5 Heart-Healthy Superfoods to Add to Your Smoothies

We’re all about heart health at [RE]Fresh, and the start of national nutrition month is just another excuse to get excited about our (second) favourite healthy food: the smoothie. Like juice, smoothies have tons of nutritional value, and their nutrients are bioavailable and easy to digest.

It’s also super easy to sneak lots of heart-healthy superfoods into your diet. Here are a few of our favourite smoothie add-ins, and new recipes to try!

Ginger

Ginger is our go-to when we want to add a little spice to our smoothies. In the cooler months, it adds a little fire and extra dimension to a pumpkin pie or gingerbread smoothie, and in the warmer months it adds some invigorating heat — perfect after an early-morning yoga session!

Why It’s Heart-Healthy

Ginger comes packed with gingerols. These phytonutrients help lower your cholesterol levels, which in turn reduces your risk of heart disease. The antioxidants in ginger also reduce a process called “LDL oxidation,” which is a chemical change to the structure of your blood cholesterol. This change makes cholesterol more likely to clog your arteries, which ups your chance of getting atherosclerosis.

Other Benefits:

Ginger is also a fantastic immune booster. It’s a natural decongestant, which means it should be your best friend during cold season. Ginger also protects you from inflammation, which is important for your overall health because inflammation contributes to weight gain, diabetes, cancer and a host of other chronic illnesses. Oh, and ginger also fights nausea, so it’s perfect to help you deal with flus and other bugs.

How to Use It:

Pineapple ginger cilantro smoothie: 1 cup iced green tea or coconut water; 1 cup frozen pineapple chunks; handful of cilantro leaves with stems; 1-1.5 Tbsp fresh grated ginger.

Chia Seeds

They might be tiny, but they’re packed with nutrition and heart-healthy benefits. They’re great in smoothies, but we also love them in juices (like our [RE]Fresca) or even puddings and jams!

Why They’re Heart-Healthy:

Chia seeds are one of the best sources of dietary fiber: each serving offers 10 grams of fiber, which is about 40% of your daily needs in just 2 tablespoons! You probably know fiber is great for digestion, but soluble fiber — the type of fiber that’s abundant in chia — also helps remove cholesterol from your body, which lowers your overall cholesterol levels.

Chia is also rich in alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fatty acid found in plant-based foods. Your body can convert ALA into DHA and EPA, the same omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil. Like fiber, these fats are associated with lower cholesterol and a lower risk of heart disease.

Other Benefits:

If you’re following a plant-based diet, or you’re just cutting down on dairy, chia seeds are a must-have in your diet. They’re packed with calcium — one serving has about ⅔ as much calcium as a cup of milk — and offer lots of zinc and iron, which are often low in vegetarian and vegan diets.

How to Use Them:

Oat and Omega-3 Smoothie: 1 cup unsweetened almond or cashew milk; 1 cup frozen sweet cherries; ½ frozen banana; ¼ cup rolled oats; 1 Tbsp peanut butter or PB2; 1 Tbsp chia seeds

Because they have such a mild flavour, chia can work in any smoothie. Just blend a tablespoon to your favourite recipe and you’re ready to go.

Soaked Almonds

You probably already know nuts are essential in a healthy diet, even though most people don’t eat enough. To get the most benefits from your almonds, we recommend soaking them overnight in filtered water. Use a ½ cup of water for each handful of almonds. After soaking almonds blend down to a super creamy, rich base that’s perfect for smoothies. As a bonus, you can also blend soaked almonds into pureed soups for healthy “cream” soups.

Why They’re Heart-Healthy:

Almonds are absolutely packed with fiber. They’re the highest-fiber nut, at around 4.5 grams of fiber per ¼ cup. Almonds also offer lots of heart-healthy unsaturated fatty acids, which control your cholesterol and fight heart disease. Whole almonds also boast lots of antioxidants, and their skins are packed with beneficial phytochemicals that fight LDL oxidation.

Other Benefits:

Where to start! Almonds are one of the richest natural sources of vitamin E, an antioxidant that cleanses your blood as well as fights heart disease. They’re also a fantastic source of manganese, a beauty-boosting mineral that helps build collagen in your skin and hair, and also strengthens your bones.

How to Use Them:

Protein Powerhouse Almond Smoothie: 1 cup filtered water or [RE]Fresh vanilla almond milk; handful of soaked almonds; ½ cup each fresh or frozen blueberries and strawberries; 1 scoop protein powder; raw honey (to taste).

Vanilla Bean

Vanilla might seem pretty, well, vanilla. But it’s really an overlooked superfood whose rich flavour works in almost any smoothie. Add fresh vanilla bean or vanilla powder to your smoothies and your heart will thank you!

Why It’s Heart-Healthy:

Vanillins, the chemicals that give vanilla its signature flavour, are incredibly powerful antioxidants. Research shows that vanillins also help blood vessels relax, which is important for heart health because constricted blood vessels increase blood pressure, which ups the strain on your heart. As a bonus, vanillins fight inflammation, which is linked to heart disease.

Other Benefits:

Using whole vanilla bean, or vanilla bean powder helps you get more B-complex vitamins, which naturally boost your energy by helping your food digest more easily. These vitamins also promote blood health and keep your brain energized and healthy.

How to Use It:

Vanilla Dreamsicle Smoothie: 1 cup vanilla almond or cashew milk; 1 cup orange sections (frozen or fresh); ¼ avocado; 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed; pulp of ½ vanilla bean; ice cubes (optional).

Beets

Beets are one of my favourite smoothie add-ins! They are a true double-duty superfood, and I add the roots AND the greens to my beet smoothies for the most health benefits. They also make your smoothies a really gorgeous purple hue, so they look as good as they taste!

Why They’re Heart-Healthy:

Both beet greens and roots are incredible sources of fiber, which as you know promotes heart health. Beet root also contains lots of nitrates which your body converts to nitric oxide, a natural blood vessel relaxer. That means that adding beets helps reduce blood pressure and improves blood flow.

Other Benefits:

Improved blood flow has so many health benefits — it makes your skin glow, helps with hair growth, gives you energy and helps with digestion. Beet greens also contain tons of vitamin K, a vitamin you need for healthy blood, and vitamin A, which supports immunity and fights aging.

How to Use Them:

Beet Berry Glow Smoothie: 1 cup almond milk, ½ raw beet, 2 cups beet greens, juice of ½ lemon, 1 cup frozen berries (any type).

Intrigued? Stop by our store at 33 Quebec Street, downtown Guelph, for a custom-blended smoothie packed with your favorite superfoods!

Sylvie Tremblay is a freelance copywriter and journalist based in Guelph, Ontario

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