What Are the Best Smoothie Ingredients for a Healthy Meal?
As the temperature kicks into overdrive, is there anything more refreshing for breakfast than an ice-cold smoothie?
Yes, smoothies are delicious but they’re also actually good for you – or are they?
Many people don’t realize that they may not be choosing the best ingredients for their “healthy” smoothie.
Take a minute to familiarize yourself with this list of best smoothie ingredients below before you head out for a shopping trip or order your groceries. Don’t forget to avoid hidden sugars and include a few boosters as well.
What Are the Best Ingredients for a Healthy Smoothie?
Once you start throwing together juice, milk, fruit, and honey, even a homemade smoothie can pack over 100 grams of sugar – not calories, grams of sugar.
It’s not good for your waistline or your blood sugar. If you want to drop a few pounds or get into shape, your smoothie won’t do you any good. If you want to improve your health and avoid diabetes, your smoothie could sabotage everything.
In general, you want to avoid high sugar fruits.
It’s also a good idea to include a nice protein source to keep you satisfied and help your body utilize all of the calories in your smoothie.
Don’t forget fat! Healthy fat sources can give you a solid dose of omega-3 fatty acids while keeping your appetite at bay until lunch.
1. Low-Sugar Dark Berries
Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries are some of the best smoothie ingredients because they provide sweetness and intense flavor without too much sugar. As an added bonus, dark berries like blueberries provide some of the highest antioxidant levels of any food. (1)
Notice that cherries are missing from this list? While cherries may boast some nice antioxidant levels, they also contain high levels of sugar.
2. Other Low-Sugar Fruits
Dark berries are your best choice, but you don’t need to restrict yourself all the time. Go with some of the low sugar fruits below for new flavors.
- Citrus like lemon, lime, and grapefruit: about 2g of sugar per serving
- Honeydew melon or cantaloupe: about 11g per serving
- Peaches: about 13g per serving (fresh, not canned)
- Kiwi: about 6g per kiwi
Flaxseed, and especially ground flaxseed, are excellent additions to any smoothie. It isn’t easy to get enough omega-3 fatty acids in your diet but flax can help.
Omega-3s are essential for protecting against heart disease and stroke. Not only that, but flax has plenty of fiber and even some magnesium.
Choose ground flax or buy whole seeds and grind your own – ground flax is much easier for your body to digest and process.
Believe it or not, chia seeds come from a plant related to the mint plant – but they definitely don’t taste like mint. They don’t really have any flavor, yet they’re packed with nutrients which makes chia one of the best smoothie ingredients.
Antioxidants, protein, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids – is there anything a morning dose of chia can’t do? To top it off, chia seeds are also packed with manganese and magnesium each of which is necessary for functions like reducing inflammation and headaches, balancing mental health, improving calcium absorption, and supporting heart health. (2, 3)
5. Leafy Greens
Kale is a great choice because it’s packed with antioxidants and vitamin A, but kale isn’t readily available to everyone. No worries, you can still include plenty of leafy greens in your smoothie.
Spinach is an affordable and accessible alternative. Spinach has special plant compounds like quercetin and kaempferol which function as antioxidants to fight inflammation and defend against chronic diseases, respectively.
Plus, spinach gives your green smoothie a healthy shot of iron – perfect for vegetarians.
6. Greek Yogurt
We get it, you’ve probably heard enough about Greek yogurt by now – but seriously, it’s one of the best smoothie ingredients.
Greek yogurt is an excellent choice for your smoothie because it has higher levels of protein than other yogurts.
Not only that, but you can easily find no-sugar-added options.
With Greek yogurt, you get a nice tangy flavor and creamy texture that won’t turn your smoothies into soup the way regular yogurt does.
7. Unsweetened Protein Powder
Protein powder is an important ingredient to include in your smoothie.
Your body can use and store energy from both carbohydrates and protein when you consume them together.
Plus, most smoothies are nothing but sugar and minimal fat which can leave you feeling hungry in no time.
Including a scoop of protein will give your muscles and brain the energy they need to function after the carb-crash wears off.
8. Unsweetened Almond Milk or Coconut Milk
A lot of people don’t realize that cow’s milk – even organic and all-natural cow’s milk – contains extremely high levels of natural sugar.
You can avoid bogging down your smoothies by opting for unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk as a filler.
Canned coconut milk will also give you plenty of healthy fats to keep you satisfied, too.
9. Almond Butter (or Any Nut Butter)
Peanut butter is great but sometimes you don’t want your entire smoothie to taste like peanuts – almond or cashew butter to the rescue!
Not only does nut butter give you some extra creaminess and protein, but it also provides plenty of healthy fats, vitamin E, and antioxidants. To reap the full range of benefits, make sure your nut butter isn’t made from roasted nuts.
Frozen banana – any frozen fruit really – are no-brainers as far as the best smoothie ingredients go. If you’ve found that your smoothies always seem to turn out soupy, switch to frozen fruit.
As always, make sure to limit yourself to one banana per smoothie to avoid sugar and watch out for other high-sugar fruits.
Everyone’s favorite green fruit (yes, it’s a fruit) isn’t going anywhere.
You probably already knew that avocado packs a hefty dose of healthy fat, but did you also know that one avocado has more potassium than a banana? To top it off, the healthy fats can also help you absorb nutrients from the rest of your food.
12. Fresh Ginger and Other Spices
Ingredients like ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne, and unsweetened cocoa powder all add intense flavor to your smoothies without the sugar or added calories.
Plus, each spice comes with its own wide range of health benefits.
13. Maple Syrup or Raw Honey
You’ve probably noticed that adding salt to your regular meals brings all of the flavors together. Sugar functions in a similar way with smoothies. At the same time, you don’t want to ruin your breakfast with sugar and no nutrients.
Instead of table sugar, choose antioxidant-packed options like raw honey or pure maple syrup.
Superfood Boosters and Other Add-Ins to Ramp Up Your Smoothie
Why limit yourself to traditional smoothie ingredients? Make the most of your snack with superfoods and powerhouse ingredients.
Medicinal Mushroom Powders
Mushroom extract powder is one of the best smoothie ingredients because mushrooms are well studied for their health benefits.
From reducing inflammation to supporting mental health, medicinal mushrooms open up a whole new world of wellness.
Maca powder is filled with vitamin C, iron, and other nutrients. Maca is an excellent choice for balancing hormones in men and women.
The modest cinnamon is packed with antioxidants to help fight inflammation.
Plus, cinnamon is thermogenic which means it supports metabolism weight loss.
If you need an anti-inflammatory boost, look no further than turmeric. Turmeric is known around the world for its antioxidant content and brain support.
What NOT to Put into Your Healthy Smoothie
Aside from GMOs and processed ingredients, the main thing to watch out for is hidden sugar.
Fruit juices aren’t the best smoothie ingredients: they’re filled with all the sugar of fruit and absolutely none of the fiber.
Avoid pineapple, mango, cherries, apples, grapes, and anything dried or canned.
Sugar can sneak up everywhere. Check your bottles of milk, yogurt, and frozen fruit to ensure there’s no added sugar.
Best Smoothie Ingredient Ideas for Vegans
Smoothies are one of the easiest meals to make vegan. Just switch up your ingredients a bit.
- Choose plant-based proteins like pea or hemp instead of whey protein
- Go with almond milk or coconut milk instead of dairy. (Make sure you buy plant-based milk with added calcium.)
- Choose juice instead of milk but opt for low-sugar varieties like cranberry (not cocktail) or a splash of orange.
- Find a plant-based yogurt. Many large supermarkets now carry coconut or almond yogurts.
Give Coffee Smoothies a Shot
You can chill some of your morning coffee to use in an afternoon smoothie.
Take it to another level by freezing your coffee into ice cubes and then whipping up a coffee smoothie in the blender.
You can use the ice cube method with yogurt or your favorite milk as well.
The Bottom Line
Smoothies aren’t inherently healthy – it’s all about the ingredients you choose. The key is to choose all-natural and low-sugar ingredients like blueberries, flax, Greek yogurt, and almond milk.
The best smoothie ingredients here can make the difference between a satisfying meal and a sugar bomb.