Smoothie Superfoods: Fruits, Powders, and Liquids
This final article in our three-part series on smoothie superfoods focuses on fruits, powders, and liquids. For more on smoothie superfoods, check out Part 1, on spices, plants, and algaes, and Part 2, on seeds, nuts, and oats!
(Please note: We love science but aren’t professional scientists. While we have done extensive research for this article, we cannot guarantee any results. Please consult with a medical professional for any lifestyle changes.)
Truly, all fruits are pretty super, and all make great smoothie adds. We could write a whole book about all the reasons we love fruits of all varieties, but instead we’d like to focus here on a few particular super fruits, which are maybe less commonly used in smoothies than, say, blueberries or strawberries but are just as delectable. And they are absolutely great for you.
Avocados. As The Washington Post put it, “America is in love with avocados”—now more than ever. Sales of Hass avocados more than doubled from 2005 to 2014, and avocados are now so ubiquitous on social media that they were hilariously dubbed “overcado” by The Guardian. We respectfully disagree with that assessment. Avocados will never be out of style, because they’re too delicious and good for you! These WebMD-dubbed “nutrient all-stars” have potassium, lutein, folate, B vitamins, vitamin C, vitamin E, fiber, and monounsaturated fat (the good kind). Women’s Health outlines the ways in which those components translate into healthiness, spanning everything from possible blood pressure lowering to possible injury prevention. As the author puts it, “Avocado lovers are basically synonymous with health lovers. Seriously!”
Avocados are “like a magic ingredient that will completely transform your smoothie game,” according to Alison Spiegel at The Huffington Post, who cites their silky texture and subtle taste as some of the reasons. Try this wonderful blueberry, banana, and avocado recipe from Well Plated if you need proof.
Açaí berries. Health.com called the amount of antioxidants in açaí berries “weapons grade,” enough to “clobber other superfruit rivals like blackberries, strawberries, and blueberries.” Hailing from the açaí palm tree of Central and South America, fresh açaí can be hard to find, but powdered versions are available. More research is needed to demonstrate the health benefits of açaí, but proponents say that it may help with cholesterol levels, anti-aging, and weight loss.
Goji berries. Goji berries, also known as wolfberries, are bright red berries that have long been used in regions of Asia for medicinal purposes. They’re packed with phytochemicals and are rich in vitamins A and C. Combine it with dragon fruit, raspberries, and bananas in this fantastic recipe from Jar of Lemons, and you’ll have so many antioxidants and vitamins in your body that you may just feel invincible!
Both açaí and goji should be avoided while pregnant. There is not enough information about the safety of açaí during pregnancy and breastfeeding. According to the book Herbal Medicine, “wolfberry contains betaine, which is a known liver protectant, but can also be used to induce menstruation and abortion, so its use should be avoided by pregnant women.”
Collagen peptides. Nutritionist Zoe Bingley-Pullin told Harper’s Bazaar, “Collagen is the most abundant form of protein found in the body, and makes up 25-35% of all protein in humans….It acts as structural support for the skin, so it only makes sense that as collagen levels decrease, the skin is more prone to wrinkles and fine lines.” Though “the science is truly in its infancy,” according to Dr. Mark Moyad of the University of Michigan, collagen is promising when it comes to the skin. WebMD cites two studies, one indicating an improvement in skin elasticity and another indicating fewer visible wrinkles and better blood flow in the skin, when participants ingested collagen.
WebMD also lists potential concerns, including the use of animal parts that “tend to act as sponges for contaminants and heavy metals,” according to Moyad. Please research any supplement carefully before adding it to your diet.
Protein powder. As WebMD puts it, “Most people, even athletes, can also get everything [protein powders] offer by eating sources of lean protein like meat, fish, chicken, and dairy products.” Dr. Nancy Rodriguez, a professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, told Time, “The bottom line is that when you get protein from whole foods, you are getting extra micronutrients and fiber that contribute to a healthy diet….It’s a more complete nutrient package.”
But if you aren’t getting the recommended amount of protein daily (you can see how to do the “protein math” here), protein powder does give you a convenient way to boost your protein intake. Shape has a well-curated list of the best protein powders for women.
Kombucha. Kombucha, fermented black (or, less frequently, green) tea, has a long history dating back 2,000 years, when it was used in China for its healing properties. Though not much research has been done, kombucha enthusiasts advocate it as a means, according to WebMD, of helping digestion, getting rid of toxins, and boosting energy. Much of kombucha’s goodness comes from its probiotics, gut-healthy bacteria. Add it to your smoothie as a way to give it a dash of delicious tang; some tasty kombucha smoothie recipes are this green one with spinach, apple, and avocado and this simple strawberry, banana, and kombucha smoothie.
Kefir. Like kombucha, kefir is a fermented beverage (in this case, a dairy drink), and it’s also packed with probiotics. Kefir is additionally a good source of protein and calcium. “It is similar to yogurt—but a drink, with a tart, sour taste and a slight ‘fizz,’” is how BBC Good Food describes it. Nutritionist Keri Glassman explains its creation process at WebMD: “Kefir is made by adding kefir culture (aka grain) to milk from a cow, sheep or goat, then letting the mixture ferment for about 24 hours.” In smoothies, kefir adds a tartness and creaminess that are basically irresistible. Serious Eats recommends making kefir ice cubes for your smoothies. 😋