algae supplements

Best Smoothie Supplements: A Guide to Nutritious Additions

As the summer months are upon us, more people may look to smoothies for a tasty snack or a healthy and convenient meal. Since you’ve already got the blender out, it’s pretty easy to add a bit of this and a bit of that, but can you overdo it on additions with specialty powders and supplements? The answer is yes.

Supplements have a place in health and nutrition, but they should never replace whole foods. It’s challenging to consume beyond the recommended intake of most vitamins through real food, but it’s much easier to do through supplements. As with most things, moderation is key. 

That said, supplemented smoothies are a superb way to consume many nutrients in a tasty blended beverage. They can be especially great for kids or picky eaters who don’t necessarily enjoy getting certain nutrients through food. The beauty of smoothies is that they can disguise some of the most undesirable flavors and textures. 

In this guide, we’ll review some essential nutrients and supplements to consider adding to your smoothies; these additions may come in the form of food or specific supplements. 

Best Smoothie Supplements to Add

Essential Nutrient Boosters

The options are endless when it comes to supplementing your smoothies, but here are the four most common and helpful critical nutrients for overall health benefits: protein, omega-3, fiber, and greens. This also follows the “fab four” rule of smoothies: protein, fat, fiber, and greens since omega-3s are a type of fat. 

Protein

powdered protein is one of the best smoothie supplements

Protein is easily one of the most popular supplements to add to smoothies because it’s one of best smoothie supplements. Protein smoothies can be especially great as a meal replacement or as a post-workout snack. 

Whey protein is the most common, researched, and likely most accessible form of protein powder. Whey protein is dairy-based, so it’s not ideal for those that follow a plant-based diet or that have any allergy or intolerance to dairy products. 

There are several plant-based protein powders on the market to choose from. These powders may include one protein source or be a blend of a few plant proteins like pea, rice, or hemp. Plant protein is typically a blend because, unlike whey, not as many plants are complete protein sources alone. However, when you combine pea and rice protein, you’ll have an excellent complete plant protein. 

Complete proteins contain all nine essential amino acids (EAA). (You must consume these from food because our bodies don’t make them). All of this says to pay attention to the amino acid profile of plant-based protein powders.

Protein and Health

While it’s not always necessary, supplementing with protein can be great for those on a plant-based diet if they are not meeting the recommended intake for protein. 

Protein smoothies can be used as a weight loss aid, assist weight gain, or help build muscle. The type of protein, amount, and timing of consuming it all depend on your specific goals. 

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) or protein is only 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight daily. HOWEVER, the RDA is the minimum amount one should consume to avoid deficiency. The protein requirements will be much higher for athletes, active individuals, or those looking to gain lean muscle mass. The International Society for Sports Nutrition (ISSN) recommends 1.4-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily for optimal muscle growth and repair. 

Fiber

fober

The American Society for Nutrition (ASN) states that only 7% of Americans eat enough fiber, so it makes sense to turn to supplements. It’s crucial to ease into fiber supplements, as adding too much too quickly may lead to uncomfortable gastrointestinal issues. 

As mentioned above, flax and chia are also good fiber supplements for smoothies. Oats are an effective fiber supplement to blend into your smoothies.

Oats are an excellent thickening agent. So if you like exceptionally creamy smoothies, then oats are one of the best smoothie supplements for you. 

There are so many plant foods high in fiber; for example, if you want to beef up the fiber content in your smoothie from vegetables, add zucchini chunks, cauliflower, or pumpkin. 

Powdered Fiber Supplements

  • Psyllium husk: Psyllium is a prebiotic food that’s great for gut health and is used to improve digestion. It’s also been linked to other benefits like heart health and weight management. 
  • Acacia fiber: Similarly, acacia fiber is sold as a fiber supplement to aid in digestion and gut health. 

Fiber and Health 

The USDA recommended daily amounts for fiber are: 

  • Men (age 50 and under): 38 grams per day
  • Men over 50: 30 grams per day
  • Women (age 50 and under): 25 grams per day
  • Women over 50: 21 grams per day

Fiber is associated with lowered risk of developing chronic diseases like diabetes, some cancers, and cardiovascular diseases. It’s also vital for regular digestion and a healthy gut. 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that we can get from foods like olive oil or fatty fish. They are considered essential fats because the body doesn’t make them. There are three types of omega-3s: EPA, ALA, and DHA. 

Flax and chia seeds are the best plant sources of omega-3s. Specifically, they are high in ALA. Chia and flax seeds are nutritional powerhouses and can be easily added to smoothies. Ground flaxseed or flaxseed oil is easier on a blender, but whole flaxseeds will do; it just may require a bit more blending. Both chia and flax are also high in fiber, so they are excellent smoothie supplements across the board.

Omega-3 and Health 

The recommended intake for ALA is 1.6 g for men and 1.1 g for women. There are no set recommended levels for EPA and DHA, but the FDA recommends consuming no more than five g/day of EPA and DHA. 

Consuming an adequate amount of omega-3 has been linked to a plethora of health benefits. Perhaps most notable is their beneficial effects on heart health by lowering bad cholesterol (LDL) and improving good cholesterol (HDL). 

Greens and Superfood Powders

Greens and superfood powders often go hand in hand. “Superfoods” are foods that are thought to have specific beneficial properties for health based on their antioxidant, mineral, and/or vitamin content while maintaining a low-calorie count. 

Algae

algae supplements
  • Spirulina is a common type of blue-green algae rich in protein, copper, and B vitamins. Some people use it to help with high blood pressure and as a protein supplement.
  • Chlorella is another highly nutritious algae that are found as a powdered supplement or in green supplement blends.

Super Greens Blend

Greens blend typically consists of dehydrated green vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli, alfalfa, wheatgrass, and herbs. Blends may also include superfoods like spirulina and wheatgrass, for example. There are a variety of combinations of the individual ingredients that will vary by brand. 

Greens and Health 

As many of us have been taught from a young age, we must eat enough greens to stay healthy. Obviously, all vegetables contain vital micronutrients, but greens have specific vitamins and minerals that some of the population does not get enough of. The overarching themes for greens supplements are that they are chock-full of free-radical fighting antioxidants and essential minerals.   

Again, it will vary by brand, but many blends are around 5 grams (or one scoop) per serving, which is plenty for a daily dose. Though the micronutrients in greens are essential, we only need them in small amounts, hence the “micro” aspect. 

Additional Superfoods 

Below are other superfoods that aren’t as prominent as those listed above but can be great additions to your nutrient-packed smoothies. 

Cacao Supplement as a powder

Cacao – Cacao is chocolate’s healthy alternative. It can be used in powder form or as cacao nibs in smoothies to create a creamy and chocolate flavor. 

Maca – Maca, or maca root, can also be bought in powder form. It doesn’t have a strong flavor. Maca has many beneficial properties but is most notably rich in iodine and iron. 

Adaptogens – This is a broad term, but adaptogens include things like functional mushrooms and ashwagandha. They are thought to contribute to healthy cognitive functioning, amongst other benefits. 

Energy-boosting Supplements

Especially if this is a breakfast smoothie you’re whipping up, you may desire supplements that provide a natural energy boost. Be conscious of timing with these supplements, as it’s wise to avoid caffeine within six hours of bedtime to avoid interfering with sleep. 

Coffee 

Coffee is a go-to source of caffeine for many and can be mixed with other ingredients (think cacao or flavored protein powder) to create a delicious coffee-flavored smoothie. 

Matcha Powder

Caffeine from green tea can provide an energy boost without a crash due to its other components, like L-theanine. Matcha powder is a type of green tea that has a higher caffeine content and additional nutrients. Additionally, green tea supplements have been shown to help with weight loss. 

Disclaimer

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate supplements. They aren’t food, but they also aren’t considered pharmaceuticals, so they tend to fall into a regulatory gray area. For this reason, when researching and purchasing supplements, it’s essential to do so critically. Look for certifications of third-party testing and compliance. The most common certifications are:

As with any supplement, make sure there aren’t any unnecessary additives, flavors, fillers, or added sugars. If you’re looking to make up a healthy, clean smoothie, you’ll want to avoid these often “hidden” ingredients, which may act counterintuitively to your health goals. 

There is always the potential for interactions and contraindications of certain supplements with other supplements, foods, or medications. Always speak to a health professional such as a doctor or registered dietician (RD) to discuss your individual health goals before incorporating dietary supplements into your routine.

Final Thoughts

What works best for you may come down to trial and error with different supplement combinations and ingredients. Supplementing your smoothies can be a great tool to boost your well-being and help you achieve your health goals as long as you aren’t replacing actual whole foods with supplements.

Topics around health and nutrition are never simple and straightforward because everyone is different, and there are always caveats. Consider consulting a health professional for individualized advice. 

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