As convenient as protein powders are, they often contain belly-bloating whey, questionable fillers, and unnecessary artificial sweeteners. You certainly don’t spend countless minutes planking and doing hours of cardio to have your efforts compromised by a processed product.
That being said, your distaste of chalky, pulverized protein shouldn’t be an excuse for leaving this macronutrient out of your blended beverages. The reasoning is simple: “Smoothies can be large whacks of carbs and sugar, especially if there’s no protein or healthy fat that slows digestion and prevents blood sugar from spiking,” explains Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN, New York City-based dietitian and fitness expert. Carb-laden smoothies are metabolized by your body quickly, which will spike your blood sugar and lead you to feel hungry again soon after you’ve finished sipping.
For these reasons, we’ve compiled 24 of nature’s gifts that add protein to your blended beverage. They’re game changers. Need a recipe to add these boosters to? We’ve got you covered. Check out these 56 Smoothies for Weight Loss.
Protein Payout: 18-20 g per 6 oz
If you prefer a milkshake consistency to your smoothie, Greek yogurt is your go-to. And when it comes to weight loss, fat burning and fitness fuel, few foods are more powerful. Not to mention, it’s loaded with probiotics that aid in digestion, plus calcium and vitamin D, which are essential for bone health.
Protein Payout: 6 g per cup
There’s a reason Popeye was always raving about spinach — it’s packed with protein, plant-based omega-3s and folate. Whether you’re looking to put a peak in your bis, to shed a few pounds, to reduce the risk of heart disease, or you have a bun in the oven, this leafy green has you covered.
Protein Payout: 3 g per tablespoon
Pumpkin seeds are packed with heart-healthy magnesium, immunity-boosting zinc, waist-shrinking omega-3s, and tryptophan, an amino acid that promotes healthy sleep patterns, stabilizes mood and fights headaches. And tossing a tablespoon or two of the tiny green superfood into your smoothie can add up to 6 grams of slimming protein.
Protein Payout: 5 g per cup
Aside from making your blended beverage super-rich and creamy, flaxseed milk is low cal, as well as cholesterol and lactose free. Plus, it’s packed with cancer-slaying omega-3 fatty acids, and essential vitamins and minerals.
Protein Payout: 4 g per tablespoon
What’s a smoothie without peanut butter? After all, its creamy, savory flavor adds just enough sin to our weight-loss efforts. And when we feel satisfied, we’re a lot more likely to stay on track. Not sure what jar to pick? Check out these The 36 Top Peanut Butters—Ranked.
Protein Payout: 7 g per 3 tablespoonsIf the only time you find yourself consuming sesame seeds is on deep-fried chicken or a bagel, consider this: sesame seeds protect the liver from oxidative damage and deliver more than a third of your daily recommended quota for iron, phosphorus, calcium and manganese, an essential mineral for bone health.
Protein Payout 7 g per ½ cup
You know how bomb overnight oats are for your body, schedule and taste buds, but what if you could toss them into a blender and reap the benefits? You can. Quick reminder: Research says replacing just 5 percent of the day’s carbs with a source of resistant starch (like raw oats) can boost post-meal fat burn by as much as 30 percent!
Protein Payout: 3 g per tablespoon
Although a little pricey, cashew butter has a lot to offer the body. The nut contains both healthy fats and protein to keep you full, as well as proanthocyanidins, or flavonols that fight tumors, and copper, the mineral responsible for those luscious locks you pine for. Not to mention they reduce the risk of developing painful gallstones. Next time try substituting this smooth, tasty butter in for PB.
Protein Payout: 11 g per 3 tablespoons
Hemp seeds (or hemp hearts) are a beach bod’s BFF. Not only are they bursting with muscle-building amino acids, they contain gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-6 fatty acid that promotes a healthy metabolism and fights inflammation. What’s more? Consuming the seeds regularly can increase skin, hair and nail health. Summer bodies are made in the winter, so start tossing these into your smoothies now!
Protein Payout: 6 g per cup
Turnip greens are a southern staple — and for good reason. Packed with cancer-fighting antioxidants, as well as five days’ worth of vitamin K, 61 percent of your DV of vitamin A, and half your daily vitamin C quota, the greens are a nutrient powerhouse. Plus, one cup packs in 5 grams of gut-friendly fiber. We can’t think of a better start to your day.
Protein Payout: 6 g per egg
Before you rule this one, consider this: Eating the full egg—not just the whites—can boost your immunity, reduce the risk for heart disease, increase overall energy, improve the appearance of your skin and hair, protect your vision, nix stress and anxiety, and even help you score those washboard abs. In fact, an eight-week study comparing people who ate a breakfast of either eggs or bagels, which contained the same amount of calories, found that the egg group lost 65% more body weight. What’s more? They also lost 16% more body fat, experienced a 61% greater reduction in BMI and saw a 34% greater reduction in waist circumference! For more ways to shrink your waist, check out these 44 Ways to Lose 4 Inches of Body Fat.
Protein Payout: 6 g per ounce
These waist-cinching nuts deserve more of a role in your life than in your ice cream bowl. They’re the lowest calorie nut and pack in more potassium—a key nutrient for heart function, muscle contraction and digestive health—than a medium-sized banana. Toss ’em into your blender and ditch the weekly pint.
Protein Payout: 8 g per cup
Quinoa contains nearly twice as much belly-filling fiber as other grains. It also boasts lysine, an amino acid that fights the breakdown of collagen causing cellulite, acne and wrinkles, as well as prevents cold sores, reduces anxiety, and boosts bone health.
Protein Payout: 1 % milk contains 8 g of protein per cup
Although not a staple of everyone’s diet, cow’s milk serves up a lot of wholesome benefits. From exfoliating and moisturizing skin, building strong bones, and repairing muscle tissue to reducing stress and aiding weight loss efforts, reduced fat milk makes a great addition to shakes.
Protein Payout: 9 g per 3 tbsp
When it comes to potent weight-loss weapons, experts often point to chia seeds. In fact, according to Ilyse Schapiro MS, RD, “chia absorbs water, causing it to grow in our bellies and keeping us full longer. Chia also contains tons of nutrients including calcium, healthy fats, protein, and fiber.”
Protein Payout: 10 g per ½ cup serving
Tofu smoothies aren’t just a thing in the vegan world. They’re thick and creamy, and pack in a whopping 10 grams of satiating protein. Not to mention, the vitamin D in tofu can fight depression, help to manage diabetes, support lung and heart health, and boost the absorption of calcium.
Protein Payout: 4 g per cup
Despite its mildly bitter taste (which can be counteracted with a banana), kale makes an exceptional addition to any blended beverage. From vitamins A, K, B6, and C to minerals like calcium, manganese, copper, magnesium, and potassium, it’s basically your edible multivitamin.
Protein Payout: 8 g per tablespoon
Spirulina is a blue-green algae that’s typically dried and sold in powdered form. Why we love it? Not only is composed of 60 percent protein, but it’s a complete protein (meaning it contains all nine amino acids). What’s more? It’s packed with vitamin B12, a crucial nutrient for proper nerve function and just 43 calories per serving, making it a no brainer way to boost the protein in your smoothie.
Protein Payout: 4.5 g per cup
Dried fruit is often coated in sugar and fed to us like candy. However, as long as you opt for the simply dried kind and practice portion control, it can be a great addition to a balanced diet. Adding it to smoothies probably never crossed your mind, but as long as your blender is strong enough to break it down, dried apricots are an easy way to naturally sweeten and boost protein counts in your next shake. PLus, they contain the most of the macronutrient than any other fruit.
Protein Payout: 3 g per cup
If you have trouble sleeping, you might want to think about blending your dinner with this antioxidant-rich fruit. Cherries contain melatonin and have been pegged as a natural sleep aid. And since they’re about 81 percent water, they’ll fill you up without filling you out.
Protein Payout: 11 g per cup
Remember when you were a kid and your parents conned you into consuming yogurt by giving you the drinkable kind? Yeah, that’s basically kefir (but for adults). Only this drinkable yogurt contains potent probiotics that can help you stay regular, fight disease and promote weight loss. In fact, Ohio State University researchers found that drinking kefir can reduce bloating and gas brought on by lactose consumption by 70 percent—making it one of these 12 Foods That Make You Look Better Naked!
Protein Payout: 6 g per ounce
Almonds contain the amino acid L-arginine, which has been credited with building lean muscle and frying belly flab. And tossing them into your smoothie before or after the gym can fight free-radical damage caused by intense exercise by as much as 43 percent, according to a presentation at the American College of Sports Medicine!
Protein Payout: 4 g per ounce
Chocolate used to be one of those sins we committed and felt guilty about for days. Fortunately, that’s no longer the case. You’re probably aware of its antioxidant properties, but studies published in the journal Age and the British Journal of Nutrition claim that chocolate can improve your cholesterol profile and lower your risk of heart attack by up to 31 percent! Plus, time and time again, deprivation leads to binging, and binging leads to one thing—weight gain. But not to worry if you’ve recently fallen off the fit train, we’ve rounded up 30 Ways to Fail-Proof Your Diet!
Protein Payout: 14 g per ½ cup
Cottage cheese hit its heyday a few years back, but we’re still partial to it. Especially considering it contains casein—a protein that takes longer to digest, keeping you full and out of the snack drawer.