Smoothies can be a great way to pack in some serious nutrition with minimal effort and maximum deliciousness. If you’re looking for a simple way to get your recommended daily servings of fruits and veggies, or have a specific healthy-eating goal this year, smoothies make it easy to boost your intake of antioxidants and other key nutrients for good health. That said, many fast-food and store-bought smoothies are sugar heavy and lack the nutrients you’d expect to see in something marketed as good for you.
Whether you’re looking to revamp your smoothie style or are making smoothies for the first time, here are some top tips for a great-tasting antioxidant smoothie.
Clever Combinations for Smoothies You’ll Love
The key to a good smoothie is mastering the clever combination of healthy liquids, special supplements, and those all-important fruits and veggies. If you’re completely new to smoothie-making, this can be a bit daunting. But don’t worry, we’re here to help!
Some excellent liquid options for smoothies include unsweetened almond, rice, hemp, or soy milk, cold herbal teas, or plain water. These all have different thicknesses and varied nutrient and calorie profiles, so your choice will depend on how thick and creamy you like your smoothie, as well as your nutrient needs.
Herbal teas such as ginger and lemon, green, white, or cinnamon spice can help support good digestion, antioxidant status, and general health without adding any extra calories or sugar.* They also make for a thinner smoothie that can be easier to drink if you have difficulty swallowing thicker liquids.
Fortified non-dairy milks can add protein as well as calcium, iron, and vitamins B12 and D. Check the labels to see if your chosen liquid contributes to your daily need for these nutrients.
If you have a specific health goal in mind, such as supporting muscle health, blood glucose regulation already within the normal range, skin health, eyesight, or joint health, you might want to add special supplements (as per label suggested use) to your smoothie.* These might include green food powders, protein, essential fatty acids, or single supplements like curcumin, lutein, blueberry, cinnamon, or spirulina.
Fruits and veggies
A great way to pack in nutrients is to make a daily smoothie with antioxidant-containing foods. Antioxidants are chemicals that inhibit free radicals, which may help support cellular health.* Wondering where to start? Check out some antioxidant-abundant fruits and veggies!
Color may be helpful in selecting fruits and vegetables with robust antioxidant capacity. While not all antioxidant compounds are pigmented, many of them are. Some colorful antioxidant compounds include anthocyanins (blue, purple, red), carotenoids (orange, red), and chlorophyll (green).
Anthocyanins, responsible for blue, purple, and some red coloring in fruits and vegetables, have powerful antioxidant capacity. Examples of foods with anthocyanins are blueberries, raspberries, currants, black cherries, red apples, and red cabbage. Carotenoids, contributing orange and some red colors to fruits and vegetables, also have antioxidant capacity and can be found in carrots, bell peppers, and pumpkin. Chlorophyll, responsible for the green in leafy greens such as kale, chard, and spinach, while lower in antioxidant capacity than the other two pigments discussed, is still a reliable source of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.
Feeling a little more adventurous and want to take your smoothie game to the next level? Here are 10 of the best antioxidant smoothie ingredients you’re unlikely to see in a lacklustre store-bought drink:
|Food||Antioxidant Content µmol/g|
|Indian gooseberry (Amla berries), dried||2615|
|Peppermint leaves, dried||1608.2|
|Baobab fruit powder, dried||1400.0|
|Cinnamon spice, ground||1314.2|
|Turmeric spice, ground||1270.7|
|Vanilla bean spice, dried||1224.0|
|Acai berry pulp/skin/puree powder||1027.0|
|Nutmeg spice, ground||696.4|
|Cocoa powder, unsweetened||556.5|
|Ginger spice, ground||390.4|
As this table shows, many of the best ingredients for antioxidants are herbs and spices. While you can’t use spices alone to make a great-tasting smoothie, it’s definitely worth including some in your smoothie concoctions. Many more-common household herbs and spices, including oregano, cloves, and thyme, are also powerful antioxidants.
Because we use herbs and spices in much smaller quantities, you might want to do a little math to figure out the actual antioxidant boost you’ll get with each ingredient.
Spices such as cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, and nutmeg tend to weight around 1.5–3 g per teaspoon. So, to calculate the approximate antioxidant content of a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, you would multiply the number above by 2.3 (the weight of a teaspoon of cinnamon). This shows an antioxidant content of 3,023, making it a little lower that the equivalent of a cup of sliced apple.
If you’re wondering how to combine these ingredients to make a smoothie that tastes good, take a look at the following recipes.
Fun, Seasonal, Smoothie Recipes
Try the following combinations for a delicious and nutritious smoothie, whatever the season:
1. Crisp summer smoothie– Apple, ground cinnamon, raw ginger, and green tea
2. Candy cane smoothie – cocoa powder, peppermint leaves, kale (stems removed), and almond milk
3. Winter warmer – raw ginger, ground turmeric, and black cherry juice
4. Pecan pie smoothie – ground nutmeg, clove, cinnamon, raw ginger, pecans, and apple juice
Once you’ve chosen your flavor combinations, add your ingredients to a high-powered blender (recommended if using nuts and seeds) and blend until smooth. For a refreshing smoothie, add ice and blend again before serving. If the smoothie is too thick, add some water or extra non-dairy milk or juice.
To help balance nutrient intake and slow down the digestion of the natural sugars in fruits and fruit juices, add a scoop of plant-based protein powder. You’ll need a little extra liquid along with the protein, so the smoothie isn’t too thick.
Plant-Based Foods and Antioxidants
One benefit of including more plant foods in your diet is that these foods have many more antioxidants than animal-derived foods. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, pulses, spices, herbs, and grains contain a wide variety of compounds that help protect the plants from pests and other sources of damage. In many cases, these same compounds, which include phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals, can also benefit human health.*