Chances are, you have a Juice Generation, Smoothie King, Juice Press, or one of the countless other smoothie shops in your area; after all, liquid nutrition is big right now. But be honest: How much do you really know about the often strange-sounding ingredients on the menu, aside from the fact that they’re allegedly “good for you” because they’re there in the first place? Probably not as much, right? We checked in with Samantha Cassetty, R.D., M.S., nutrition director at Luvo, to help you change that situation STAT.
This ingredient is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: It’s a big mass of pollen that’s been packed by worker bees—and yes, it’s edible (obviously). But even though it’s an optional topping at many smoothie joints (it basically just looks like yellow powder) and you may have seen this ingredient on various “superfood” lists, it’s actually not a good idea to load up on the stuff, says Cassetty. “It’s often promoted as a magical elixir of sorts—with claims ranging from improving performance to reducing allergy symptoms to protection from cancer—but there is no scientific evidence to support these or any other uses,” she says. And what’s more, it can actually be detrimental to your health because it can cause reactions in people with pollen allergies.
Like bee pollen, spirulina is a powder that many people sprinkle into smoothies. It’s a blue-green algae, meaning it’s greenish in color—and urban legend has it that the stuff is rich in protein and is useful everything from boosting immune support to alleviating symptoms associated with ADHD. But actually, there is zero evidence to support those claims, says Cassetty. “What is evident is the fact that some commercially-available samples of Spirulina have been found to contain dangerous levels of metal toxins,” she says. “And it’s also considered unsafe if you have an autoimmune disorder like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.” Her advice? Skip the spirulina, and add Greek yogurt to your smoothie if you want or need more protein.
Whey powder is a highly digestible milk protein powder; it’s one of the two proteins found in milk (the other one is casein). Yet unlike bee pollen and spirulina, whey powder has science to back up its claims. “Studies have found that it can help with weight loss, improve muscle strength, and help you control hunger,” says Cassetty. So if you like the stuff, go for it!
Need some DIY smoothie ideas? Check out these recipes:
*This article was originally published on WomensHealth.com.