There are many extra little nutrient boosters that you can add to your smoothies, which can add a new dimension to the taste. I have a variety of extras that I add to my daily green smoothie, and I do find they help me to feel more energised. There are many to choose from, here is a list of the most well known and their benefits.
Micro-algae ( also known as blue-green algae)
I’m at risk of putting off anyone who may already think adding leafy greens to smoothies is a bit weird. Adding in what some people refer to as ‘pond scum’, might sound strange to anyone who is not familiar with it, but there is a lot of scientific evidence behind the health and nutritional benefits to micro-algae. Briefly, they are plant-like single cell organisms found in fresh water and salt water. They are very similar to each other in that they are super rich sources of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and protein- upwards of 60% protein in fact including all the essential amino acids. They are known as immune boosters, and are 90-100% assimilated by the body. Often referred to as ‘complete food’ due to the abundance of nutritional benefits. They are bought and added in powder form to your smoothies. The types of micro-algae are:
- Chlorella: a green algae that grows in fresh water, this is powerful. It has the richest source of chlorophyll and is excellent for detoxing. I use this one regularly, and I truly notice the difference in my energy levels. It is anti-inflammatory and helps with digestive disorders. Avoid chlorella if you take anticoagulant drugs.
- Spirulina: also cultivated in fresh water, this has the highest protein content, up to 70%, and is the most easy digested. It is probably the most widely known and used of the micro-algae. It is high in antioxidants and the richest beta-carotene food with a full spectrum. Antioxidants protect against ageing, disease and cancer.
- Blue Algae ( AFA): comes only from the Klamath Lake in Oregon. An excellent source of vitamins and minerals- over 64 in fact. It also contains PEA, a chemical which raises dopamine levels, improving your mood and overall feeling of wellbeing. Studies also show AFA helps immune cell migration.
- MPP: marine phytoplankton: a sea/salt water based micro-algae, this is particularly good source of two kinds of essential fatty acids, EPA and DHA, usually found in seafood ( but in the right circumstances also converted from ALA in the body). Vegans and vegetarians might want to use this one in particular.
Other Superfoods to boost your smoothies are:
Chia Seeds: These tiny black seeds are the ultimate superfood. Packed full of nutrients and widely used by endurance athletes this is my absolute favourite dietary staple, I eat at least a tablespoon every day. They are most known for their high levels of omega 3 fatty acids, fibre and calcium. They are also a good source of boron, which helps absorb calcium. They are easy to digest and will actually form a wonderful gel when soaked in liquids due to their ability to absorb water, up to 9 times their own weight, which is why they are loved by athletes as they help you keep hydrated. Rich in nutrients and very filling due to the soluble fibre, they can help balance blood sugar levels and aid in weight loss. They are versatile little seeds too. You can have them as they are in salads, snack bars, soaked oat breakfasts or smoothies. You can create a gel by soaking them in water, adding this to smoothies also or mixing with cinnamon, agave nectar and half a banana to use as a sports gel or as a breakfast! They are used in gluten free baking, in jam recipes and much more. The nutrient value is truly remarkable and I recommend slowly adding them to your daily diet. They can cause problems in some people, so start with a teaspoon in a smoothie or with breakfast. If you make a gel, use about 1/3 cup seeds per 1 1/2- 2 cups water or liquid and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. The gel can be added to your smoothie also, before or after you have blended the other ingredients.
Hemp Seeds: these wonderful seeds are a fantastic source of protein, containing all the essential amino acids in an easily digestible form, and have an essential fatty acid ratio of 3:1 ( omega6/omega3), which makes them a perfect source of protein and fats for vegetarians. It is this ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 which gives Hemp seed and oil its advantage over other seeds and their oils, as they have good amounts of Omega 6, but little Omega 3. Add a tablespoon to your smoothie for extra fats and protein.
Raw Cacao Powder: Cacao (ka- cow) is the raw unprocessed form of chocolate- before it is roasted and processed to form the chocolate as most people know it- with sugars and fats added. Cacao beans grow on trees and the seeds are dried and fermented naturally. Raw cacao has one of the highest antioxidant levels of any food, is rich in essential minerals, a good source of soluble fibre and essential fatty acids. Raw Cacao also contains adrenal-related chemicals referred to as ‘bliss’ chemicals which help lift our mood! Look for Raw Organic Cacao- if it says roasted, most of the antioxidant benefits are destroyed.
Maca Powder: a root vegetable from Peru, this packs a punch. High in many vitamins and particularly minerals, namely calcium, zinc, magnesium and iron, it is also widely known for its affect on endocrine function and the hormones in our body. It adds its own unique flavour and is used largely for its energy enhancing abilities and as a mood balancer. As a powder in smoothies, it has an earthy taste that to me, is not strong. I add about a teaspoon to mine.
Lucuma Powder: this is another natural sweetener with a low GI, made from the Peruvian Lucuma fruit. It is very sweet and creamy and again offers an array of nutrients including beta carotene, B vitamins, iron, potassium and calcium. It is an excellent source of fibre and complex carbohydrates. It is a wonderful sweetener, with a naturally caramel flavour making it Peru’s most popular ice-cream flavour!