Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Smoothie season is ramping up, and that can be good news for your healthy eating goals. Whether whizzing one up for breakfast or after a spirited workout, a smoothie with the right ingredients can flood your body with a cornucopia of vital nutrients and antioxidants.
While most smoothie combos rely heavily on staples like berries and milk, there are plenty of less utilized nutritious items that can take a ride in your blender and bring a surprisingly delicious drink to your lips. And, no, we don’t just mean spinach. The sky’s the limit with respect to smoothie ingredients you can whip up.
These frosty blade runners featuring some unexpected dynamic duos are tantamount to liquid health food and guaranteed to up your insta-game.
1. Frozen cauliflower and avocado
In the perfect game of hide and seek you’d never imagine that a thick and creamy smoothie can contain cauliflower without adding any noticeable veg flavor. The relatively mild-tasting subzero florets are an easy way to up your intake of cruciferous vegetables, which an extensive research review in the International Journal of Epidemiology found offers protection from heart disease and cancer. Potent antioxidant compounds in cruciferous veggies like cauliflower are likely a big reason why eating more of them can help you live healthy for longer. It’s best to use frozen cauliflower for blender drinks as it will have a much less pronounced sulfur smell and bitter taste than fresh.
Avocado lends this smoothie combo a thick, fudgy consistency along with a shot of heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, fiber and a range of micronutrients including folate, vitamin K and potassium. Both are great when whizzed with cocoa, nut butter and warming spices like cinnamon.
Smooth Blend: Place 1 cup unsweetened almond or cashew milk, 1/4 cup water, 1/4 avocado, 2 pitted medjool dates, 1 scoop protein powder of choice, 1 tablespoon cocoa powder, 2 teaspoon almond butter, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 cup frozen cauliflower florets and 1 small frozen chopped banana in a blender container and blend until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, blend in additional milk or water.
2. Kefir and sweet potato
Forget milk – tangy kefir makes for thicker smoothies and a drink populated with probiotics to help foster a more robust digestive system. In fact, old-world kefir is home to a greater population of friendly critters than yogurt. As a bonus, a cup of the fermented dairy delivers about 10 grams of high-quality protein to show your muscles some love. To trim your intake of added sugars be sure to blend in plain flavored kefir.
The addition of cooked sweet potato infuses your smoothie with natural sweetness and a payload of beta-carotene, a nutrient linked to improved brain functioning as we age. In our bodies, beta-carotene can also be converted to vitamin A to help keep our immune systems humming along. After all, who isn’t pondering immunity these days?
Smooth Blend: Place 1 cup plain kefir beverage, 1 cup cubed peeled cooked sweet potato, 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ginger powder, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg and 1 small frozen chopped banana.
3. Tofu and hemp seeds
If you are going plant-based and don’t love using protein powders, then tofu is a stealth way to give your smoothie a boost of protein. The key is to use soft or silken tofu, which blends effortlessly into drinks without making them taste bean-y. The velvety bean curd is a source of magnesium, an essential nutrient that most people don’t eat enough of which is bad news since it has a regulating effect on vitamin D levels in our bodies. Magnesium deficiency shuts down the vitamin D synthesis and metabolism pathway, and that can put your bone strength at risk.
Groovy hemp seeds add a nutty taste to different smoothie combos, along with more plant-based protein and magnesium. You’ll also benefit from giving your smoothie a boost of heart-benefiting omega-3 fat and energizing iron.
Smooth Blend: Place 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk beverage (carton type), 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 1/2 cup soft (silken) tofu, 2 cups baby spinach, 1/4 cup fresh basil, 2 tablespoons hemp seeds (hemp hearts), 1 teaspoon fresh ginger and 1 cup cubed frozen mango in a blender container and blend until smooth.
Discover more creative smoothie combos that make delicious breakfasts, snacks and more: