee pollen can be used to protect the liver! There’s also evidence it could be used to combat allergies, but the results are inconclusive. For now, combine bee pollen granules into your smoothie, or just sprinkle them on top for a little texture.
But unlike marijuana, CBD is not intoxicating and won’t alter your state or get you high. Many CBD fans with inflammation, anxiety and muscle soreness swear by their favorite full-spectrum CBD oil, added to their favorite smoothie. The citrusy flavors from Charlotte’s Web, Lemon Twist and Orange Blossom, brighten up a green juice of coconut water, apple, celery, arugula and kale. This one from Gaia contains a higher level of CBD, so you’re going to want to mask the weed-y taste with lots of fruit and a Greek yogurt or almond milk base.
NASA and the European Space Agency have both endorsed spirulina as an immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory and protein-rich ingredient in astronaut food.
If astronauts can’t convince you the powder is worth your time, the U.S. National Library of Medicine also hails spirulina as an effective protein source for vegans and a potential way to lower blood pressure. Be warned: spirulina is from the sea, so it might taste of the ocean (in other words, ever-so-slightly fishy, the way seaweed snacks can). You can mask that with a quick drizzle of honey or the addition of overripe bananas.
Turmeric contains a multitasking powerhouse called curcumin, which is known to decrease inflammation.
Studies have also suggested that curcumin may also help kick hay fever, ease joint and muscle pain and even boost mood for people with depression (when taken alongside their usual antidepressant medications). It’s easiest for your body to absorb curcumin from fresh turmeric root, but the powdered version, still packs a punch—and lasts a lot longer. Important note: To get the most of turmeric’s anti-inflammatory effects in your smoothie, you need to activate the plant with a few added shakes of black pepper. Grated ginger or an almond milk base will mask any peppery taste.
Our current favorite milk alternative.
If you’re tired of the same nut milk or coconut water base in your smoothies, try hemp milk instead. It tastes sweet and nutty and is a little thicker than almond milk, so it makes for a great on-the-go beverage (the more liquidy your smoothie is, the higher the chance of spills!). Plus, hemp milk is full of essential fatty acids like omega-3s and omega-6s, which are known to fight inflammation and may even give your immune system a boost.
The ashwagandha plant is an “adaptogen”—and studies suggest that adaptogenic plants and nutrients may help the human body resist negative effects of stress.
But before you add a powdered version of the earthy-tasting root to your smoothie, check how it interacts with any prescription meds you take. Ashwagandha may mix poorly with immunosuppressants and sedatives. If all is well, combine the powerful powder with something sweet or spicy in your smoothie (like fresh carrot juice or pineapple with some grated ginger) to mask ashwagandha’s bitterness.
You’ve definitely had an acai bowl but what about a pitaya, or dragon fruit, bowl?
Dragon fruit contains “prebiotic” fiber, meaning that it helps balance the good and bad bacteria in your gut and keep your digestion running smoothly. The bright pink fruit is also full of antioxidants, which are like cheerleaders for your immune system. The frozen cubes make a delicious base for a smoothie or bowl.
Collagen is the protein that keeps skin plump and line-free—and as we age, our supply of it starts to deplete.
(No wonder stars like Kourtney Kardashian and Jennifer Garner drink a powder version of the supplement every day.) A 2014 study from the department of dermatology at the University of Kiel in Germany, found that consuming collagen peptides (a broken-down version of the protein) for eight weeks improved skin elasticity and moisture in study subjects. And, not to gross you out, but the stuff is mostly found in cow hides and fish and chicken parts. So you may want to look for a collagen powder sourced from free-range and grass fed animals, like this one from Vital Proteins. Add a scoop of the plain version to any smoothie, or give your green juice a fruity kick with the hibiscus-flavored option.
Need a jolt of caffeine without the jitters? Or a boost of magnesium to ease PMS symptoms?
Try adding a scoop of cacao powder or a handful of cacao nibs to your morning smoothie. They’re especially delicious blended with almond milk, a spoonful of almond butter, coconut flakes and a banana.
Like ashwagandha, maca is an adaptogen, so it may help regulate your body’s response to stress. Maca powder’s nutty taste means it’s great mixed in cacao smoothies. But reviewers warn that it’s best to start with a quarter- or half-teaspoon to avoid a jittery feeling.
Soak chia seeds in water or almond milk until they start to form a thick, pudding-like consistency before using.
To get the most out of your chia seeds, soak them in water or almond milk until they start to form a thick, pudding-like consistency before tossing them into your smoothie. This turns them into a soluble fiber, which is great for your digestion and for keeping your blood pressure down in times of stress.
Flaxseeds are a great source of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids (and they’re much longer-lasting and easier to toss into a smoothie than fish—shudder).
Ground flaxseeds are easiest for your body to digest, so skip the whole ones unless you have a coffee bean or mortar and pestle at home. Their subtle nutty taste makes them a no-brainer addition to any of your favorite smoothie recipes.