There’s no simpler and more conveient way to get a complete meal’s worth of nutrition than in a smoothie. But are you starting to get sick of your same old daily shake? Switching things up will not only satisfy your tired taste buds, but can actually add a nutritional boost to your routine. Try adding one or more of these seven unique ingredients to your daily pre- or post-workout smoothie to shake things up and add some serious health benefits.
Although it might sound strange to add flour to a smoothie, almond flour not only adds bulk but it also increases protein with very few carbs. Made from finely ground raw almonds, this flour is gluten-free and is rich in healthy fats. It’s a great option for anyone who wants to add calories to their smoothie or is seeking a yogurt substitute. A quarter cup will add 170 calories, 5g of carbs, 6g of protein, and 12g of healthy fats to your smoothie, plus a healthy serving of fiber and fat-soluble vitamins, like vitamin E.
This Paleo “superfood” dates back to the Mayan and Aztec cultures. Packed with antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and fiber, chia seeds are tiny ingredients that pack huge nutritional benefits. One tablespoon provides 65 calories, 3g of protein, 5g of carbs, 3.5g of healthy fat, and 5g of fiber. Because chia seeds expand and form a gel in liquid, don’t let them sit in your smoothie for too long or you’ll end up with chia seed pudding.
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Pomegranate juice is highly-regarded for its high polyphenol content. A 2011 study found that men who drank pomegranate juice after a workout maintained more of their post-exercise arm strength compared to those who didn’t drink pomegranate juice. Researchers attribute this boost in muscle strength recovery to the unique polyphenols found in 100% pomegranate juice. Look for juices that contain no added sugar, like POM Wonderful 100% Pomegranate Juice Pomegranate juice. An 8-oz serving will not only help with exercise recovery, but it contains as much potassium as a medium banana, which aids in hydration.
Native to Eastern cultures, matcha is finely ground green tea leaves that are traditionally mixed with water to make a brewed tea. Because matcha is made with whole tea leaves, it’s much higher in antioxidants than traditional green teas. Those antioxidants protect the body from post-workout inflammation. Matcha also contains another important compound, ECGC, which has been shown to increase resting and post-exercise fat metabolism. Because matcha is a tea, it does contain about 70mg of caffeine—or a little less than an 8-oz serving of coffee. Try adding it to your morning post-workout smoothie for an umami and earthy flavor.
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This creamy fruit is rich in healthy fats and contains nearly 20 vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. As a matter of fact, avocados are one of the only fruits that has mono-unsaturated fats, which have been shown to lower bad cholesterol and help the body better absorb fat-soluble nutrients, like vitamins A, D, and E. Because avocados are rich in fats, they have a very creamy texture and contain ample amounts of calories—almost 300 in just one avocado. If you are watching your weight, add just 1/4 of an avocado to your smoothie for a creamy taste.
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Kefir is a tangy cultured milk product that’s been soaring in popularity due to its high probiotic content. Probiotics are the good bacteria that live in your gut, which contribute to gut health and immune function. The most prevalent brand on the market, Lifeway Kefir, contains 12 live, active cultures and 15-20 billion strains of bacteria in each bottle. It also has 11g of protein in just 8oz. Plus, kefir is rich in calcium and vitamin D, both of which are important for bone and joint health. Because kefir is a bit tangy, it’s best to add it to a smoothie with something sweet, like bananas or melon.
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Montmorency Tart Cherry Juice
Montmorency tart cherry juice has long been valued for its antioxidant properties, and new research suggests that it may reduce muscle pain and weakness after an intense strength-training routine. Another study suggests that tart cherry juice minimizes the symptoms of exercise-induced muscle damage after strength training. As suggested by its name, tart cherry juice has a sour taste, so mix it with some fruit to sweeten it up.