When I get home post-workout, or need a quick snack to take out the door with me, the easiest thing to make is a smoothie. I can load it with superfoods and healthy ingredients, and most of them area already in my cupboard or freezer! In this post I'm going to share a few of the ingredients that are extremely versatile and can be thrown into any smoothie or acaí bowl to take it to the next level.
Hemp Seeds: Hemp hearts have a delicious nutty flavor, and add a crunchy texture as a topping on a smoothie or acaí bowl. When blended in, they add a nice creamy texture. Think sesame seeds, but with a more subtle nutty flavor. They are rich in essential fatty acids and are a great source of plant-based protein. They can also help reduce symptoms of PMS & Menopause, as well as aid in digestion. Honestly, I just really like the taste and texture they add -- the health benefits are an added bonus! My favorite brand is Manitoba, but I have also seen different brands sold at Trader Joes.
Cacao Nibs: Selfishly, this is another one of those delicious flavor/texture ingredients that also provide great health benefits! If you don't like dark chocolate, beware - cacao nibs are quite bitter when eaten by themselves. However, blended into a smoothie or on top of an acaí bowl, they add a nice little crunch and subtle chocolate flavor, so you almost think you're eating chocolate chips. Cacao nibs are very high in fiber, which helps to keep you fuller, longer - aiding in weight loss. They are also raw, meaning less processed, and better for you. Like chocolate, cacao nibs can also help your mood and ease stress -- good enough reasons for me!
Ground Flaxseed: Flaxseed comes in many forms, so make sure you get what you're looking for. I prefer ground, because it incorporates into smoothies the best, and I don't even know it's there. It has such a subtle flavor that it's easily masked by whatever else you're putting in your smoothie. Flaxseed has innumerable health benefits. It's high in fiber, but low in carbs. The fiber and healthy fats help to keep you fuller, longer. It helps your keep your hair and skin healthy. Flaxseed is high in antioxidants, which help with aging as well as immunity. It absolutely helps with digestion as well. These are just a few of the benefits of flaxseed, which definitely make it worth the purchase. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons into your smoothie and you won't even know it's there!
Coconut Oil: The first time I bought coconut oil, I was unimpressed. I stored it in the fridge and it hardened and was impossible to measure out and cook with. It also had such a strong coconut flavor that I really didn't want added to my cooked meals. However, I decided to give it another try. After doing some research, I learned the difference between Virgin and regular coconut oil. Virgin is unrefined and unprocessed, and basically because of that it is the best for you. The phytonutrients it contains help your skin and hair, it strengthens your immune system and helps your dental and bone health. It also helps with digestion and gives you more energy and less stress! However, virgin coconut oil also has a more pronounced coconut flavor, so I use it mostly when I know I want to add that flavor into whatever I'm eating. When cooking, it's best to use refined coconut oil, as the flavor is more subtle and it's better at high temperatures. Also, you can keep it stored at room temperature! This makes it so much easier to scoop out.
Nut Butter: Almond or peanut are my favorite. It's so easy to make your own, as long as you have a food processor or Vitamix! Check my recipes for step by step instructions. Homemade nut butters are inexpensive, and can be raw and unprocessed. There's no added salt or sugars (unless you add it yourself!) so it's a great source of protein and a filling addition to your smoothie.
Liquid: I'm an almond milk girl all the way, but I recently discovered this almond-coconut milk blend thats AMAZING! It has just the right hint of coconut without being overpowering, as I find when I use regular coconut milk. If you like your smoothies a little less creamy, coconut water is also a great option. Whatever you use, make sure it's unsweetened. The fruit you're adding is sweet enough - it doesn't need anything else!
Frozen Bananas: Frozen bananas are the easiest thing to throw into a smoothie to give it a creamier texture. I basically substitute frozen bananas for ice in most of my bowls, because unlike ice, bananas won't water it down. Bananas are also so easy to freeze! I buy a bunch every time I'm at the store, and let them brown considerably. Brown bananas are the best to freeze, because the sweetness is enhanced and the texture won't matter once they're frozen. I chop them up into 4 chunks per banana, and spread out on a cookie sheet. I pop that in my freezer overnight, take them out the next morning and transfer them to a large ziploc bag. Then you're good to go! You have them portioned already, so you know that 4 chunks = 1 banana. Plus they last indefinitely - no more rotten bananas in our house.
Frozen Fruit: Fruit is great to eat frozen, because freezing it maintains all of it's nutrients in a more cost-effective manner. I usually keep frozen strawberries, mangos, and blueberries in my freezer, and use any combination I feel like.
All of these ingredients can be kept for a long period of time, making that quick afternoon smoothie healthy and nutritious without worrying about having fresh produce at hand. Of course, throwing in some fresh spinach or kale never hurt anyone!