11 staples for a killer smoothie pantry
“Smoothies are a great, fast way to get all the nutrients you need,” says Erik Dupuy, the manager of Juice Press’s Rivington Street location, especially when you add superfood boosters like raw cacao, acai, and spirulina. "They're the something-something of smoothie-making."
Here the smoothie-mixologist extraordinaire explains how to stock your kitchen like a juice bar genius, recommending the top-shelf pantry ingredients that add uber-nutritional benefits.
Read on for the 11 staples of a killer smoothie pantry... —Carla Vass and Melisse Gelula
(Photo: Alchemy Bali)
For Dupuy, a good plant-based protein is the main staple of a smoothie. Dupuy favors either rice or hemp protein for their excellent nutritional profiles and the subtly different tastes they lend to smoothies.
Rice protein is rich in natural enzymes and offers a complete protein, he explains. “It has a good, neutral flavor, so I like to use it in cacao-based smoothies. Nutribiotic Rice Protein (3 lbs), $39
Hemp protein, meanwhile, packs eight of the 10 amino acids the body can't make on its own, and contains essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6. Hemp is also the most digestible form of protein for your body. Dupuy recommends the hemp for smoothies that are heavy on the berries, as the fruit complements the slightly nutty flavor well. “All good things come from hemp,” Dupuy concludes, to general the agreement of his colleagues. Navitas Naturals Hemp Protein (12 oz.), $12.50
"Coconut meat is the wonder ingredient of smoothies. I would put it in every smoothie if I could," Dupuy declares, rattling off a list of its healthy properties. "Coconut meat is rich in essential fatty acids, it's naturally alkalizing, and super hydrating."
It helps that it's delicious, adding a creamy consistency to smoothies. Dupuy likes to use it with pretty much anything, but says its particularly good with raw cacao. You butcher a coconut yourself or buy it in chunks at a healthy grocery. At Juice Press, they keep it frozen. "It's expensive," Dupuy cautions, "but it doesn't take much. You can throw in a chunk that's roughly half the size of your palm." (You can substitute with a teaspoon of less-pricey coconut oil, too.)
Who doesn’t love chocolate? And raw cacao turns your smoothie into a milkshake–while keeping it super-healthy "It’s great with banana or berries,” says Dupuy, who favors the powder over cacao nibs, citing its better flavor and ease of blending.
Good news: cacao also has tons of health benefits. It packs the highest antioxidant punch of any food. (The ORAC chart, which measures antioxidant levels, puts raw cacao at about 95,000. Blueberries are 2,000.)
“It’s also a great source of energy, and ideal if you're trying to cut down on coffee,” Dupuy says. As for its hefty price tag, you just need a bit at a time. “I won't need more than tablespoon for one smoothie,” Dupuy says. “That goes for pretty much all your smoothie ingredients. A little really goes a long way.”
Navitas Naturals Raw Cacao (8 oz.), $9.99
This entrant to the superfood hall of fame hails from the Himalayas and is packed with potassium, vitamin A, antioxidants, and even a bit of protein.
“I love adding goji powder to berry-based smoothies. It goes well with blueberries,” Dupuy says. It has a slightly tart flavor, like cranberries, so you want to make sure you balance it out with something a bit more neutral, like cacao or coconut.
Again, a light hand is key: “You don’t need more than a tablespoon.” Although you can buy gojis in sun-dried berry form, Dupuy favors the powder for taste and easy digestion.
Navitas Naturals Goji Berry Powder (8 oz.), $20.50
Pronounced “ah-sigh-eee” (in case you didn’t know), this superfood had its “breakout” moment about four years ago in America, according to Dupuy. “But they’ve been eating it straight off the tree for centuries in South America." The superfood has certainly earned its name. Dupuy recommends the low-glycemic, high-vitamin-C powder for its anti-aging antioxidants, which help with cellular rejuvenation. Throw a teaspoon of powder in with your berry-heavy smoothies or with raw cacao, and think of it as beauty boost.
Navitas Naturals Acai Powder (8 oz.), $29
Hailed as a great source of energy and known for working its magic in the bedroom, this superfood (native to the Andean Mountains) is one you don't want to leave out. Some don’t like the slightly chalky taste, so Dupuy recommends using a teaspoon in a smoothie with berries, which help balance out the taste. He likes raw, organic maca, which he says is best for preserving the benefits and for its flavor profile. Maca is also available in liquid form, but it has strong taste and is not at all pleasant, he warns.
Navitas Naturals Maca Powder (16 oz.), $18.50
You heard it here first: this vitamin-C packed superfood from South America is the next big thing. Camu camu powder (sometimes just called camu powder) comes from a rainforest shrub grown in Peru and Brazil, where the leaves have been used as medicine for thousands of years. Dupuy recommends adding a teaspoon of it to any smoothie, particularly if you’re feeling under the weather–camu camu is super-high in vitamin C, boasting 60 times more Cs than oranges do per single teaspoon serving. It may also have mood-balancing properties, so add a pinch to smoothies if you get the blues.
Navitas Naturals Camu Camu Powder (3 oz.), $17
Vegans have a love-hate relationship with this immune-system booster. Bee pollen comes from the flower pollen that collects on the bodies of bees, which then mixes with a sticky secreted substance that packs it into granules. While the jury's still out on whether this is a technically vegan food, you can’t argue that bee pollen is high in protein and vitamins, offering the elusive B12, a crucial vitamin for immunity that's difficult to get from non-animal sources (hence the vegans' dilemma).
Dupuy adds a teaspoon to smoothies, but explains that flavor wise, you don’t need to worry about over-doing it. “It’s pretty hard to taste. You’re not going to take a sip and be like ‘Woah, chill on the bee pollen!’” It’s great for post-workout recovery smoothies, as B12 offers a natural jolt of energy while helping repair blood cells. Those with bee allergies should stay clear of the stuff.
YS Organic Bee Farms Bee Pollen (10 oz.), $12.95
You've probably heard of mesquite in a less than healthy context—mesquite-smoked barbecue ribs, anyone? But this powder from mesquite pods contains minerals like calcium and potassium, plus antioxidants and protein. “Mesquite is basically wood in powder form,” Dupuy jokes, adding that he'll toss a teaspoon into a smoothie to create an interesting smoky flavor, as well as a solid dose of fiber (25 percent of your daily requirement). "We use it in our Brazilian smoothie, which has avocado, spirulina, and maca. It's also good with tropical fruit, like mangoes."
Terrasoul Raw Mesquite Powder (16 oz.), $16.50
“I’ll be honest with you: Spirulina tastes like mermaid sweat,” says Dupuy of the blue-green algae. Though he’s quick to point out that its health benefits far outweigh any unpleasantness when it comes to taste. “I feel a noticeable difference when I’m having it regularly. It’s easier to get out of bed. Spirulina is high in chlorophyll, has 26 times more calcium than milk, and is a great source of iron and protein.” A lot of people notice their skin looks better, too.
To mask the seaweed taste, Dupuy recommends blending a teaspoon with acidic fruits such as pineapple and mango. He also likes coconut water as a mixer. And buy your spirulina in powder form—the liquid form can create a "weird consistency," he says.
Now Foods Organic Spirulina Powder (1 lb), $28
Finally, you may want add a dash of sweetener to your smoothie. "This should really be the last thing you add, as fruit can provide plenty. Choose low glycemic-index options, meaning one that won’t spike your blood sugar levels, give you a sugar high, and the inevitable crash.
Made from the sap of cut coconut flowers, coconut sugar is not highly processed, and is considered a low glycemic food (it has a glycemic index score of 35, while sugar's is 100). And with this sweetener you get minerals like potassium, magnesium, zinc, and iron, plus a few B vitamins. Navitas Naturals Coconut Sugar (16 oz.), $9.70
Dates are super sweet so a little goes a long way. Dupuy doesn’t put add more than 1 or 2 chopped up dates. They’re a great source of fiber, which means they create less of a blood sugar spike. They score around 42 GI-wise, meaning they're still relatively easy on the blood sugar. Bergin Nut Company Organic Medjool Dates (14 oz.), $25