I have always tried to cram my smoothies full of ingredients which will boost my mental and physical performance. Still, there is a great deal of information out there and it can be a bit confusing to sift through all of the suggestions found online. Let’s look at some of the ingredients and associated benefits without being forced to read a full-length novel.
1. Beet Root
This is by far my favourite option. While loaded with vitamins and minerals, beet roots are extremely low in fat. Beets are a great source of fibre while containing other substances such as inorganic nitrates and pigments. So, what benefits can the humble beet root provide?
Heart-related issues such as stroke, heart failure and cardiovascular disease are some of the leading causes of death around the world. Studies have shown that beet roots can lower blood pressure by up to 10 mmHG (millimetres of mercury) within a matter of hours. This is due to the fact beets contain a high level of nitrates (chemicals known to help moderate blood pressure).
Beets have also been shown to improve athletic performance. Regularly consuming beets will help the body use oxygen more efficiently and therefore, increase endurance. After beets are eaten, the maximum concentration of nitrates within the blood peaks within two to three hours. So, be sure to consume them well before training.
Let’s also remember that beets can offer a number of amazing benefits including:
- Fighting inflammation
- Improving digestion
- Supporting brain function (thanks to increased oxygen delivery)
- Improving cognitive abilities and reducing the risk of dementia (more research is required)
- Due to their high water content, beets can aid in weight loss
- Some studies suggest that beet pigments could prevent the growth of cancerous cells
On a final note, beets are incredibly tasty. I will always include them within a smoothie.
The linseed is a great source of many nutrients. This primarily results from high concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids, fibre and lignans (plant-based compounds). Thanks to these lignans, linseed offers powerful antioxidant properties; potentially helping to reduce the risk of developing cancer. Their oestrogen-friendly nature may be particularly useful in lowering incidences of breast and prostate cancer.
According to a Canadian study involving 6,000 women, consuming these seeds reduces the risk of developing breast cancer by 18 per cent. Another smaller evaluation involving 15 men showed that 30 grams of linseed per day in conjunction with a low-fat diet lowered levels of a specific marker for prostate cancer (once again potentially lowering the risks of developing prostate cancer). These seeds also contain an appreciable amount of high-quality protein, they can control blood pressure and they can moderate blood sugar levels.
Although the taste of spirulina is nothing to brag about, the health benefits cannot be denied. Spirulina is actually a type of blue-green algae found in both salt and freshwater. Often touted as one of the most nutrient-dense supplements on the planet, spirulina offers amazing antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
The process of oxidation may damage a host of cells throughout the body; including DNA. This can result in inflammation and the presence of chronic diseases including cancer. The good news is that an active ingredient known as phycocyanin is found within spirulina. This antioxidant is also what gives spirulina is characteristic blue-green colour.
Phycocyanin helps to fight free radicals and to inhibit inflammation; offering amazing effects when taken on a regular basis. Furthermore, spirulina may be able to reduce blood pressure, to moderate levels of blood sugar and to improve the number of lipids found within the bloodstream.
Chock-full of vitamins, fibre and minerals, broccoli contains multiple antioxidants which can help to protect cells throughout the body. Countless studies have illustrated that cruciferous vegetables (including broccoli) might help to prevent some forms of cancer (although more research is needed).
Fun fact: Were you aware that it is more difficult to absorb the nutrients found within broccoli if it is cooked? This is why adding a dollop of mustard to raw broccoli is a great way to make the most out of this miracle vegetable. Broccoli has also been found to contain a substance known as sulforaphane (known for its anti-diabetic and cancer-preventing properties). The main issue is that cooking actually destroys this enzyme and another known as myrosinase (needed to absorb the sulforaphane mentioned above). So, one of the best life hacks is to consume uncooked broccoli (such as within a smoothie).
This root vegetable has often been claimed to represent the perfect food. Not only are carrots crunchy and tasty, but they are excellent sources of beta carotene. Other nutrients include fibre, potassium, vitamins (such as K1), and antioxidants. Carrots have been linked to weight loss, improved eye function, lower levels of cholesterol, and a reduced risk of cancer (thanks to substances known as carotene antioxidants). This is also where their bright orange colour is derived from. Here are some other important benefits:
- Carrots can help to lower cholesterol levels.
- Carrots are low in calories, so they are often used as a weight-loss food.
- Thanks to levels of vitamin A, carrots may help to prevent night blindness and macular degeneration.
Spinach is laden with numerous vitamins including: A, C, K, B12
Here are some additional minerals: Manganese, Magnesium, Iron
On an important note, vitamin K is essential for bone health and is difficult to find in high concentrations. This is why spinach is an all-around excellent vegetable to include within a smoothie.
Of course, blueberries are a great addition thanks to their sweet taste. They are also packed with phytoflavinoids and antioxidants. Blueberries offer appreciable levels of additional vitamins and potassium.
Studies have shown that blueberries can present RNA damage (reducing the risk of some forms of cancer). They are also known for their anti-ageing properties and their ability to prevent heart disease thanks to high levels of “healthy” LDL cholesterol. Other antioxidant-related properties include improving mental function and delaying cognitive decline.
Bananas are a great addition in order to balance out the bitter taste of spirulina. Not only do they contain high concentrations of antioxidants, but bananas offer the benefit of moderating blood sugar levels. The fact that these fruits also offer an on-the-go sense of convenience is a final advantage.
9. Vitamin C (Capsules)
On a final note, capsules of this powerful nutrient can simply be split in two and poured directly into the smoothie. Only a single capsule of 1,000 milligrams will supply numerous additional benefits. This is also why it is a good idea to have capsules at home; they can be added into your drink within seconds. You can read about Vitamin C and capsules as well as other healthy lifestyle recommendations in my other blog posts.