Question: what's better than a delicious, healthy smoothie? Answer: that same drink topped up with some nutrient-rich smoothie boosters!
Quick to whip up and easy to go down, not only can smoothies increase your intake of fruits, vegetables and fiber, but throw in some protein powder and you have a post-workout meal to help rebuild your muscles and enhance recovery.
Whilst the secret behind every great smoothie is a great blender (to that end, we've picked the best blenders for you), knowing what to add to a smoothie can deliver a concentrated dose of nutrition.
With that in mind, here are five powerful smoothie booster ingredients that not only taste good but are also scientifically proven to have some serious health benefits.
Rooibos is a caffeine-free herbal tea, which will add a pleasantly sweet, nutty and earthy taste when added to your smoothie. Simply steep a tea bag in boiling water for 8 to 10 minutes, remove and let the tea cool before adding to your blender.
Due to its high levels of health-promoting antioxidants, rooibos is associated with many health benefits. One study from the journal Food & Function (opens in new tab) found it to have anti-inflammatory and anti-diabetic effects.
Add rooibos to your smoothie to boost immune system defences too. Rooibos tea contains a unique powerful antioxidant called aspalathin, which has been shown to support the body’s natural defences (opens in new tab) by reducing oxidative stress. Another study showed rooibos tea may help the immune system produce the antibodies necessary to prevent and heal from a variety of chronic and viral diseases as well as allergic reactions.
2. Maqui berry powder
Adding a scoop of maqui berry powder to your next smoothie will give it a rich, dark berry flavour. The taste is similar to blackberries, making it a sure fire hit with apples, almond milk and cinnamon.
According to research (opens in new tab), this dark purple powder packs up to three times more antioxidants than blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and even acai berries, making it effective in fighting free radicals and preventing cell damage. In one study from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition (opens in new tab), people who took 162 mg of a maqui berry extract three times daily for four weeks had significantly reduced free radical damage, compared to the control group.
Several studies have also shown maqui berries to have powerful anti-inflammatory effects against conditions such as heart disease, arthritis, type 2 diabetes and certain lung conditions. They are also a powerful healer for lung damage caused by smoking too. In one study from the Nutrition Journal (opens in new tab), just two grams of maqui berry extract twice daily for two weeks significantly reduced lung inflammation in smokers.
Normally associated with Indian cooking, this bright yellow spice makes a delicious addition to your smoothies - with a bunch of added health benefits too.
Turmeric is packed full of curcumin, an anti-inflammatory compound that research (opens in new tab) suggests could help relieve pain caused by sore or achy joints – making it the perfect addition to that post-workout protein smoothie.
In one study published in the journal Alternative Medicine Review (opens in new tab), researchers concluded that the curcumin in turmeric is so effective at fighting inflammation that it has the potential to be used in treating diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis and arthritis, as well as certain types of cancer.
Another study (opens in new tab) also found curcumin to be powerful enough to rival the effectiveness of many anti-inflammatory drugs, without the side effects.
Try adding turmeric to your smoothie to boost energy and turbocharge your day. Research shows (opens in new tab) that supplementing with turmeric or curcumin can significantly lower your levels of fatigue. In one study involving 60 healthy adults aged 60 to 85, researchers investigated the effects of curcumin on mental performance and fatigue. One hour after taking curcumin, participants showed significant improvements in attention, and this benefit continued after four weeks of daily consumption. The participants also reported feeling less fatigued after the four weeks of daily curcumin.
Adding turmeric to your smoothie can give your brain a boost too. According to a study published in the journal Brain Research, the curcumin found in turmeric is capable of increasing levels of a brain hormone that stimulates the growth of new neurones and fights degenerative brain disorders. In another study (opens in new tab), curcumin was shown to help improve mood, with researchers finding it to be just as effective at treating depression as Prozac.
Try blending the powder with coconut or almond milk and other spices like ginger and cinnamon to make a golden milk smoothie. Ideally, look for a turmeric that is fermented as this is better absorbed by the body. Another option is to add some black pepper. This contains the compound piperine, which research shows (opens in new tab) can increase your body’s absorption of curcumin by 2,000%.
4. Camu camu powder
So good they named it twice, camu camu is a powerful berry that is renowned for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory power.
According to research (opens in new tab), camu camu has a higher vitamin C content than many other tropical fruits and is estimated to contain up to 3 grams of vitamin C per 100g. That’s good news for your skin, since vitamin C has been shown to can help provide antioxidant protection against UV damage (opens in new tab) from the sun. It has also been shown to boost the production of collagen (opens in new tab), the protein that promotes smooth, supple skin.
Research (opens in new tab) shows camu camu is loaded with many other potent antioxidant compounds too, which are key to protecting your cells from damage caused by free radicals – often a result of stress, poor diet and exposure to pollution. These antioxidants have been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect (opens in new tab), helping to reduce inflammation in the body.
Other potential benefits of camu camu that have been researched include its ability to improve blood sugar levels and blood pressure. In one study published in the journal Food Research International, researchers concluded that camu camu could help minimise the spike in blood sugar after eating a high-carb meal. In another study involving ten healthy men and ten healthy women, researchers found that camu camu may help reduce blood pressure by promoting the dilation of blood vessels.
Try adding one scoop of camu camu to your smoothie for a refreshing, feel-good vitamin boost smoothie. With a tart berry flavour, it goes well with raspberries, strawberries and citrus fruits.
Turn to these little seeds to give your smoothie a fiber kick with extra perks. Just one tablespoon of flaxseeds contains 3g of fiber, which is about 10% of the daily recommended fiber intake (opens in new tab) for men and women. What's more, flaxseeds contain two types of fiber —insoluble and soluble.
The insoluble fibre in flaxseeds has been shown to be effective in improving digestive health (opens in new tab) by promoting regular bowel movements to prevent constipation and helping in conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome.
On the other hand, research published in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism (opens in new tab), shows that the soluble fibre is a useful tool for regulating blood sugar (opens in new tab) and lowering cholesterol as it helps slow down your digestion rate. This also helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer, which may help you manage your weight by controlling your appetite. In one study, researchers found that adding just 2.5 grams of ground flaxseed to a beverage significantly suppressed feelings of hunger and appetite (opens in new tab).
Flaxseeds are also a great source of plant-based protein, making them a good alternative for a vegetarian or vegan diet. They are also a rich source of the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid, which can only be obtained from food as the body doesn’t produce it. This fatty acid has been shown to be extremely protective for the heart. One large review published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at 27 studies involving more than 250,000 people and found that alpha-linolenic acid was linked to a 14% lower risk of heart disease.
Opt for ground flax seeds, as they are easier to digest and will result in a smoother consistency. Or buy whole flaxseeds, grind them in a grinder and store the ground flax seeds in an airtight container.
Angela has been a health writer for over 10 years, contributing to a range of online and print publications including Women's Health, Women's Fitness, Your Fitness, Top Santé, Healthy, and Good Housekeeping. She writes about all aspects of health and wellbeing, with a special interest in nutrition and the therapeutic application of food. A qualified nutritionist and a recipe developer, she is the founder of Dara Dara Nutrition and has developed recipes for titles including GoodtoKnow. In her spare-time she likes to throw netballs, hula hoops and yoga poses (or what poses as yoga!) and has recently taken to the bass guitar. Fortunately for her neighbors, she’s invested in some headphones.
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