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 or soy milks if you get a chocolate shake craving.
2. Chia Seeds
Chia adds omega-3s and fiber to your smoothie while thickening it. Let the seeds soak in your smoothie liquid a few minutes before blending; they’ll absorb some of the liquid and pass through your digestive system much more easily. Try this Gingerbread Cookie Smoothie with cashew milk for starters.
Spice up your smoothie with anti-inflammatory ginger—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 seeds, flax seeds have lots of omega-3s and fiber, as well as a slightly nutty flavor. Make sure you grind the seeds (ideally right before using) 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 heart health.
5. Nuts and Nut Butters
Nut butters are an easy—and healthy—way to add sustenance to a smoothie. Use a minimally processed, unsalted peanut, almond, walnut or other nut butter (or make your own) to get protein, minerals and essential fatty acids. If you want to try adding nuts to your smoothie, soak them in water for a couple 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. Avocado also helps keep 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 eat 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
What are your favorite smoothie add-ins?11