Top smoothie ingredients for perfect, healthy smoothies

Smoothies make the perfect snack or even a meal in itself. They’re a wonderful way of getting lots of nutrients in quickly and can help you lose weight and feel great.

For the best smoothies, use natural ingredients – fresh fruit and veg, nuts and seeds, oats and natural sweeteners. Avoid canned fruit, sugar and powders, although some powders such as matcha or spirulina can be OK.

Unlike juicing, the process of blending a smoothie does not get rid of pulp, so you are consuming more of the fruit or vegetable. This gives smoothies an advantage over some juice, as many nutrients can be lost in the juicing process.

For a smoothie to still be a drink, you need to use a base – either milk (dairy or otherwise) or juice. Avoid using store-bought juices whenever possible, as they are likely to be high in sugar and most likely pasteurised – so not as nutrient rich as the real deal. Here are some ideas for what to put in your smoothies.

Bananas

Bananas are the perfect addition for any smoothie. Their neutral flavour makes them easy to consume and they work great with dairy (milk or yogurt), but also with fruit juice like orange, apple, etc. Bananas have some great health benefits, too, including being rich in potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and fibre. They’re great for energy and for aiding weight loss.

You can blend bananas with pretty much anything. They’re great with fruit, leafy greens and, if you’re after a more indulgent smoothie, nut butters like peanut or almond butter.

Berries

Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or blackberries? They all taste great in smoothies and some are even considered superfoods. Berries give you a vitamin boost and are full of antioxidants. They have a low glycaemic index (especially strawberries, raspberries and blackberries), so they help regulate sugar levels in the blood and are acceptable fruit for diabetics to consume.

Depending on the type of berries you choose, they can add either a sweet or a tart flavour to a smoothie. They blend well with other fruit, as well as leafy greens, dairy or non-dairy milk. Strawberries or blueberries plus bananas are a very popular combination.

Leafy greens

If you’re new to the world of smoothies, this may not be your first go to option, but don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. Leafy greens are extremely good for you, full of vitamins like K and C, iron and fibre. Even if you don’t like the thought of tasting raw greens in a smoothie, you can do much to hide their flavour until you get used to the idea. Kale, spinach and chard are popular and easy to get, but collard and dandelion greens also make a wonderful addition.

Balance the “green” flavour with bananas, berries, pears or pineapple and sweeten with maple syrup if necessary. Use sparingly to begin with, until you get used to the taste.

Oats

Rich in fibre and great for giving you energy, oats blend beautifully into smoothies to make them thicker, richer and more satisfying.  They are also full of antioxidants and are said to help lower cholesterol levels. If you enjoy porridge but tend to avoid it when the weather gets warmer, adding oats to your smoothies is the perfect way to keep them in your diet throughout the summer months. Add a handful of oats to a smoothie and it will feel like a whole meal in a glass.

Oats blend beautifully with bananas, berries, dairy (yogurt and milk) and nut butters.

Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are powerhouses of nutrients, so why not add them to your smoothies to give them an extra kick? Flax seeds and pumpkin seeds are rich in omega 3, while nuts, almonds and pistachios are rich in selenium, potassium and many other important minerals. Chia seeds are also a great addition to smoothies, especially if you’re looking to lose weight – they can be very filling.

In a quality blender (you can find a bunch of good ones on Blender Friend), you can easily blend any nut into a smoothie, but nut butters work just as well. Peanut butter is the obvious choice and is filling and tasty (make sure to pick one that’s 100% peanuts, though!). There are, however, more nutritious nut butters such as almond butter, cashew butter and even pistachio butter. Keep in mind, though, that nut butters are high in fat, so use them sparingly if you’re looking to lose weight. They’re best in small quantities or when you’re after a particularly indulgent smoothie.

Nuts and seeds will blend with pretty much anything. Try pistachio with kale, hazelnuts or walnuts with bananas and maple syrup.

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