Smoothie Superfoods: Spices, Plants, and Algaes
We have a nomination for the next superhero in the canon: Smoothie Queen. She saves the world from tyranny, fighting one bad guy at a time, driven 100% by the energy from the smoothies she loves. They’re her superpower.
Actually, we can all be Smoothie Queens, ready to conquer the world with the power and nutrition supplied by vitamin-packed smoothies!
In an earlier blog article, we talked about the many health benefits of smoothies, and now we’d like to do a deeper dive into the super-powerful superfoods that can easily be added to smoothies. They’ll make you feel fantastic and eager to flex your superhero muscles. You can add any of these to any smoothies, whether you’re following a recipe or adding ingredients to the blender in whatever combination you prefer.
In this blog, part 1 of a three-part series, we’ll look at superfood spices, herbs, roots, and algaes. Check back soon for more smoothie superfoods, including seeds, powders, and superfood fruits.
(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, including adding supplements and superfoods to your diet.)
Spices, Roots, and Plants
Turmeric. Have you noticed turmeric popping up on more and more menus in the past few years? FiveThirtyEight has a fascinating series of charts showing the changing popularities of spices since 1966, including a chart showing turmeric’s surge in popularity since 2004. Between that year and 2011, its popularity increased almost 70%! The reason is probably all the accumulating evidence for tumeric’s super-ness, including its anti-inflammatory properties and use for diabetes prevention, memory aid, and pain relief from osteoarthritis. Honestly, we could go on for a long time. Check out WebMD for a loooong list of the benefits of turmeric.
You can put turmeric in your smoothie in powder or juice form. If you use the latter, be conservative with quantities—the potent flavor may overwhelm other ingredients, and may not be all that appealing when you’re expecting something sweet. Another tip: Always use turmeric in combination with black pepper, to boost absorption of the curcumin chemical that gives turmeric so much of its greatness.
Ginger. Ginger, either in ground form or as shaved ginger root, is a fantastic smoothie add, assuming you’re a fan of its particular flavorful kick. How is ginger good for you? Let us count the ways (with help from Women’s Health Magazine and interviewed doctor Christy Brissette). In the short term, it helps with nausea and stomach discomfort, including bloating, and its anti-inflammatory properties help fight skin irritation. In the longer term, it can help lower LDL cholesterol levels. Other benefits include weight management and possibly the ability to help lower the risk of heart disease.
There’s a reason ginger and turmeric are often duking it out for the title of “miracle spice”!
Adaptogens. Adaptogens are herbs and roots that are used as stress resistors, which are available in a powder form that can be easily added to smoothies. They have long histories in Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions. There is a huge variety in adaptogens and what each does—Mind Green Body has a great list describing the benefits of many adaptogens—but overall, they fight stress in its seemingly countless forms.
Adaptogens’ effects on human health haven’t been the subject of much scientific research, but enthusiasts rave about them. Some of the most popular adaptogens, with possible benefits identified by Mind Green Body, are:
- Reishi: helps lower blood sugar levels
- Ashwagandha: regulates the stress hormone cortisol and helps boost the immune system
- Maca: boosts energy and the immune system
- Ginseng: boosts energy
- Rhodiola: fights fatigue and reduces stress
Matcha. Matcha is made of the leaves of green tea, pulverized into a (smoothie-friendly) powder. Matcha has a strong dose of caffeine; it’s an excellent smoothie superfood add for morning smoothies but is best avoided in the late afternoon and evening. Matcha has tons of antioxidants—including epigallocatechin gallate, which is thought to be a cancer fighter—and chlorophyll (hence its bright green color). Studies have shown a possible correlation between green tea consumption and both blood pressure reduction and LDL cholesterol reduction. (More research is needed to show definitive correlations.) Experts recommend not exceeding a cup of matcha daily and not serving it to kids, because it does contain lead that has been absorbed by the plant.
Wheatgrass. Kudos to Refinery29’s Kelsey Miller for her deep investigation into “the unbelievable story behind wheatgrass shots.” It is pretty bonkers, involving legal disputes and “heavily impl[ied] miraculous claims.” But is wheatgrass actually good for you? It isn’t, in fact, miraculous, but it does have vitamins A, C, and E, and magnesium, iron, and calcium. Small studies have indicated the possibility that wheatgrass helps with the blood disorder thalassemia and ulcerative colitis. But as with many supplements, the research isn’t conclusive.
While we are fans of algaes, we want to mention that the jury is out on them. According to Berkeley Wellness, “More research is needed to determine the benefits (if any) and risks of micro-algae, especially when consumed long term. Even if they are pure and free of toxins, it’s a stretch to think they’ll keep you healthy.” Berkeley Wellness recommends focusing on eating a healthy diet, with plenty of fruits and vegetables. But if you’re interested in algaes, the two most popular are chlorella and spirulina.
Chlorella. Chlorella is an algae that grows in freshwater, sometimes used for detoxifying heavy metals from the body. (However, Wellness Mama notes that “there is some debate about its safety for detoxification…it may remove heavy metals but not bind strongly enough to remove them.”) In powder form, it is bright green, a result of its significant chlorophyll concentration. One ounce has 16 grams of protein, more than 100% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, iron, and zinc, and significant amounts of vitamins B2, B3, and magnesium.
Spirulina. Spirulina is another nutrient-rich algae, with calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, B vitamins, and vitamins A, C, and E. Studies of spirulina’s benefits have primarily been on animals; among these was one that showed a decrease in blood glucose levels in diabetic mice. Inconclusive evidence supports the possibility that spirulina helps with muscle strength and fighting anemia.