Who doesn't love a smoothie, right? They're creamy, sweet and can be extremely healthy, depending on how you make them. Check out our top eight unexpectedly healthy smoothie ingredients... none of which are fruit!
Even if you hate spinach in your salads, you'll love it in your smoothies! The flavor of this leafy vegetable blends right in and won't stand out against sweet fruits, especially potent ones like blueberries, cherries and pineapple. Spinach is also rich in fiber, flavonoids and antioxidant-rich vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamin A, manganese, zinc and selenium.
Plain Greek yogurt
Sure, it's tempting to add flavored yogurt to your smoothie, but is it really necessary? Most flavored yogurts are packed with added sugars, especially if you're using lowfat or light versions. Instead of using the flavored stuff, opt for lowfat or fat free plain Greek yogurt. You'll have the benefit of added protein without losing out on the creaminess yogurt offers. If you're worried you won't like the flavor, go ahead and drizzle a touch of honey or agave nectar into the mix. These natural sweeteners are sweeter than table sugar, which means you won't need much to sweeten things up.
Plain almond milk
Plain almond milk has a slightly sweet, nutty flavor that blends well with fruits and vegetables, especially if you're using frozen fruits that can be difficult to blend. Plus, almond milk is low in calories and sugars, loaded with vitamins and minerals, and is usually fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Generally speaking, it's a better liquid additive than sugar-laden fruit juice.
Like spinach, the flavor of avocado in a smoothie is virtually undetectable. At first glance, you may be a little wary of adding such a calorie- and fat-laden veggie to your smoothie, but you can rest assured that the fats are the healthy variety that help protect your heart and body from free radical damage. The extra fat will also help keep you full longer, reducing any inclination to overindulge in between meals.
Powders and tablets
You know how when you buy a smoothie at a smoothie shop, they offer you the option to add a special "blend"? Maybe it's a recovery blend, fat-burning blend or immunity booster. The fact is, they're charging you extra to throw a scoop of a proprietary mix of proteins, vitamins and minerals into your smoothie... so what's stopping you from doing that at home? Toss in a scoop of your favorite protein powder following your workout or throw in a chewable vitamin. Stick to powdered or liquid supplements, or those that are designed to be chewed. Our favorite? A digestive health blend! Women tend to have more digestive problems than men, so adding a probiotic supplement to your smoothie can help ease digestive problems while also aiding in absorption and assimilation of other nutrients. One great option is the zero calorie chewable Vidazorb Probiotic tablets. Just toss a couple Vidazorbs into your smoothie -- it couldn't be easier!
Old fashioned oats
When you want your smoothie to act as a meal replacement, old fashioned oats are a great way to add some tummy-filling bulk. The flavor is mild and won't interfere with the sweetness of the added fruit, while the extra fiber will slow absorption and keep you full for hours. You don't need to add much -- a quarter cup is plenty!
Carrots aren't just for dipping! When you blend ]frozen carrots into a smoothie, you get a vitamin A-rich drink with a nice, sweet flavor. These mix especially well with pineapple chunks, mango slices and a touch of fresh squeezed orange for the perfect morning sunrise smoothie.
Spices, roots and extracts
Does your go-to smoothie need a makeover? Try adding a pinch of spice or a few drops of extract into the mix. A small piece of ginger or a teaspoon of ground cinnamon will help with digestive health while adding a flavorful kick. Cayenne pepper stimulates blood flow and can even boost metabolism... just be aware that it's spicy, so don't add too much! Cloves help reduce inflammation and calm nausea, and a few drops of vanilla extract can help alleviate anxiety and boost metabolism. Really, there's no reason not to take advantage of the flavor and health benefits of spices. The trick is to start with small amounts and gradually add more -- you don't want to accidentally overpower your smoothie, especially if you're not sure you'll like the new flavor.