11 surprising ingredients to put in smoothies including pollen and cottage cheese

We’re all familiar with the typical smoothie blends – greens, mixed berries or tropical fruits. But your nourishing on-the-go snack is about to get shaken and stirred with some unexpected additions.

“People are realising you can add anything healthy and tasty to smoothies to increase their nutritional value,” says fitness, wellness and nutrition expert Penny Weston. “It’s all about creating a mix that’s nutritious, full of fiber and packed with minerals.”

On the smoothies vs juice debate, Penny says, “Both are beneficial if done in moderation, with a balanced diet, but smoothies contain more fiber, which is good for digestion and leaves you feeling fuller.”

Her one warning? “Don’t drink a smoothie faster than it would take you to eat the raw ingredients – your body needs time to break it down. Drink it in two minutes flat, and you might get some discomfort later.”

“People are realising you can add anything healthy and tasty to smoothies to increase their nutritional value”

Penny’s smoothie no-nos are ice cream, whipped cream and chocolate syrup, but she also steers clear of canned fruit in syrup. “It’s full of sugar. I avoid flavored yoghurt in smoothies for the same reason,” she adds.

“But the worst smoothie I’ve ever had was a very heavy vegetable-based one. It just felt like I was drinking pure vegetables! You really need to add some flavor, otherwise it just won’t taste good. Try sprinkling in cocoa powder, cinnamon, turmeric or ginger, which in particular can bring great health benefits.”

Here are some of the unusual ingredients currently making the list…


Beetroot is full of beneficial antioxidants and also has anti-inflammatory properties
Beetroot is full of beneficial antioxidants and also has anti-inflammatory properties

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The best smoothies are the ones that look the most vibrant in colour. To get a bright purple hue, steam beetroot before adding it to the mix. It’s packed full of beneficial antioxidants and also has anti-inflammatory properties.


The humble cauliflower gets a big thumbs-up from Penny. She explains, “You don’t need to cook it beforehand and it’s really good for you, providing a creamy texture and is packed full of fiber.”

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Cottage cheese

For fans of Greek yoghurt in smoothies, cottage cheese is a new alternative. It might look slightly off-putting as you spoon it in but, once blended, it becomes perfectly smooth. It also gives a less tart flavour, so you may not need to add the same volume of sweeter ingredients.


Turmeric is anti-inflammatory and has antioxidant properties
Turmeric is anti-inflammatory and has antioxidant properties

Mix the spice with fruits such as pineapples or bananas. Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties are well known.


Having enough protein in the diet can be a challenge for vegans. That’s why fellow dietician Vincci Tsui-Low recommends tofu, “It makes your smoothie creamy, and is a great vegetarian source of protein.” If you’re not keen on the texture, chop it into small cubes to ensure that it blends well with your other ingredients.

Sweet potato

As well as being delicious, sweet potatoes are great sources of vitamins A and C, and are packed with dietary fibre to improve fund health.

Citrus peel

The peels are fibrous and contain vitamin C
The peels are fibrous and contain vitamin C

Don’t squeeze your juice into the smoothie blender – chuck it all in. The peels are fibrous and contain vitamin C. Those of oranges and lemons also contain flavonoids, such as limonene, which are anti-inflammatory. Just make sure you wash them first before adding, to remove any dirt, dust and pesticide residue.

Bee pollen

Containing amino acids, vitamins B, C, D, E and antioxidants, bee pollen had had Gwyneth Paltrow all in a buzz, with her recommendations coming via her Goop wellness website. You can buy bee pollen granules in various health stores, which you then grind before adding – but steer clear if you have a known bee allergy.


This paste, made from sesame seeds, is a healthy fat that has a rich, thick and nutty flavour, making it a handy replacement for peanut butter. It creates a smooth texture and pairs well with blueberries.

Penny says, “As another alternative, I love adding almond butter, or if I’m looking for something a little less heavy, like a plant-based milk.”


The mild flavor of courgettes means they go unnoticed. They’re a good substitute for those who don’t like bananas, creating a similar creamy texture without the taste.


Rolled oats in a blueberry smoothie can provide the filling, hearty breakfast you’re looking for. Adding fiber to your diet, they’ll also give you a steady supply of energy through the morning.

And… Red, white and blue!

There's a simple way to create layers in smoothies
There’s a simple way to create layers in smoothies

A top tip for making layered smoothies – pop the glass in the freezer for five minutes, after adding the first layer, and again after adding the second layer. Full-fat coconut milk and yoghurt are thicker and will help the layers stay in place.

• Penny Weston is director of Moddershall Oaks Country Spa Retreat and founder of MADE wellness centre. For more info, see welcometomade.com

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