When looking for a quick breakfast or post-workout nourishment, almost nothing beats a smoothie. Whirl in the right ingredients and the blended drink can deliver the necessary mix of protein, carbs, healthy fats and antioxidants to promote health and kickstart muscle-building. But a smoothie can be so much more than just milk, fruit and a scoop of protein powder—a less-than-inspiring combo that inevitably leads to smoothie burnout. So to breathe new life into your smoothies, try whirling in these surprising items that give each sip more nutritional firepower.
Avocado transforms a smoothie into a deliciously creamy drink, as well as infuses it with a payload of nutrients including hunger-quelling fiber, vitamin K and heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Mix it with the right ingredients and your smoothie won’t taste like guacamole.
Blend this: 1 cup water, 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1/2 small avocado, 1/2 cup baby spinach, 1/2 frozen chopped banana, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice and 2 teaspoons honey.
A raw spud has no place in a smoothie, but the cooked orange variety adds natural sweetness to a shake, not to mention a wallop of beta-carotene, an antioxidant linked to lower levels of heart-hampering inflammation (Wang 2014).
Blend this: 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1 cup cooked sweet potato, 1 scoop protein powder, 2 teaspoons almond butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 frozen chopped banana.
Think beyond the Italian eatery when it comes to this creamy guise of cheese. Ricotta cheese adds richness to smoothies along with whey protein, among the best types of protein you can eat to promote muscle recovery and muscle-building.
Blend this: 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup reduced fat ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup frozen pitted cherries, 2 teaspoons almond butter, 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.
Good for more than just hummus, tahini infuses smoothies with a—what’s that?—toasty flavor along with the range of vitamins and minerals present in its sesame origins.
Blend this: 1 cup coconut water, 1/2 cup ice cubes, 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1 chopped small carrot, 1 peeled small orange, 1 tablespoon tahini, 1 teaspoon fresh ginger and 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice.
Here’s proof that green tea isn’t just something you sip warm from a mug. Made from finely milled whole tea leaves, matcha green tea powder is jam-packed with higher levels of body-friendly antioxidants than regular green tea (Weiss 2003). It works especially well in smoothies with tropical ingredients.
Blend this: Blend together 1 cup coconut milk beverage, 1/2 cup soft (silken) tofu, 1 cup frozen mango cubes, juice of 1/2 lime, 1 teaspoon matcha powder and 1 teaspoon fresh ginger.
Most people don’t eat enough vegetables. So think of smoothies as a great way to sneak more into your diet; for example, Popeye’s favorite veggie. Because water is removed during the freezing process, frozen spinach, which can go straight from freezer to blender, is more nutrient dense than fresh including higher amounts of vitamin A and vitamin K.
Blend this: 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1 cup frozen spinach, 1/2 small frozen chopped banana, 2 tablespoons unsalted cashews, 2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice and 2 teaspoons honey.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Ken Hawkins
What’s the secret to creamy, frosty smoothies? Definitely not ice cubes. Turn instead to frozen bananas. Peel ripe bananas with plenty of dark spots on the skin and then slice into thirds or quarters. Place on a baking sheet and freeze until solid. Store in an airtight zip-top bag until a smoothie craving strikes.
Wang, Y. et al. 2014. Dietary carotenoids are associated with cardiovascular disease risk biomarkers mediated by serum carotenoid concentrations. The Journal of Nutrition, 144 (7): 1067-74.
Weiss, D.J. & Anderton, C.R. 2003. Determination of catechins in matcha green tea by micellar electrokinetic chromatography. Journal of Chromatography, 5;1011(1-2):173-80.