Once you’ve mastered the art of the basic healthy smoothie (courtesy of our Frozen Green Smoothie System or Make-Ahead 3-Ingredient Smoothie Guide, of course), it’s time to let your creativity shine. These essential healthy smoothie ingredients help you upgrade your skills to pro status and add nutrition to boot!
It’s for the antioxidants, right? Even just a tablespoon of cocoa powder adds tons of chocolate flavor with very few calories and no sugar—plus, you won’t need to buy whole containers of chocolate-flavored nut milk or soy milk if you get a chocolate shake craving.
2. Chia Seeds
Chia adds omega-3 fatty acids and fiber [source] to your smoothie while thickening it. Let the seeds soak in your smoothie liquid for about 15 minutes before blending; they’ll absorb some of the liquid and allow you to digest them much more easily—longer is better. Try this Chocolate Chia Kale smoothie for starters.
Spice up your smoothie with anti-inflammatory ginger [source]—perfect for adding to anything with stone fruits, berries, or citrus. Just peel a 1-inch piece, and throw it right into the blender. (Chop it roughly first if your blades don’t blend it all the way.)
4. Flax Oil or Seeds
Like chia, flax seeds have lots of omega-3 fatty acids and fiber [source], as well as a slightly nutty flavor. Make sure you grind the seeds (ideally right before using—don’t store them once ground because they oxidize) so your body can absorb the beneficial fatty acids inside.
A spoonful of flax oil can also be added to smoothies for EFAs, which help promote healthy skin, hair, and nails as well as contribute to your cardiovascular health.
5. Nuts and Nut Butters
Nut butters are an easy—and healthy—way to add sustenance to a smoothie. Use a minimally processed, organic, unsalted peanut, almond, walnut, or other nut butter to get protein, minerals, and essential fatty acids. If you want to try adding nuts to your smoothie and don’t have a high-powered blender, soak them in water for a couple of hours beforehand to soften.
Seriously, what can’t avocado do? Add half of an avocado to your morning smoothie, and you’ll stay full longer, thanks to its fiber and healthy fats [source]. Avocado also helps keep your skin and digestion in tip-top shape.
7. Cooked Whole Grains or Beans
It might sound weird to add your dinner leftovers to your smoothie, but once you blend it all up, you won’t even be able to tell that quinoa or cannellini beans are in there. Go for subtly flavored, plain grains and beans to add fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protein. Flavor-wise, these add-ins will taste best when used in creamier smoothies. (Think chocolate, peanut butter, or vanilla.)
8. Natural Sweeteners
If you’re making a smoothie with fruit, you might find you don’t even need to sweeten. But if you need a little extra sweetness, try a tiny bit of maple syrup, raw organic honey, or a few chopped and pitted dates.
You can include greens in every snack or meal, and smoothies are no exception. Blend in a handful of kale, spinach, or other leafy greens to virtually any smoothie recipe (we’re partial to this Wrinkle-Fighting Berry and Kale one), and your skin, heart, and digestion will thank you for it. There’s no need to stop at leafy greens, either—you can add anything from carrots and bell peppers to asparagus to a smoothie.
10. Herbs and Spices
Fresh herbs have many health benefits, and they’re impossibly easy to grow. Toss in a tablespoon of fresh mint, cumin seeds, cinnamon, or turmeric for extra flavor and health and beauty benefits.
What are your favorite smoothie add-ins? If you’re worried about sugar, here’s how to fix it in smoothies and a few fruit-free smoothie recipes to try.
I love using my excess herbs. If I don’t have any greens in the summer, I use herbs instead. If I have a surplus of basil in the summer, I can toss in about a cup of fresh leaves with anything containing stove fruit. Mint works with any fruit, but I especially love it with berries or citrus. Parsley is also wonderful with tropical fruit like pineapple or mango. And I sometimes use pumpkin, sweet potatoes, or butternut squash as well. All of them pair wonderfully with cinnamon, nutmeg, and/or cloves. Whenever I spiralize veggies for my dinner, the scraps will go in a smoothie later in the week.