Boost your smoothie
We love a good homemade smoothie. Packed full of fruits, veggies and other tasty ingredients, they can be a delicious snack or meal, and can make getting your five a day a very simple task. In addition to the standard smoothie ingredients we're all used to - fruit, milk, yogurt, ice etc, there are lots of additions you can make to enhance your smoothie's healthfulness and taste. Here are nine great ingredients you should try next time you get out the blender.
1. Greek Yogurt
A lot of us already add yogurt to our smoothies, but if you haven't tried using Greek yogurt yet, you really ought to. Thicker than regular yogurt, Greek yogurt is great for making your smoothie nice and creamy as well as a bit more substantial. Also importantly, Greek yogurt contains nearly double the amount of protein as regular yogurt. This is especially important if you're planning to have your smoothie for a meal like breakfast, as protein helps us feel fuller longer. Should we say something here about it being quite high in fat therefore people could reduce this by getting one of the many fat free varieties?
2. Chia Seeds
If you're looking to give your smoothie a bit of a nutritional kick then chia seeds are a great addition. A 28g serving (about 2 tablespoons) comes packed with about 11g of fibre which , as you may recall from our infographic, has great implications for your health. In addition to fibre, 28g of chia seeds will also provide over 4g of protein and nearly 5g of omega 3 fatty acids, which are important for brain health .
We all know that spinach is good for us. Even if it's not your favourite vegetable, it makes a great addition to smoothies because other flavours (like blueberries or mango etc) will be strong enough to mask it. Spinach is very low in calories but high in nutrients. It's a great source of vitamins - particularly A and K - as well as magnesium and iron. Spinach also contains Folate (Folic Acid) which is important for child bearing women .
4. Porridge oats
The problem with having a smoothie in place of a meal is sometimes it's just not robust enough to satiate you for a longer period of time. That's where adding porridge oats comes in - it will make your smoothie thicker, and with its high fibre content, will keep you fuller longer. There are three ways you can add porridge oats to your smoothie - precook it (though it's best to do so the night before so it's had time to cool), add the raw oats directly into your smoothie mix, or pre-grind the oats into a powder in a coffee or spice grinder.
5. Nut butters
While peanut butter may be the most well-known nut butter out there, there are in fact a wide variety of nut butters that are healthy and tasty, and make a fantastic addition to any smoothie with their creamy, nutty flavour. Nut butters, like nuts, are high in protein and healthy fats. The key is to pick butters that are free of hydrogenated oils and added sugars. The best nut butters are made just from nuts! And if you can't find an adequate butter in store, why not give making your own a chance?
6. Green Tea
Green tea is said to be good for our health for a number of reasons. Some of its potential benefits include weight loss , cancer prevention, lowering of blood pressure and cholesterol, and possibly aiding in the prevention of Alzheimer's disease . Green tea can be added to your smoothie as a liquid base (just be sure to brew and cool it beforehand) or as a powder (matcha).
7. Raw Cacao Powder
If you want to add a chocolatey taste to your smoothie, but want to skip the added fat and sugar that processed chocolate contains, then raw cacao powder is a great choice. As it's unprocessed, the powder will have a bitter flavour on its own, but when mixed with other sweet ingredients like fruit, you'll find a delicious chocolatey taste without the added calories. As a bonus, raw cacao in rich in flavanols which have been found to benefit health in a number of ways , including benefiting cardiovascular health .
According to Lovebeetroot.co.uk, a daily serving of beetroot (100g) can lead to the dramatic reduction of blood pressure and associated risks like stroke and heart attack . Adding beetroot to your smoothie will not only boost your health, but will also give it a rich ruby colour. We like to mix beetroot with berries for a sweet, earthy tasting smoothie. To use raw beetroot you will likely need a very powerful blender to get a nice, smooth consistency. If you're blender isn't up to the challenge, then you can precook - either boil or roast - your beetroot until tender before adding it.
Flaxseed is rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is an omega-3 fatty acid that can be helpful for heart health . There are numerous other potential health benefits, which you can read about here. Additionally flaxseed can be a good source of both fibre and protein and it will add a slightly nutty flavour to your smoothie. While you can add the seeds whole, you might find they mix in best after being ground.
10. Your 5 a day
The great thing about smoothies is that if you struggle to get your 5 a day then you can squeeze quite a few servings of fruit and veg into your cup. Just keep in mind that fruit is high in sugar and if you remove the peel and pith etc, you lose some of the fibre you would get eating the fruit whole. Fibre plays an important part in regulating your blood sugar levels when you eat sugar, so you should take care to make sure your smoothies contain as much fibre as possible. You should also try to get your 5 a day from a range of fruits and veggies, not just fruit, to get as many nutrients as possible. So if you plan to put three servings of fruit and veg in there, maybe try one serving of mango, one of blueberries, and another of spinach!
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1. BBC: The chia craze
2. Huffingtonpost: Chia seed benefits
3. Huffingtonpost: Kale vs Spinach
4. Daily Mail: Green tea
5. WebMD: Benefits of green tea
6. Huffingtonpost: What is raw cacao?
7. MARS: Cocoa flavanols in the body
8. Lovebeetroot: Health
9. UMM: Flaxseed