In Part 2 of our series on smoothie superfoods, we’re taking a look at the littlest parts of smoothies: seeds, nuts, and oats. Like Reese Witherspoon, they’re tiny but strong and packed with awesomeness. Below are some of our favorite smoothie adds in the categories of seeds and nuts, plus an explanation of why oats are great for smoothies.
Check out part 1 in our smoothie superfood series, on spices, plants, and algaes, and visit the Healthy Human blog again soon for our post on smoothie superfood fruits, powders, and liquids!
(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.)
Chia seeds. Chia has come a long way since the days of cha cha cha chia pets. The chia seed, which was used by the Maya and Aztecs for its energy boost, is a definite superfood, with healthy omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. In one tablespoon alone, chia seeds have 4 grams of dietary fiber and 2 grams of protein! Dietician Emma Morris told Women’s Health about chia’s benefits for runners in particular, which may include a quickened recovery and reduced inflammation.
Because they’re light on flavor, besides a very mild nuttiness, chia seeds go well in any smoothie. A particular favorite, courtesy The Family That Heals Together, includes frozen blueberries, coconut milk, chia seeds, and greens.
Flaxseeds. Another tiny powerhouse is the flaxseed, which has 2 grams of dietary fiber in a tablespoon, in addition to omega-3 fatty acids and lignans, polyphenols found in plants. (Flaxseeds are “by far the richest dietary source of plant lignans,” according to the Micronutrient Information Center at Oregon State University.) WebMD notes that studies have indicated the possibility that flax may “reduce risks of certain cancers as well as cardiovascular disease and lung disease.” It’s also good for digestion.
According to the Mayo Clinic, whole flaxseeds may pass through your intestine without being digested, so experts usually recommend going with ground flaxseeds instead of whole. You may see flax labeled as flax meal at the grocery store—that’s the same thing as ground flaxseed.
Hemp hearts. Three tablespoons of raw shelled hemp seed have 2.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, 8.5 grams of omega-6 fatty acids, and a whopping 10 grams of protein. That’s not all, though—you’ll also get 110% of your daily recommended manganese, 20% each of iron and zinc, 45% each of magnesium and phosphorus, and … well, we could go on, but you get the point. Hemp is the epitome of a superfood.
Adding hemp hearts to your smoothie gives it a bit of a chewy texture—unlike chia seeds and whole flaxseeds, hemp hearts are a bit mushy (in a delicious way). As Bon Appétit explains, “Hemp plants grow brown popcorn kernel-sized hard seeds. Inside these hard seeds lie soft, white or light green inner kernels,” or hemp hearts.
If you’re unsure whether hemp will cause you to get high, the answer is that it won’t. “There are about a dozen varieties of hemp plants that are grown for food, and all of them contain about 0.001 percent Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana,” according to Bon Appétit. Hemp and marijuana are both members of the Cannabis sativa species, but “they’re in effect completely different plants.”
Pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, are a good source for a lot of good things, including zinc, magnesium, iron, protein, and unsaturated fats. Buy pumpkin seeds raw and unsalted, and for a delicious savory smoothie, try combining them with green goodies like kale or spinach.
Nuts and Oats
Nuts. Really, any kind of nut can go into a smoothie, adding nutrients, fiber, protein, texture, and satiation. Yes, nuts add fat too, but it’s mostly healthy fat: monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. So whether you’re nutty (sorry, unavoidable pun) for almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, or any other tasty nut, you’ll be in good shape.
Because of their hardness, nuts require a high-powered blender to get them to be broken down substantially. If you have a low-powered blender, you can soak nuts overnight to soften them up. Or if you like some crunchiness to your smoothie, just toss them in unsoaked.
You can also add nut powders to your smoothie. Options include almond flour and ground walnuts.
Nut butters. Nut butters are great smoothie thickeners—and great smooth health boosts. Just like the nuts they come from, they’re very good for you. As Fitness Magazine puts it, “Nut butters are like bad-cholesterol-fighting superheroes.” Almond butter and peanut butter, for instance, both have about eight grams of protein in two tablespoons, plus strong doses of B6 and niacin in peanut butter and magnesium, iron, and vitamin E in almond butter. Other healthy, tasty nut butters include cashew butter, walnut butter, and macadamia butter.
If you love peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches and starting your day right, check out Self.com’s recipe for an almond-butter-and-jelly smoothie. Prevention.com has a list of eight fantastic nut butter smoothies too, including a beautiful pink sunflower cocoa smoothie with sunflower seed butter.
Oats. You can either add oats directly to a smoothie or grind them first, depending on whether you prefer a bit of crunchiness or a smoother texture. Whatever your method, you’ll be doing it right: Oats provide another easy way to pack healthfulness into your smoothie. With the soluble fiber beta glucan, oats reduce LDL cholesterol, in addition to having a heap of vitamins and minerals including manganese, phosphorus, and magnesium.
Most oaty smoothie recipes call for rolled oats, instead of steel-cut or instant, although instant can be used too. Steel-cut is less ideal, as it will add significant thickness to your smoothie.