Well we’ve dealt with the basic ingredients of smoothies, such as the fruit, leafy greens and the liquid base. Now let’s move on to the extras, those smoothie ingredients that take your drink to the next level. Smoothies can be anything we want them to be, from a refreshing drink on a hot day to a between-meal snack. But they can also be a complete meal. But to do this, you need to add protein and extra vitamins and minerals. This is when you add these smoothie ingredients.
The good news is that you don’t need to go out and buy expensive superfoods or protein powders. If you have a few nuts, seeds, herbs or spices in your pantry, these can all be used. They will add texture and creaminess as well as give your smoothies spice and variety.
If you want to improve the nutrition of your smoothies without adding protein powders then consider using nuts. Nuts allow you to turn a light smoothie into a substantial meal-in-one without using processed foods.
There are two ways to add nuts to smoothies.
- If you have a high-speed blender they can be added without soaking first. Place in the blender first then add the liquid. Turn the blender on and process until smooth. Then add the rest of your ingredients. The ratio is normally ¼ cup of raw nuts to one cup of water.
- If you don’t have a high-speed blender try soaking your nuts first overnight in water. Then drain and rinse before adding to your blender.
Alternatively try nut butters or nut milks. Just add a tablespoon of nut butter to your blender.
Almonds have been cultivated since ancient times. Although high in fat, this fat is monounsaturated (that is one of the good fats). They have the highest vitamin E content of all nuts and are noted for their high calcium content. In fact a third of a cup of nuts equals half a glass of milk. They are also an excellent source of magnesium and manganese and a good source of fiber, copper, phosphorous and riboflavin. Almonds will go with almost any fruit.
Brazil nuts originated in the tropical rainforests of Brazil. They contain selenium, an antioxidant, as well as being high magnesium and calcium. After macadamias, brazils have one of the highest fat contents of all nuts, but most of that is polyunsaturated.
Brazil nuts are great with almond or coconut milk blended with berries.
South American in origin, cashews have the highest plant iron and zinc levels of all nuts. They also contain phosphorus, magnesium, copper and high amounts of tryptophan.
Cashew nuts contain less saturated fat than other nuts. In fact most of the fat in cashews is polyunsaturated and monounsaturated.
Native to the US, pecans resemble walnuts in appearance and nutrition but have a distinctive rich, buttery flavor.
Pecans contain the highest amounts of antioxidants of all the major nuts and have major cholesterol lowering properties, as they contain natural plant sterols (or phytosterols). They also contain over nineteen vitamins and minerals, including vitamins from the B group, vitamin A, vitamin E, calcium, potassium, folic acid, phosphorus, zinc and magnesium.
Like nuts, seeds add protein and body to your smoothies. Either add them straight into your smoothie or soak them first. A high-speed blender will break them down easily.
Also called pepitas, pumpkin seeds are deliciously crunchy seeds that are rich in phosphorus, magnesium and manganese and a good source of iron, copper, zinc and protein. In fact pumpkin seeds have one of the highest levels of protein of any seed or nut. As well as containing high concentrations of amino acids, they are also packed with fiber, vitamins and minerals.
As they are quite high in calories, I would suggest being economical when eating them. Just add 2 tablespoons of fresh hulled pumpkin seeds to your blender. They also make great milk.
Although small in size, they are nonetheless big on nutrients. Sesame seeds are a fantastic source of protein, lignans, fiber, monounsaturated fats, vitamins B1 and B2, and minerals such as copper, magnesium, iron, zinc and calcium.
Sesame seeds can be added to almost any smoothie. Why not try toasting them for added flavour and crunchiness. Add one tablespoon to your blender.
With their nutty flavor, sunflower seeds are high in calories, but chock full of vitamins, particularly vitamin E, minerals and antioxidants.
They are also high in linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid and contain the trace minerals copper, phosphorus and selenium as well as being a great source of vitamin E, vitamins B1 and B5, zinc, fiber and folate. A good protein source they reduce blood sugar levels, decrease anxiety and lower LDL cholesterol levels.
Herbs contain valuable nutrients, so will add extra nutrition to your smoothies as well as a flavor kick.
Basil belongs to the mint family and is one of the most widely use herbs today with its aromatic, spicy flavor.
A good source of vitamin A, vitamin K, magnesium, magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium and vitamin C, basil contains antioxidants to boost the immune system.
Mix it with mango, apples, carrots and berries in your smoothies.
Cilantro (also called coriander) is rich in antioxidants and dietary fiber. It also contains many essential volatile oils and a good source of minerals like potassium, calcium, manganese, iron and magnesium. Cilantro is also rich in many vitamins, including vitamins B2, B3, folate, vitamin A, beta-carotene and vitamin C.
Cilantro is good with pineapple, strawberries and bananas.
Mint contains vitamins A, C and B2 and various essential minerals such as manganese, copper, iron.
If you have a nice big bunch of fresh mint and don’t use it all in one recipe, try pureeing the mint and freezing the puree in ice cube trays.
Mint will give your smoothies a fresh energizing taste and goes well with melon kiwi fruit or strawberries.
Adding a pinch of nutmeg, cinnamon or ginger to your smoothies will spice them up and make them far more interesting.
Cardamom is rich in calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium. It has many health benefits, but is often used to aid the digestive system.
Combine it with mango for an Indian inspired smoothie.
Cinnamon is the dried bark of the cinnamon tree. It has a sweet taste and is often used to sweeten foods without adding sugar. Cinnamon is full of antioxidants said to regulate blood sugar, help lower LDL cholesterol and help prevent yeast infections. It is also rich in magnesium, phosphorus, calcium and potassium.
Dust it over the top of apple or pumpkin smoothies and dream of pie.
Ginger brings its unique taste to all sorts of baked goods, but it can really give smoothies a kick. Try mixing it with orange, apple, pumpkin, or mango. Have you tried it with chocolate? When adding to smoothies, cut off a piece of ginger root (usually about ½ an inch) then grate into your blender.
Ginger is often used to aid the digestive system and to increase the absorption of nutrients and is well known in the treatment of nausea and morning sickness.
Loaded with vitamins C and E, copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron and magnesium, ginger is low in calories but high in fiber. It also contains numerous other anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds.
Nutmeg is the oval-shaped seed which comes from the nutmeg tree. Usually sold in powder form, it adds spice to many dishes and is often used in conjunction with cinnamon.
Nutmeg is rich in potassium, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.
Other Smoothie Ingredients
Part 1 – The Liquid Base
Part 2 – All the Fruits
Part 3 – List of Healthy Greens
Part 4 – The Best Vegetables
Part 6 – Sweeteners
Other – List of Superfoods
Storing your Smoothie Ingredients
How to Store Nuts & Seeds