Banana. Berries. Nut butter. Milk. Maybe a handful of greens, when you’re feeling the veggies. If your smoothie game has revolved around these core players for as long as you can remember, it’s time to recruit some new members to the team.
Sure, you could switch up your fruit or swap the baby spinach for kale. Or, you could give your blended drink a serious nutrition boost with superfoods. These powerful ingredients are usually added to your sipper in small amounts since that’s all you need to get a concentrated dose of nutrition and tons of flavor.
As you might’ve gathered from the endless rows of bottles and pouches at your local health food store, there are about a million different superfoods to choose from. But these 10 are at the top of our list. They’ve got some serious science-backed benefits, and they actually taste good, so they’re easy to add to all kinds of drinks.
1. Hemp Seeds
Turn to these little seeds to give your smoothie a protein kick with extra perks. A three-tablespoon serving adds 10 grams of protein to keep you full for longer, but that’s not all. You’ll also get 10 grams of omega-3 fatty acids to support heart and brain health, along with 3 grams of fiber.
How to use them: Instead of blending them in, sprinkle hemp seeds on top of your smoothie for a crunchy texture. Plus, the pretty white-green color will pop against your drink.
Cocoa and cacao powder are usually interchangeable, but more often than not, cacao is the raw, less-processed version of cocoa—and that minimal processing means that cacao is higher in flavonoids, says McKel Hill, MS, RDN, LDN, founder of Nutrition Stripped. These powerhouse antioxidants have been shown to boost blood flow to the brain to help you feel more energized. Plus, their anti-inflammatory effect could help protect against heart disease and cancer.
How to use it: Get the most of cacao’s rich chocolate flavor by pairing it with cherries, raspberries, or cinnamon. You can also add cacao nibs for a crunchy topping or mix into your cold drink.
3. Chia Seeds
Like hemp, these small-but-mighty seeds pack protein, fiber, and omega-3s. (A two-tablespoon serving has 6 grams, 10 grams, and 5 grams, respectively.) So they’ll fill you up fast and keep you satisfied for hours. And as an added bonus, you’ll also get around 20 percent of your daily calcium and magnesium.
How to use them: Chia seeds start to turn thick and gelatinous when mixed with liquid. That’s great for puddings, but less so for drinks (especially if you plan to sip through a straw). For the best consistency, blend your smoothie right before you plan to drink it instead of making it ahead of time, recommends Ali Miller, RD, CDE, integrative dietitian and author of Naturally Nourished.
4. Goji Berries
Like honey or maple syrup, these red-orange berries will add some sweetness to your smoothie. The difference? There’s an added hit of nutrition. These berries are loaded with zeaxanthin, an antioxidant known to promote eye health. Plus, gojis come with fiber (more than 2.5 grams per two-tablespoon serving), which helps keep your blood sugar levels stable. Can’t say that about your liquid sweetener.
How to use it: Try soaking goji berries in water overnight before draining and adding them to the blender with your other ingredients. The softer texture will help them blend more easily, so your drink will have a more uniform sweet taste. If you forget to do that, you can still add them in without soaking, you might just need to give the smoothie another whirl in the blender.
This cream-colored powder has long been used in South America to balance hormones, boost energy and sex drive, reduce feelings of anxiety and depression, and help with focus. Will it work for you? According to Hill, there’s not quite enough scientific evidence to make any claims yet. But it’s still packed with enough vitamins and minerals to count as a superfood, she adds. You’ll get around 10 percent of your daily iron and vitamin C from just half a teaspoon.
How to use it: Maca tastes slightly nutty and sweet, so it goes with just about any other smoothie ingredient you can imagine.
The sunny yellow color will make your drink Insta-worthy for sure. But turmeric also contains curcumin, an anti-inflammatory compound that research suggests could help relieve pain caused by sore or achy joints. Post-workout smoothie add-in, anyone?
How to use it: Blend turmeric powder with coconut milk, frozen banana, and warming spices like ginger, cinnamon, and black pepper to make a golden milk smoothie, Miller suggests. Your body will absorb more of turmeric’s curcumin when paired with piperine, a compound found in black pepper.
You might already know that collagen is the protein that promotes smooth, supple skin. What you might not have heard is that collagen also lines your intestinal tract, so adding the powdered stuff to your smoothie could possibly help promote good digestive health. Another fun fact: Findings show that collagen promotes satiety, so it could play a role in keeping cravings at bay.
How to use it: Collagen is like the white button-down shirt of the superfood world. “It’s essentially another protein powder, typically with a neutral taste,” Hill says. That means it works with virtually any ingredient combo.
This dark purple powder boasts more antioxidants than fruits like acai berries, blueberries, pomegranates, or blackberries (are maqui bowls the new acai bowls?!). Maqui is especially rich in anthocyanins, a family of phytonutrients that have been shown to have a protective effect against heart disease and cancer. It might help fortify you against a cold or flu too, since some evidence suggests that anthocyanins boast antimicrobial properties.
How to use it: Add a scoop of maqui anytime you’re looking for a smoothie with a rich, dark berry flavor. It tastes like a concentrated form of blueberries or blackberries.
9. Camu Camu
This pale orange powder is loaded with vitamin C. In fact, a mere teaspoon of the stuff serves up 2,400 milligrams—about 30 times more than a medium orange. That’s great news for your skin, since vitamin C may help fight against damage caused by the sun’s UV rays and boosts the production of the skin-smoothing protein collagen.
How to use it: Try a scoop of camu camu when you’re in the mood for a drink with a refreshing, not-too-sweet taste. It has a tart berry flavor that complements strawberries, raspberries, and citrus fruits.
If you've been to a coffee shop in the past year or two, you're probably familiar with this trendy green powder. Since matcha powder is a highly concentrated form of green tea, it's loaded with antioxidants like ECGC, which has been shown to prevent tumor formation and lower the risk for certain cancers. Studies have shown it also has strong anti-infective properties and may boost metabolism. As if all that weren't reason enough to start going green, matcha may reduce anxiety and boost brain function.
How to use it: Toss it like magical green fairy dust into everything you put in your body. (Just kidding—too much caffeine in there for that!) It pairs well with lots of flavors, but it's great with coconut, blueberry, or raspberry. Use a nondairy base (some studies claim that dairy dampens some effects of those killer antioxidants), like almond milk or coconut milk.