11 Best Smoothie Ingredients To Boost Your Health

The right superfood smoothie ingredients can energize your life and keep you healthy.

smoothie ingredients
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A smoothie can be your best friend or worst enemy, depending on what you put in the blender.

Mixtures whipped with sweeteners, sweet-flavored yogurt, or even excessive amounts of fruit could have a sugar content close to that of a bowl of ice cream. That too-sweet situation could cause disease-causing inflammation in the body and depress your immune system—not exactly healthy. (For healthy smoothie recipes, see the only 4 smoothie recipes you’ll ever need.)

(Slash your cholesterol, burn stubborn belly fat, solve your insomnia, and more—naturally—with Rodale’s Eat For Extraordinary Health & Healing.)

On the flip-side, the right smoothie can turn ingredients that might not be the tastiest yet are still highly nutritious into a delicious blend bursting with antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. Plus, they’re perfect for on-the-go lifestyles.

“Smoothies are a fast, portable, and delicious way to get a diversity of nutrients into your body,” explains Navitas Naturals Chef Julie Morris, author of Superfood Smoothies: 100 Delicious, Energizing & Nutrient-dense RecipesSo, in the spirit of true superfood smoothies, we call out 11 smoothie add-ins to have on standby as smoothie ingredients.

chia seeds
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Chia seeds

Perfect for thickening up a smoothie, these tiny energy-promoting seeds thicken and turn into a gel. Chia is a robust source of protein and is rich in trace minerals. The seeds also contain more than three times the concentration of essential fatty acids in most grains.

Winning combo: “It’s a very neutral flavor, so it pairs well with virtually any food,” Morris says. “It’s one of the most versatile superfoods on the planet—literally, put it in anything.”

goji berries
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Goji berries

A bit bitter on their own, they’re a great smoothie ingredient, and a popular acai bowl addition because other flavors can mask the bitterness. One of the world’s richest sources of antioxidants, goji berries contain 18 amino acids. Traditional cultures cherish the berry for its immune-boosting and vision-protecting properties. It also helps keep your liver and kidneys healthy.

Winning combo: Organic goji berries or goji powder, pure coconut water, and lime.

kale
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Kale

Don’t like cooked kale on the dinner table? Enjoy the green powerhouse raw in a smoothie instead. Dubbed one of the world’s healthiest veggies, kale contains isothiocyanate and glucosinolate compounds that help lower your risk of cancer.

Winning combo: Kale, apple, banana.

Try this: Fresh, organic kale from your local farmer’s market

camu camu
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Camu camu

An antioxidant-rich tropical fruit you can buy in powder form, camu-camu boasts a vitamin C concentration up to 60 times greater than an orange. It’s also rich in potassium, calcium, protein, and other phytochemicals. “Just a quarter teaspoon gives you over 250 percent of the Recommended Daily Allowance of vitamin C, and you’ll never taste its strong tartness,” Morris says. “Camu is a ‘why not?’ functional ingredient.”

Winning combo: Camu and tropical fruits or vanilla

cacao powder
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Cacao powder

Great in creamier smoothies, cacao is the raw form of chocolate and is one of the world’s richest sources of antioxidants and magnesium, explains Morris. Cacao also contains iron and potassium.

Winning combo: Cacao, almond butter, banana or added to berry smoothies.

maca powder
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Maca powder

Boasting a strong, earthy, slightly butterscotch flavor, maca is rich in mood-boosting B vitamins, amino acids, and brain-boosting fatty acids. The root has long been used in traditional medicine to raise libido and combat fatigue, Morris explains.

Winning combo: Cacao, nuts, creamy ingredients; avoiding using with fruits (pineapple, dates, and bananas are an exception)

wheatgrass powder
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Wheatgrass

Wheatgrass is loaded with vitamins, minerals, amino acids, fiber, antioxidants, and even a bit of beneficial fatty acids. It will help boost your energy and immune function while detoxifying your body. It helps alkalinize your body to balance out high acid culprits like coffee and meat.

Winning combo: Wheatgrass and spinach, or with fruits like strawberries, pineapple, and banana.

Try this: Use organic wheat grass powder for convenience or grow your own from organic seeds.

coconut oil

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Coconut oil

Coconut oil contains lots of lauric acid, a potent immune system protector, and the same compound found in breast milk.

Related: You Should Stop Freaking Out About Coconut Oil Being “Unhealthy” And Read This

Winning combo: Coconut oil, bananas, almond milk, strawberries, honey.

avocado
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Avocados

Avocados are rich in vitamin E, a nutrient that could help protect your brain from Alzheimer’s disease. They even contain plant-based proteins.

Winning combo: Avocados and cucumbers

Try this: Try pairing with blueberries, banana, and almond milk (here’s how to make your own almond milk) if cucumbers aren’t your thing.

whey protein
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Grass-fed whey

Whey protein contains the amino acid cysteine that helps convert glutathione in the body. Glutathione is a potent antioxidant that prepares cells for battle against bacterial or viral infections. (Note: Since this comes from a cow, it may not be suitable for vegans.)

Winning combo: Organic whey, banana, Greek yogurt, peanut butter, cacao.

hemp powder
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Hemp protein powder

Hemp contains all of the amino acids to form complete protein, making it a go-to protein source for vegans and vegetarians. Not getting enough protein can make you tired, cranky, and even cause skin rashes and changes in skin color. (Here’s more on the many benefits of hemp.)

Winning combo: Hemp protein powder, almond milk, peanut butter, banana

Organic Grains & Beans is available to purchase at SFMart.com

This article is originally posted on Rodale’s Organic Life

How To Cook Brown Rice

Knowing how to cook a good pot of brown rice is an essential kitchen skill. I’m talking about tender, chewy brown rice that goes equally well with a quick stir-fry as it does with slices of roasted chicken. Forget the crunchy or mushy stuff that you may have suffered through in the past — we’ve got our method locked down. It’s time to discover how great brown rice can be.

Which Brown Rice to Buy

Look for medium- or long-grain brown rice. (Short-grain brown rice cooks slightly differently, so skip it for this method.)

Long-grain rice (above) and short-grain rice (below).

(Image credit: Faith Durand)

Uncooked brown rice can be stored in the cupboard, but is best used within a few months of purchasing. If you don’t cook with brown rice very often, storing it in the fridge will help keep it fresh for longer. If you have an open bag of rice, or if you bought your rice from a bulk bin, transfer it to an airtight container for storing.

If you’ve had some brown rice sitting in the back of your cupboard for more than a year, it’s probably best to toss it and pick up a fresh bag. The oils in the rice go rancid over time and can make the rice taste overly bitter and unpalatable.

Rinse and Toast for Better Brown Rice

Rinsing your rice before cooking it washes away any grit or dust that may have gotten mixed in during production. I also find that rinsing helps improve the texture of the rice; it’s less crucial than rinsing white rice, but still helps to make each grain distinct.

Toasting the rice won’t change its texture, but it gives the rice a more deeply nutty, toasted flavor. Just sauté the rice in a little olive oil before adding the water, and stir until the rice smells fragrant and you can see a touch of golden color here and there. This is a totally optional step, but if the earthy flavor of brown rice is what has kept you from eating it in the past, then you might find that you like brown rice better after toasting.

Don’t Skip The Resting Step

And finally, after cooking, let your rice rest off the heat with the lid on for about 10 minutes. This pause before serving helps the rice absorb the last of the moisture in the pot. If you skip it, the rice can be a little sticky and gummy when scooping it from the pot instead of light and fluffy.

Ways to Enjoy Brown Rice

Brown rice is truly a kitchen staple — willing and able to be used in all sorts of ways. It’s a side dish on its own, the base of a grain bowl or an easy lunch salad, a filling for burritos, or the start of a casserole. I often make a double batch for dinner and keep the leftovers in the fridge to use up during the week.

Since brown rice takes some time to cook, I also freeze bags of cooked grainsfor nights when I don’t have time to cook a fresh batch. It’s an easy way to make sure I always have some grains on hand when I need them.

How To Cook Brown Rice

Makes about 3 cups

What You Need

Ingredients

  • 1 cupmedium- or long-grain brown rice
  • 1 teaspoonolive oil or sesame oil, optional
  • 2 cupswater
  • 1 teaspoonsalt
  • Equipment
  • Strainer or colander
  • 1-quart (or larger) pot with tight-fitting lid

Instructions

  1. Rinse the rice: Place the rice in a large strainer or colander and rinse it thoroughly under cool water. There is no need to dry the rice before cooking; a bit of moisture on the rice is fine.
  2. Toast the rice (optional): Warm a teaspoon of oil over medium-high heat in the pot where you’ll cook the rice. Add the rice and toast until the rice is dry and starting to look slightly toasted on the tips. It will also start to smell fragrant and nutty.
  3. Combine the rice and water: Slowly pour the water into the pot with the rice — if you toasted the grains, the water will steam and bubble at first. Stir in a teaspoon of salt.
  4. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover. Make sure the liquid stops boiling and has reduced to a bare simmer over low heat, then cover the pot.
  5. Cook for 45 minutes. Do not uncover the pot to check the rice during cooking.
  6. Check the rice: At the end of the cooking time, remove the cover and check to see if all the water has been absorbed; a little water on the very bottom is fine, but if there’s more than a tablespoon, drain off the excess. At this point, the rice should also be chewy and tender, and no longer crunchy. If it’s still crunchy, add a little more water (if needed) and continue cooking; check every 10 minutes until the rice is done.
  7. Cover and let stand another 10 to 15 minutes: Take the rice off heat, and place the lid back on top. Let the rice stand another 10 to 15 minutes, covered. This last step prevents the rice from becoming overly sticky and helps it lose that wet, “just-steamed” texture.
  8. Fluff and serve: Use a fork to fluff the rice, then transfer it to a serving dish. Serve while warm.
  9. Store the leftovers: Let any leftovers cool completely, then transfer to storage containers. Refrigerate rice for 3 to 5 days. Brown rice can also be frozen for up to 3 months.

Organic Brown Rice is available to purchase at SFMart.com

This article is originally posted on The Kitchn

Benefits Of Kidney Beans And Recipes

One of the many varieties of beans, kidney beans are distinctive in their shape and color. They derive their name from their shape, similar to a kidney, and they are also red in color (in most cases). Considered a varietal of the common bean, which is scientifically known as Phaseolus vulgaris, kidney beans are most frequently found in chili, a spicy stew, all around the world and is particularly popular in regions of India and throughout Central America. Kidney beans come in various types including white kidney beans, red kidney beans and light speckled kidney beans. You may also find them in striped, mottled, cream, purple and even black varieties.

Like many other types of beans, kidney beans are densely packed with nutrients that are critical to our health, which explains why they are a staple food in many cultural cuisines. For a relatively low cost, kidney beans can provide significant levels of dietary fiber, folate, phosphoruscopper, protein, ironmagnesiumpotassium, molybdenum and vitamin B1. A single cup of these beans represents at least 20% of your daily requirement for these nutrients; for some of these essential minerals and vitamins, it delivers more than 40% of the daily suggestion. The diverse range of nutrients naturally leads to an impressive list of health effects that these beans can provide.

Health Benefits Of Kidney Beans

The most notable health benefits of kidney beans include their ability to detoxify the body, improve digestion, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, increase muscle mass, prevent diabetes, boost circulation, reduce birth defect risk, stimulate the immune system, aid vision health, promote strong bones, support energy levels and strengthen cognitive health, among others.

Control Diabetes

The high level of dietary fiber found in kidney beans is great for people looking to control their diabetes or lower its risk. High-fiber foods can regulate the amount of blood sugar and insulin in the body, helping to reduce the dangers of spikes and drops in glucose, and stabilize energy levels.

Lower Cholesterol Levels

Another major benefit of the dietary fiber in kidney beans is its ability to lower LDL cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of coronary heart diseases. By providing a healthy balance to cholesterol, kidney beans can help lower your chances of developing atherosclerosis and suffering a heart attack.

Prevent Birth Defects

A single cup of kidney beans provides more than half of the recommended amount of folate in the body. Folic acid’s most notable benefit is that it can reduce the risk of neural tube defects in infants, which makes it a critical nutrient for expecting mothers.

Promote Muscle Growth

Kidney beans are one of the best sources of plant protein that you can add to your diet, as a single cup offers nearly 15 grams of protein. Lean protein breaks down into crucial amino acids that are used for energy production and the growth of muscle tissue, so if you are trying to bulk up and burn fat, kidney bean-filled foods are an excellent option.

Boost Immune System

Although the amount of vitamin C is not as high as in other vegetables or fruits, it does contain more than 10% of your daily recommendation in each cup of kidney beans. This can stimulate the immune system and promote the production of white blood cells, which are the body’s first line of defense against foreign pathogens. It is also critical for collagen production, and thus helps repair processes throughout the body.

Eye Care

Boasting a high level of beta-carotene, which breaks down into vitamin A, kidney beans are known for their impact on vision health. Vitamin A specifically targets oxidative stress in the retina, helping to prevent the occurrence of macular degeneration and the development of cataracts.

Lower Blood Pressure

1 cup of kidney beans holds approximately 20% of your daily recommended amount of potassium, which is a critical vasodilator that can boost heart health. By reducing the amount of strain on the cardiovascular system and relaxing blood vessels and arteries, potassium helps to lower the risk of heart attack, stroke and coronary heart disease.

Boost Circulation

There is an impressive amount of iron in kidney beans, with more than 20% of your daily recommended amount. Iron is a key component in the production of red blood cells, so a diet high in kidney beans will boost circulation and cardiovascular health, while also increasing energy levels and delivering oxygen to extremities and areas of the body that need resources the most.

Increase Bone Mineral Density

The list of minerals found in kidney beans includes phosphorus, magnesium, copper and manganese, all of which play a role in bone mineral density. Increasing your mineral uptake will lower your risk of developing osteoporosis, keeping you strong and active as you age.

Stimulate Energy Production

Manganese is an easily overlooked mineral but it plays dozens of key roles in the body, including the production of enzymes that are involved in energy production and mitochondrial function. This means more accessible energy in the body if you add these beans to your daily or weekly diet.

Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease

Neurodegenerative diseases come in many forms, but when it comes to preventing memory loss, thiamin has been heavily researched. Kidney beans possess high levels of this vitamin (B1), making it an ally for people as they age, particularly if they are at risk of cognitive decline or suffer from high levels of oxidative stress.

Improve Digestion

The most well known health benefit of kidney beans is the impact it can have on digestion. Dietary fiber is able to stimulate the production of gastric juices and promote peristaltic motion, which keeps the bowels moving normally. Regular consumption of these fiber-rich beans can help prevent symptoms of constipation and bloating, while also lowering your risk of colorectal cancer, hemorrhoids and ulcers.

Recipes For Kidney Beans

There are countless ways to add kidney beans to your diet but some of the best recipes include kidney bean curry and turkey chili.

Kidney Bean Curry

Ingredients:

Step 1 – Heat a saucepan, add vegetable oil and sauté sliced onion for 6-8 minutes.

Step 2 – Add the garlic and coriander and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Step 3 – Add the spices and stir thoroughly for 1 minute.

Step 4 – Add the tomatoes and kidney beans and bring the mixture to a boil.

Step 5 – Lower heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the curry is thick.

Step 6 – Pour the curry over the cooked basmati rice, serve and enjoy!

Turkey Chili

Ingredients:

Step 1 – Cook the ground turkey in a pot until browned.

Step 2 – Add the onion and heat until it becomes translucent.

Step 3 – Add 1-2 cups of water to the mixture.

Step 4 – Add all other ingredients, including spices to taste.

Step 5 – Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower to a simmer.

Step 6 – Continue heating for 30-40 minutes on low heat.

Step 7 – Serve hot and enjoy!

Side Effects Of Kidney Beans

Despite the many health benefits of kidney beans, there are some important side effects to consider, including an elevated cancer risk, gastrointestinal problems, and hemagglutinin toxicity.

  • Cancer Risk – Folic acid is an important compound for a number of health issues but an excess of this compound can increase your risk of certain cancers. Eating more than 2-3 cups of these beans on a regular basis will significantly increase your cancer risk, so eat these beans in moderation.
  • Stomach Issues – The high level of fiber in kidney beans will help improve digestion, but an excess of fiber can have adverse effects on the gastrointestinal system, resulting in flatulence, stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation and a higher risk of hemorrhoids.
  • Hemaggluttinin – Kidney beans have a notable amount of hemagglutinin, a compound that can stimulate gastric pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. This is quite rare, and is typically seen in people eating more than 3 cups of these beans per day.