Anti-Inflammatory Smoothie Ingredients + 3 Recipes

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Anti inflammatory smoothie

Smoothies can be a refreshing and convenient way to ingest a ton of nutrients and combat inflammation in your body. However, you should be careful what is in your smoothie, since added sweeteners in store-bought or pre-made mixtures can be high in sugar, which in turn can actually cause inflammation. Research shows that dietary sugar intake, especially in excess, can lead to increased risk of inflammatory conditions of the body and skin such as heart disease, diabetes, and skin aging due to the advanced glycation end products produced when they are digested.

Because of this inflammatory quality of added sugars, store-bought smoothies can sometimes counteract the healthy benefits that you may be looking to get from such a drink. Therefore, if you create your own smoothie at home, you can quickly create an anti-inflammatory formula that is delicious and portable, so you can fight off inflammation any time of the day. Read below for tips on which anti-inflammatory ingredients you should add to your smoothie today and a few of our favorite anti-inflammatory smoothie recipes to get you started.

What does anti-inflammatory mean?

When something is anti-inflammatory, it helps reduce the chance of an immune response being triggered in the body. As a line of defense in your body’s health, the immune system triggers an inflammatory response when it is encountered with illness, infection, injury, or toxins. Sometimes these toxins don’t necessarily need to be pathogens or poisons to trigger a response.  In cases like food allergies and conditions like celiac disease, foods can trigger such a response due to genetics that may cause the immune system to overreact.

These antioxidants do exactly what the name implies, which is they act against oxidants. This is a good thing because when there are more oxidants than antioxidants in the body, it can cause what is known as oxidative stress.  Put simply, oxidative stress occurs when unpaired electrons go around stealing electrons from other tissues and cells in the body, so they can become paired. When this happens, those tissues or cells that have been robbed may become damaged. In turn, this cell damage can increase risk of chronic inflammation, which can increase risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes, to name a few.

Anti-inflammatory smoothie ingredients

If you are going to drink your meal, you might as well make every sip count. You can do this by limiting any added sweeteners, and instead using antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables for flavor and sweetness.

Fruit and vegetable antioxidant properties

You may have heard of increasing your fruit and vegetable intake to help you meet your fiber needs. However, there is much more to the nutrient value of such foods that provides reason for increasing fruit and vegetable intake. The bright colors that accompany fruits and vegetables are made up of various antioxidants that hold a variety of health benefits. View the list below to learn about what antioxidants you can find in certain fruits and vegetables.

  • Red fruits and vegetables: Tomatoes, red peppers, and strawberries contain antioxidants such as lycopene and anthocyanins that have heart health properties such as blood pressure and heart rate maintenance.
  • Orange fruits and vegetables: Orange fruits and vegetables like carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, orange bell peppers, and cantaloupe contain antioxidants like beta-carotene. Research shows that beta-carotene has beneficial health effects on inflammatory conditions like heart disease and can also positively impact eye health, skin health, and immune system health.
  • Yellow fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables like corn, pumpkin, and banana as well as yellow bell peppers contain antioxidants like lutein. Lutein is an antioxidant that plays a pivotal role in eye health as well as working as an anti-inflammatory agent against coronary heart disease.
  • Green vegetables: Green vegetables like leafy green spinach, kale, Swiss chard, turnip greens, lettuce, collard greens, and broccoli, to name a few are healthy in so many ways. Not only are they rich in the antioxidants vitamins C and E, but they also contain the flavonoid quercetin as well as the antioxidant compounds known as indoles, isothiocyanates, and sulforaphane.
  • Blue and purple fruits and vegetables: Brightly-colored violet and blue fruits and vegetables like grapes, blueberries, and eggplant, to name a few, contain anthocyanins, which as mentioned before, help to stop inflammation and improve heart and vision health.

Besides the reasons mentioned, some fruits have prebiotic qualities as well. What this means is that they feed the good bacteria in your gut, which in turn helps to improve your digestive health.  Not all fruits and vegetables have fibers that are prebiotic. However, some fruits like apples and bananas contain fibers known as pectin and inulin-type fructans, respectively. These types of fibers are readily fermentable by the gut microbiota.

So, what does this mean for inflammation?

When the gut microbiome is healthy and balanced, this helps to reduce inflammation. On the other hand, dysbiosis, or an imbalanced gut can lead to inflammation. This in turn can lead to issues in the gut such as irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory skin conditions like acne, eczema, or psoriasis. This is due to a theory known as the brain-gut-skin axis that states that psychosocial stress like anxiety or depression, or other stressors can lead to imbalances in the gut. In turn, this imbalance can lead to inflammation that can increase risk of inflammatory conditions such as those in the gut, skin, as well as other inflammatory conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

Other anti-inflammatory smoothie tips to remember

Besides fruits and vegetables, there are other ingredients that you can add to your smoothie for anti-inflammatory power.  Herbs and spices like turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon not only provide flavor, but research shows these spices have positive impact on risk of various diseases due to their anti-inflammatory properties.

Turmeric in particular, derived from the perennial plant Curcuma longa, contains antioxidants like polyphenols and flavonoids that give it anti-inflammatory power. It has been used as a medicinal treatment for thousands of years in Southeast Asia. The active ingredient in turmeric is known as curcumin, which is a phytochemical that has been used as an Ayurvedic medicine for asthma, allergies, cold, sinusitis, cough, as well as digestive disorders and wound healing. Research shows that curcumin is effective in the alleviating the inflammation associated with arthritis as well as strengthening the immune response.

Also, to thicken your smoothie, yogurt can provide a fermented food source to help provide good bacteria for improved gut health.  Research shows that combining prebiotic fruit and probiotic-rich yogurt together as a meal or snack option can provide a synbiotic effect that can be beneficial for gut health and in turn overall health.  A synbiotic effect is basically a combination of food ingredients that provide both beneficial prebiotics and probiotics.

If you have lactose intolerance, IBS, or find that you are allergic to cow’s milk, then it is best to use plant-based yogurt products like soy milk, almond milk, or coconut milk yogurt products for your smoothies. This is because research shows that individuals who experience symptoms after consumption of milk products may experience an increase in inflammatory markers after consumption of cow’s milk products.

Finally, it will be important that if you want to create the most anti-inflammatory smoothie that you can, you should limit or avoid added sweeteners as well as thickeners like wheat or bran. As far as sweeteners go, sugar has been found to increase hypothalamic inflammatory markers. Research shows these hypothalamic inflammatory markers may be linked to obesity and metabolic disease. Therefore, stick to natural sweeteners like unsweetened fruit juices and whole fruits themselves as a healthier way to sweeten your shake.

And when it comes to gluten, although not all of us may be clinically gluten-sensitive or gluten-intolerant, cutting down on gluten may still help cut down on inflammation in the body.  Research shows that in early studies of this subject matter, a gluten-free diet can significantly reduce the symptoms of those with inflammatory conditions such as IBS and fibromyalgia. Therefore, the researchers suggest that there may be an anti-inflammatory therapeutic potential for many people if placed on a gluten-free diet.

3 Anti-inflammatory smoothie recipes

Here are three anti-inflammatory smoothie recipes to get you started. You can be creative and add in more fruits and vegetables as you like, but these starter recipes just show you how you can create sweet and refreshing creations while staying all-natural and anti-inflammatory.

Blueberry Banana Smoothie

Blueberry anti inflammatory smoothie

Ingredients

1 small banana

1.5 cups frozen blueberries

½ cup plain, unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk yogurt

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

Instructions

  • Place all ingredients into a blender.
  • Blend on high speed for about 20-30 seconds until thoroughly mixed.
  • Pour and enjoy.

Green Refresher Smoothie

Green anti inflammatory smoothie

Ingredients

2-3 cups loosely packed baby spinach

7 whole frozen strawberries

1 small banana

½ medium orange, cut from flesh (squeeze juice from rind in smoothie mix)

½ cup unsweetened almond milk

¼ cup unsweetened, plain almond milk or coconut milk yogurt

Instructions

  • Place all ingredients into a blender.
  • Blend on high speed for about 20-30 seconds until thoroughly mixed.
  • Pour and enjoy

Carrot Citrus Turmeric Smoothie

Carrot Curcumin smoothie

1 small banana

½ cup pineapple, diced

½ medium orange, cut from flesh (squeeze juice from rind in smoothie mix)

½ cup carrot juice

½ cup unsweetened almond milk

1 small lemon squeezed into smoothie mix

¼ teaspoon turmeric

Instructions

  • Place all ingredients into a blender.
  • Blend on high speed for about 20-30 seconds until thoroughly mixed.
  • Pour and enjoy.
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Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN
Staci Gulbin is a registered dietitian, freelance writer, health editor, and founder of LighttrackNutrition.com. Staci Gulbin has been a registered dietitian with the Commission on Dietetic Registration since 2010 and has over a decade of experience in the nutrition and dietetics industry. She has graduate degrees in Biology, Human Nutrition, and Nutrition and Education from New York University, the Columbia University Institute of Human Nutrition, and Teacher’s College, Columbia University, respectively. Staci has treated thousands of patients across many wellness arenas such as weight management, fitness, long-term care, rehab, and bariatric nutrition. She has helped them prevent and manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and digestive conditions, among other things with practical changes in their eating habits and lifestyle.