Smoothies are a quick and tasty way to kick-start your day or lift flagging energy levels – not to mention ensure you take in any phytonutrients you’re not getting from whole foods. But what if you want to up the nutritional value of your smoothie even further? We give you the low-down some of our favourite smoothie boosters: ACAI, ALOE VERA and ROOIBOS.
Acai: The Holistic Berry
Acai (pronounced AH-sigh-EE) is a palm tree native to Central America and the northern parts of South America. Traditionally the berries have been used both as a food source and in the treatment of fever, pain and flu. Acai berries became a global phenomenon after being mentioned on The Oprah Winfrey Show, though some claims of its capabilities (e.g. to cure cancer and treat erectile dysfunction) deserve careful scrutiny.
Acai is a well-rounded berry that, for a fruit, boasts good levels of omega fats, fibre and protein. (One nutrient analysis of 100g of powder found 534 calories, 52 g carbohydrates, 8 g protein, 33 g total fat and 44 g fibre.)
Acai is also a great source of antioxidants; in fact it has a greater antioxidant content than many other berries (including cranberry, raspberry, blackberry, strawberry and blueberry).
Acai berries contain vitamins A, B1 and C, as well as calcium and iron. Five sterols have also been isolated as well as a number of phytochemicals and flavonoids.
Sources: WedMD.com, Wikipedia.org, Drugs.com (Herbal Database), Nlm.nih.gov (Medline Plus Supplements), Mayoclinic.org.
Aloe Vera: The Plant Of Antiquity
Aloe vera, one of 420 species of aloe, is a perennial succulent that’s been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years – if not longer. (The first authentic record of the Aloe plant has having “healing properties” is accredited to a Mesopotamian clay tablet dated at around 2100 BC.)1
Aloe vera has traditionally been used across the globe for a diverse range of medicinal treatments, including constipation, colic, skin diseases, worm infestation, hypertension and type 2 diabetes mellitus.
The Aloe vera plant contains 75 potentially active constituents, including vitamins, enzymes, minerals, sugars, lignin, saponins, salicylic acids and amino acids. (However, note that some commercial processing methods may reduce the levels of these constituents.)1
According to an overview of the plant in the Indian Journal of Dermatology,2 aloe vera contains 20 of the 22 amino acids required by humans and 7 of the 8 essential amino acids.
It contains vitamins A (beta-carotene), C and E – which are also antioxidants – as well as vitamin B12, folic acid and choline. It is also a source of calcium, chromium, copper, selenium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium and zinc.
Aloe vera contains 4 fatty acids (specifically, plant steroids) known to have anti-inflammatory properties as well as salicylic acid, which possesses anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
Due to the existence of phenolic compounds (commonly known as laxatives), aloe vera is not recommended for long-term use. Not recommended for children or for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. If you take any regular medication, talk to your doctor before you taking aloe vera.
WedMD.com and Wikipedia.org, as well as:
- Foster, M., et al. “Evaluation of the Nutritional and Metabolic Effects of Aloe vera” in Benzie, IFF. and Wachtel-Galor, S. (Eds.) Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press; 2011.
- Surjushe A. et al. ‘Aloe Vera: A Short Review.’ Indian J Dermatol. 2008; 53(4): 163–166.
Rooibos: Endless Health Benefits
This South African treasure is a member of the legume family and a type of fynbos. The rooibos plant (Aspalathus linearis) is endemic to the Cederberg area and attempts to grow it elsewhere have met with some difficulty. Traditionally rooibos has been used in South Africa to alleviate colic in babies, allergies, asthma and dermatological problems. Its popularity as a tea stems from the fact that, unlike most other teas, it is caffeine free and low in tannins.
Rooibos is rich in antioxidants (rooibos tea reportedly has 50% more antioxidants than green tea). Specifically, it is high in ascorbic acid (more commonly known as vitamin C) and also contains nothofagin and aspalathin (which may also have anti-diabetic potential). Antioxidants are thought to combat disease-causing free radicals in the body.
Rooibos also boasts an array of minerals, including copper, iron, magnesium, calcium, zinc and potassium.
Two flavonoids found in rooibos, namely quercetin and luteolin, are known to have cancer-fighting qualities. Rooibos also reportedly assists with nervous tension, allergies and digestive problems and some studies suggest that it may help in the treatment of gout.
Although more evidence is required, rooibos contains chemicals that might help control HIV infection, as well as prevent age-related changes in the brain.
What’s more, a 2011 study concluded that a high intake of rooibos tea lowers risk factors for certain cardiovascular and other degenerative diseases. Specifically, it showed a reduction in lipid peroxidation, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and an increase in HDL cholesterol levels.
Sources: Wikipedia.org, Drugs.com (Herbal Database), DrFrankLipman.com
Curious to know about other smoothie boosters? Find more info on ACEROLA, BAOBAB and GUARANA Smoothie Boosters here