The 20 Best-Ever Smoothie Ingredients for Weight Loss
Ah, childhood—when you could suck down sweet, frosty milkshakes like they were water and never gain a pound. As you know too well, those days are over. Or are they? With the right smoothie recipe, you can tickle your taste buds and indulge your childhood nostalgia without the accompanying kajillions of calories. In fact, the right smoothie ingredients can actually help you burn belly fat without sacrificing flavor!
Rule No. 1: Whether you make smoothies at home or order them at a juice bar, be mindful of what's going into them. (If you're going to get a 20-ouncer that includes peanut butter, whey protein, and frozen yogurt, you might as well get a McDonald's shake.) Rule No. 2: Whenever possible, include these energy-revving, metabolism-boosting, fat-frying foods that have been proven to aid weight loss.
The backbone of any good smoothie, bananas create a texture similar to ice cream for a fraction of the calories (one medium banana contains only 106) and major weight-loss benefits. A study in the journal Anaerobe found that women who ate a banana twice daily before meals for two months reduced belly bloat by 50 percent. Bananas increase bloat-fighting gut bacteria and they're packed with potassium, which can reduce water retention. And they're a good source of fiber, which will keep you feeling full.
Combo suggestion: Pair frozen bananas with berries, almond milk or nut butter to maximize the ice-creaminess, while adding antioxidants and protein. In fact, why not go all out with this chocolate peanut butter banana breakfast shake?
These humble, unflavored cubes can make any smoothie taste deluxe, adding creaminess and protein—plus serious fat burning benefits. Tofu is packed with isoflavones, a type of antioxidant, and is also particularly high in fat-blasting genistein, a compound that acts directly on obesity genes, helping to turn them off and reduce the storage of body fat. (When adding a protein source to your smoothie, try opting for tofu or a plant-based protein powder instead of whey powder, which can cause bloating.)
Combo suggestion: Tofu is ideal for adding a silky texture and some satiating heft to berries and other fruits; try it as the base for blueberries and almond milk.
Straight up: Blueberries are the #1 fat-loss food you should be eating. They've been shown to switch on the genes that torch belly fat. In an animal study at the University of Michigan, researchers found that rats that ate a blueberry-rich diet for three months had significantly reduced belly fat than the control group. Strawberries and raspberries are weight-loss weapons as well: They're all rich in polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that can stop fat from forming. Can't spring for fresh? Never feel guilty: Frozen has just as many nutrients, and they're actually more blender-friendly.
Combo suggestion: We love this 280-calorie berry oat smoothie.
One of the best spices for weight loss, cinnamon also contains those magical polyphenols, which have been proven to slim bloated bodies and improve insulin sensitivity. A study printed in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that adding a little over a teaspoon of cinnamon to a carb-heavy meal could help stabilize blood sugar, preventing munchie-inducing insulin spikes.
Combo suggestion: Sorry, nothing named "Toast" or "Crunch." This apple pie protein smoothie includes Greek yogurt and ginger, which have fat-burning properties of their own.
Opt for green smoothies instead of juice whenever you can: Blenders preserve the satiating fiber that juicers press out. (And if you've made both kinds at home, you know that cleaning a juicer is a special kind of hell.) Although you can't go wrong with the omnipresent kale, spinach is especially powerful when it comes to weight loss. In one Swedish study published in Appetite, overweight women drank a mixture with five grams of spinach extracts each morning. After three months, they lost 11 pounds, far more than the control group. The women also reported fewer food cravings, thanks to elevated levels of GLP-1, a physiological regulator of appetite and food intake.
Combo suggestion: Other greens, celery or cucumber to juice things up, and an apple or berries for sweetness. Use our guide to seasonal vegetables to get the produce packed with the most essential vitamins and minerals.
A weight-loss superstar, almonds contain good fats that will fill you up, not out. They contain fat-burning compounds that limit the amount of fat absorbed by the body, so some passes through undigested. They're also high in magnesium and B vitamins, which could lend you more energy to burn at the gym. Almond butter is high in protein, which will make your smoothie more satisfying. We like RXBar's almond butter varieties, which come by the jar and in single-serving squeeze packs.
Combo suggestion: Bananas, almond milk, and berries are ideal. Pick a healthy almond butter from our guide and use it in a meal-replacement smoothie.
This is one trend worth latching on to. Because of its neutral flavor, coconut oil is an ideal mix-in for just about any smoothie you can think of—and if you're interested in torching belly fat, you'll start brainstorming. Consuming coconut oil reduces abdominal obesity, a study printed in the journal Lipids found. Half of the study participants ate two tablespoons of coconut oil daily; the other half of the group was given soybean oil. Only the coconut-oil group saw their waistlines shrink.
Throw an impressive curveball at your next brunch by whipping up some virgin Bloody Mary smoothies, extra spicy, and burn off the dietary sins of the night before. Capsaicin, the natural compound that gives chili peppers that beautiful burn, has been proven to reduce belly fat, suppress appetite and kickstart the body's ability to burn food as energy. A review in Open Heart showed that capsaicin can boost the metabolism, leading to fat loss, as well as prevent heart disease. This Bloody Mary smoothie, which incorporates spinach and Sriracha, is only 37 calories. It's so flavorful that you won't mind saving the vodka for your next cheat day. (If you like, sub in pinches of cayenne pepper for Sriracha to reduce sodium content.)
Combo suggestion: If a Bloody Mary isn't to your taste, sprinkle some cayenne into a green smoothie with spinach, cucumber, and celery and experiment with drinking your salad.
Calorie for calorie, apricots contains more potassium than the banana, the food source most commonly linked with this important element. Dietary potassium lowers blood pressure by reducing the adverse effects of sodium, including water retention. One cup of sliced apricots contains 427 mg of potassium — 9% of the recommended daily value for adults.
Plant-based Protein Powder
Supplementing your smoothie with protein powder is excellent for satiety, not to mention supporting the lean muscle that enables you to burn more fat. You're best off with plant-based protein; whey, casein and other dairy-based powders can cause bloating. Look for a product that has no artificial colors, sweeteners or flavors. We like Vega One, Sunwarrior, and Garden of Life.
Not only are chia seeds packed with fiber and protein, helping to keep you feeling full and satisfied – they also absorb toxins from your digestive tract. Though you can add a tablespoon of chia seeds directly into your blender, you'll get more goodness out of them — and add to the smoothness of your smoothie — by combining them with water so that they form a gel. Combine equal parts chia seeds and water in a container. It will keep in the fridge for a few weeks, so you can experiment with how much to add to your shakes.
We couldn't leave this tasty superfood out of our list of best smoothie ingredients! Research published in the journal Nutrition found that the anthocyanins, tannins, and high levels of antioxidants in pomegranates can help fight obesity. Plus, the juicy arils will lend your blend a refreshing, bright flavor and a bit of satisfying crunch.
Beets have a high nitrate content, and that's a big part of why you should be throwing them into your smoothies. They're thought to improve athletic performance (and working out ought to be a part of any weight loss or weight maintenance plan). In an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics journal study, scientists looked the performance of two groups of runners: One with individuals who consumed baked beets before a 5K run, the second who took a placebo before running the same distance. The beet eaters ran faster but didn't feel like they were putting in extra effort!
As a tasty source of dietary fiber, oats make the cut for being one of our go-to smoothie ingredients. High-fiber diets are more satiating and have been linked to lower body weight. But that's not the only reason oats deserve a spot in your weight-loss shakes: Beta-glucans, part of the soluble fiber in oats, have been shown to lower total blood cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels—meaning they can reduce your risk of heart disease—as well as increase immunity.
Aside from packing a hefty amount of vitamin C, citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit contain plenty of folate, which helps produce and maintain your body's cells, and fiber, which is great for weight loss. They'll also add a zesty note to whatever else you're blending.
Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, cabbage, and bok choy contain disease-fighting and immunity-boosting phytonutrients, as well as the essential nutrients vitamin A, vitamin C, and folic acid. Feel free to pack your blender with plenty: Their high fiber and water contents mean that these low-energy-density foods will have you feeling fuller, faster.
Fiber-packed flaxseed contains more inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids than other fat sources. That means it's good for reducing inflammation, even post workout. Adding some ground flaxseed to your smoothie can help with muscle recovery. Flaxseed is highly sensitive and easily oxidized, so for the most health benefit, buy whole flaxseed and grind it just before adding to your smoothie.
We can't confirm whether Confucius had a six-pack (or suffered from a chronically queasy tummy), but legend has it the Chinese philosopher ate ginger with every meal. And now there's science to suggest ginger can improve a number of gastrointestinal symptoms. In addition to curing bellyache, a study printed in the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology suggests ginger may have a unique ability to accelerate gastric emptying.
Resveratrol is a heart-protecting antioxidant that people trot out to justify their two-buck-chuck habit. But resveratrol is also found in red and purple grapes before they go through the fermentation process. By adding grapes to your smoothie, you'll benefit from compounds that can help reduce blood pressure and cardiac hypertrophy, lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, and slow the progression of atherosclerosis (or hardening) of the arteries. All of which are highly beneficial to your mission of losing weight and keeping it off.
Green Tea Powder
Add it to your smoothie, and green tea powder will shrink your belly. That's because green tea contains catechins, which trigger the release of fat from cells—particularly abdominal fat—then speed up the liver's capacity for turning that fat into energy. An American Physiological Society study showed drinking four cups of green tea boosted endurance exercise performance by up to 24 percent—which holds potential for longer workouts and better results! Tea is so powerful for weight loss that we've created the 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse where test panelists lost up to 4 inches from their waists!