The 9 Best Smoothie Ingredients of 2021, According to a Dietitian

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Smoothies are a delicious and portable way to create a drinkable meal or snack. They can also be helpful for getting kids involved in food prep, since even tots can help to put ingredients into the blender. Great for picky eaters, folks with little time, or those who would rather not cook, smoothies offer a fast, tasty way to include more vegetables and fruit in the day.

While smoothies are available at more restaurants these days, making your own smoothie at home allows you to choose what goes into the mix. In general, when creating a smoothie that provides a variety of food groups and a balance of carbohydrate and protein to keep energy levels steady, aim for a source of high fiber carbohydrate, fat, protein, fruits, veggies, and liquid. Smoothies can be delicious and incredibly nutritious, but in order to make this happen, you must be conscious of what you are throwing into the blender.

Here, the best smoothie ingredients:

Best Overall: Manitoba Harvest Hemp Hearts Shelled Hemp Seeds

Shelled hemp seeds, also known as “hemp hearts," add flavor and nutrients to your blended smoothie and can also be added as a topping for your smoothie bowl. Nutritionally, hemp seeds add protein and fat to a smoothie. Three tablespoons of hemp hearts deliver 10 grams of plant protein. The seeds also pack in omega 3 fats. They also provide a variety of vitamins and minerals, like iron, B vitamins, magnesium, copper, and zinc. Texture- and flavor-wise, blending the seeds into a smoothie can add creaminess and a nutty flavor.

Manitoba’s Hemp Hearts are certified gluten-free and kosher. Since they are the seeds from a plant, they are appropriate for those following a vegetarian diet. Additionally, the company is a Certified B-Corp with a net-zero carbon footprint, with sustainability being at the forefront of everything they do.

Best Budget: Terrasoul Superfoods Organic Ceylon Cinnamon Powder

Terrasoul Ceylon Cinnamon powder

Cinnamon adds warm, sweet flavor and depth to a blend. It also pairs deliciously with ingredients like vanilla or cacao to create intensified flavor combos. Many times organic spices can be very expensive, but not this bulk bag of Organic Cinnamon by TerraSoul Superfoods. Compared to a single 1.6-ounce bottle of organic cinnamon sold at most grocery stores for over $5, this 16-ounce bag of cinnamon makes it more affordable to add cinnamon to smoothies.

Add a pinch for a hint of cinnamon flavor or a larger portion to your favorite recipe to add warmth and grounding flavors to an otherwise cold beverage. If you're worried about sacrificing quality for price, rest assured that TerrasSoul tests their Ceylon cinnamon powder for heavy metals and purity from over 300 chemicals, so you're getting a great product. This product is also USDA organic.

Best Sweetener: Joolies Organic Whole Medjool Dates

Fruit is an excellent way to sweeten up a smoothie in a flavorful way. Ripe bananas, berries, and tropical fruits like mango and pineapple, and any other fruit you love, are great ways to add sweetness in addition to a variety of nutrients. However, sometimes, a smoothie needs more sweetness without the additional fruity flavor. Dried, Medjool dates are an easy way to add sweetness without an overpowering flavor. Dates feature a mildly caramel-like flavor that also pairs really well with nut butters, cacao, and a wide range of other ingredients.

Joolies dates are grown and handpicked in the Coachella Valley of southern California. They’re USDA organic, Kosher, Halal, and glyphosate residue-free. Start with one date (don't forget to remove the pit!) and adjust as needed. Depending on the power of your blender, chopping the date or soaking it in warm water before adding it to the smoothie can help it blend up more smoothly.

Best Protein Powder: Sprout Living Epic Protein Powder Original Flavor

Protein is an important component of satisfaction and satiety, or how full you remain after a meal throughout a prolonged period of time. If you need your smoothie to keep you feeling fuller a bit longer for busier days, it's important to include protein. If you are looking to make your smoothie a meal, aim to include at least 15 grams of protein in addition to sources of carbohydrate and fat.

Sprout Living’s Epic Protein powder is made from pea protein, so it's vegan in addition to being organic. In addition to offering protein (13g per scoop), this product also contains fiber, which is important to digestive health and is also likely found in other components of your smoothie like fruits, veggies, and whole grains.

The protein source for this powder is peas, so it can be safely used by those with allergies to soy protein or whey proteins. Because this product is unflavored and unsweetened, it adds protein while allowing you to create the flavor profile you want for your smoothie.

Best Chia: Nutiva Organic Premium Black Chia Seeds

Chia seeds pack in fiber, protein, and the ability to offer sustained hydration. They have a very mild, slightly nutty flavor and will thicken a smoothie quite a bit depending on how much you add and how much liquid you use. Packing 16% of the recommended daily intake of fiber in one tablespoon, these seeds can be a nice smoothie option if you need to boost your fiber intake. The seeds also contain omega 3 fats as well as magnesium.

When in contact with water, chia seeds swell to about ten times their size and form a gel. This not only offers a sort of sustained-release hydration after you eat them, but it can also help to smoothly move stool through the intestines. Containing mostly soluble fiber, these superfoods can help lower LDL cholesterol and slow digestion, promoting blood sugar stability. These chia seeds are organic and non-GMO. Additionally, Nutiva is a certified B corporation, and 1% of their sales goes towards regenerative agriculture.

Best Flax: Spectrum Essentials Flaxseed

Like many seeds, flax seeds may be small, but they are full of flavor and nutrients. The ground seeds will lend a mildly nutty flavor to a smoothie. While whole flaxseeds can pass through the digestive tract undigested, meaning their nutrients don't get absorbed, ground flaxseed allows for nutrient absorption as they pass along the digestive tract. In additional to a small amount of protein, they contain fiber and omega-3 fats as well as magnesium and other vitamins and minerals.

Spectrum Organic’s Ground Flax Seeds are cold-milled to preserve nutrition. A 24-ounce bag contains 48 2-tablespoon servings.

Best Liquid: MALK Unsweetened MALK, Vanilla Almond

When it comes to liquid bases for smoothies, the options can range from very simple (water) to more complex (mixed nut/seed milks). Depending on the type of milk, it can change the flavor and/or texture of the smoothie as well as the nutrition profile. For instance, dairy milk has a pretty neutral flavor, and adds creaminess and protein. Dairy milk is an option for those who are not lactose intolerant or dairy sensitive. For people who cannot eat dairy or prefer the texture/ flavor of non-dairy milks, there are also a lot of options. Nut milks provide the creamy consistency of milk without the lactose, or milk protein. In general, nut and seed milks are mostly water. If you're depending on them to provide the calcium and vitamin D of dairy products, then it's important to choose an option that is fortified with these nutrients.

This organic vanilla almond milk is a simple option that only has four ingredients: organic almonds, natural vanilla flavor derived from vanilla beans, Himalayan salt, and filtered water.

The nuts used to make MALK are sprouted overnight and then cold-pressed to preserve nutrients and freshness. The product is also BPA-Free, HKA, Glyphosate Residue-Free Certified, and USDA Certified Organic. If you are already getting your calcium and vitamin D from other food sources throughout the day, and are just looking for a liquid for your smoothies to add creaminess, this is a great option.

Best Flavor Booster: Navitas Organics Cacao Powder

Adding raw cacao powder not only boosts the flavor and deliciousness of smoothies but it can increase the nutritional value as well. Cacao powder is made from grinding up the seeds of the cacao plant, cold pressing the mixture and drying it. It differs from cocoa powder, which goes through more processing steps, including roasting. Cacao powder has an intensely chocolate-y flavor and pairs well with fruit, nut/seed butters, and almost every other potential smoothie ingredient. In addition to adding rich flavor to a smoothie, cacao powder also adds fiber and a variety of nutrients, such as iron, magnesium, and potassium.

Navitas Organics Cacao Powder is made from single origin, Fairtrade certified, USDA organic cacao beans, which are grown and processed to benefit its farmers and the planet. Navitas is committed to accuracy and transparency. The company third party tests all products to verify quality and nutritional values.

A note to those who are sensitive to caffeine, one serving of cacao powder (2.5 tablespoons) contains 45 milligrams of caffeine, about half a cup of coffee.

Best Nut Butter: Once Again Organic Unsweetened Creamy Peanut Butter, Lightly Salted

Once Again Organic Creamy Peanut Butter

Nut butters are a fully versatile addition to smoothies. They add creaminess, even if you use water as a liquid base. They also add nutty flavor and a satisfying combination of protein and fat. Once Again keeps things simple and tasty. Their certified organic peanut butter is made by roasting and grinding blanched, dry roasted peanuts with a pinch of salt until they are wonderfully creamy. While a small amount of salt can tie together sweet flavors in a smoothie, if you prefer no salt, they also offer a salt-free version.

We like that Once Again packs their nut butter in glass jars, which you can recycle or re-use as a cup for your smoothie. Since this product is free of emulsifiers, separation is natural, and there is a 3-month shelf life if not refrigerated.

Final Verdict

Smoothies are a quick and easy way to add variety and nutrients to your routine. Increasing the variety of protein and fat sources is crucial to long-term health and well-being. For that reason, Manitoba Hemp Hearts (view at Amazon) takes our pick for the best overall smoothie ingredient because they provide protein and omega-3 rich fats—so all that's left to add are carbohydrates, fruits, and veggies. Rich in plant-based protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and magnesium, these small but mighty seeds will take your smoothie to the next level.

What to Look for in Smoothie Ingredients

Simple Ingredients:

When it comes to smoothies, things can get complicated very quickly. And that's okay if you enjoy a complex smoothie! But for a more efficient smoothie-making routine, you can stick to the very basic plan of including a source of carbohydrate (like rolled oats or cooked sweet potatoes), a source of protein (nuts, seeds, protein powder, yogurt, milk) a source of fat (avocado, nuts), and fruits and veggies. As far as liquid goes, you can keep it as simple as water or opt for cow's milk or yogurt or nut or seed milk.

Organic:

The bottom line is that eating fruits and veggies is important and if the choice is between eating non-organic produce or not eating it at all, opt for the non-organic choice. If organic is within your budget and if smoothies are a staple, try to buy organic ingredients, powders, and superfoods. Following the Environmental Working Group’s list of the dirty dozen can help guide you in picking produce that should be eaten in organic or conventional versions.

Meal versus Snack:

When choosing the best ingredients for a smoothie, it depends on what you need this smoothie to accomplish in terms of lasting satisfaction. If you need the smoothie to function as a meal or a snack that lasts a bit longer, make sure you've got enough food in general and also that it includes fat, protein, and high fiber carbs can create a more lasting smoothie experience. And, no matter how long you want the smoothie satisfaction to last, experiment to find flavor combinations you love.

Sugar:

As a general rule, we suggest measuring your fruit to no more than one cup to keep sugar levels within a healthy range. Adding fruit will help sweeten smoothies; however, if you need extra sweetness, stick to natural sources like dried fruit, maple syrup, or honey, or try a flavor enhancer like cacao or cinnamon.

FAQs

What are the best smoothie ingredients for weight loss?

Weight loss is highly individual, so what works for one person may not work for another. In general, this holds true for smoothie ingredients; however, making a smoothie that's high in protein and fiber and low in calories and carbohydrates may promote weight loss.

What can I put in a smoothie to make it taste better?

Taste is an individual preference, and it can also change. Before making your smoothies, consider the general flavor and texture you want to accomplish. Do you want a creamy smoothie? Thick? Sweeter? Fruity? Once you know the main flavor(s) and texture you're aiming for, you can then put together your ingredients. Once you taste your smoothie after the first blend, you can adjust by adding ingredients like dates (for more sweetness), cinnamon or cacao powder (for a richer flavor), or more nut butter (for a creamier smoothie). Additionally, adding ice can create a colder, slushier smoothie and can be great addition to pep up the texture.

What Experts Say

"Smoothies are an excellent way to boost your nutrition in a tasty, sweet way. If you love morning smoothies but are strapped for time, consider making your own 'smoothie freezer packs' by combining all smoothie ingredients (except the liquid) in a reusable container and sticking it in the freezer; in the morning, simply combine your mix with liquid and blend."—Eliza Savage, MS, RD, CDN

Why Trust Verywell Fit?

The products listed in this round-up are items that Sydney Greene, as a registered dietitian and avid smoothie maker, has in her own kitchen as well as items that she would recommend to her clients, friends, and family. Each product has been vetted for quality. She has also read through reviews and product comparisons to choose items that stood out for price and likeability. 

How We Select Supplements

Our team works hard to be transparent about why we recommend certain supplements; you can read more about our dietary supplement methodology here

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