If made with the wrong ingredients, smoothies can result in a spike in blood sugar. Are smoothies good for diabetics? in 2021
While low GI fruits such as apples, banana, oranges, cantaloupe, and pineapple are good for diabetics to be eaten in their whole form (chewed), they aren’t a very good option when blended into a smoothie (even though the fiber is retained), because blending makes the sugar more easily absorbed into the bloodstream compared to eating a fruit whole.
Some smoothies can be a healthy option for diabetics depending on the ingredients chosen, but only fruits used in the smoothie without any vegetables, good fats and protein to go with it is a poor choice for diabetics even if no sugar is added. All the natural sugars in the fruit will still raise blood sugar levels in a smoothie form. Whole fruits, however, do not raise blood sugar levels and are a safer choice for diabetics.
Why Smoothies Good for Diabetics?
- Healthy smoothies incorporate several servings of vegetables and fruits. Higher fruit and vegetable intake, especially the intake of green leafy vegetables and berries (which can safely be used in smoothies) is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
2. Healthy smoothies which include good fats from nuts and seeds and nut butters also contribute to a lower risk for type 2 diabetes when used as a replacement for refined grains and red meats (or as a meal replacement). In women with diabetes, a study found that regular consumption of nuts was associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. Therefore, healthy smoothies which include nut butters can serve as a good meal replacement for diabetics. The use of seeds such as flax, chia, pumpkin and hemp in making smoothies is also beneficial for diabetics. Here are links to more studies highlighting the same: Study 2, Study 3, Study 4, Study 5, Study 6.
What smoothies are good for diabetics?
Based on the above points, a smoothie that includes vegetables (fibre with little natural sugar), berries (help control blood sugar levels), nut butters (good fats, protein and satiety), seeds (good fats and fibre) and soy milk/ yogurt or greek yogurt (protein) and no added sugar or sweetened ingredients will not raise blood sugar levels and provide a healthy meal option because of its macro and micronutrient content. Whole cereal grains such as rolled oats or quinoa will also add some extra fibre making type of smoothie a good option for diabetics in lieu of another meal or snack.
Here are the pointers to making healthy smoothies for diabetics that won’t raise blood sugar levels:
- Diabetics need to avoid sweetened beverages to control blood sugar levels. As far as possible, make smoothies at home from scratch and avoid store-bought ones which may contain sugar and other harmful sweeteners such as high-fructose corn syrup. Many store-bought smoothies contain several grams of sugar that is harmful to diabetics. Making smoothies at home from scratch will enable you to have more control over the ingredients you use, and you can be sure that your smoothie is actually healthy and not a dessert disguised as a healthy smoothie.
- Choose a healthy source of protein such as non-GMO soy milk or yogurt and hemp seeds. Protein is one of the components of a balanced diet. It helps with blood sugar control and provides satiety so you can go a few hours without feeling hungry.
- For diabetics, the carbohydrate quality makes a big difference and therefore it’s important to choose nutrient-dense carbs such as those high in fibre (vegetables, fruits, whole grains). Choose low GI vegetables such as carrots and leafy greens and berries (which control blood sugar levels). Diabetics need to be especially careful about the GI and GL of foods consumed, and the vegetables used in smoothies should be no different, since blending breaks down the fibre making it easier for blood sugar levels to rise rapidly.
- Add a tablespoon of nut butter such as almond or peanut butter. Healthy plant-based fats are good for diabetics and helps control blood sugar levels and provides satiety. Nuts and nut butters provide satiety without detrimental effects on weight. Good fats is another essential component of a balanced meal and must be added to a smoothie to increase its nutritive value.
- Choose healthy fats such as avocado, chia or flax. Just like nut butters, other good fats include avocado and antioxidant-rich seeds such as chia and flax. These fats will also increase the nutritive value of your smoothie.
- Do not use sugar or sweetened ingredients such as fruit sorbet or sweetened flavoured yogurt. Extra sugar in the form of table sugar or even honey and maple syrup is a no-no for diabetics. It’s also best to avoid artificial sweeteners because how they affect us is not yet fully known. Gradually train your taste buds to get used to smoothies that aren’t sweet. That also brings me to the next important point about ingredients and flavours you can safely add.
- Use ginger, lemon, mint or even a pinch of salt (use caution if you have high blood pressure) to add flavour instead of sweetening the smoothie. You can also add some spices such as cinnamon, pumpkin spice etc. depending on the type of smoothie.
- Adding a couple of tablespoons of whole grains such as rolled oats or quinoa can be even more satiating and help with blood sugar control. However, do not blend the oats and quinoa. Use either toasted rolled oats or cooked quinoa and add them towards the end, without blending. We want the fibre intact from the whole grains, so your blood sugar levels do not suddenly spike. (Prepare to use a spoon).
- Have the smoothie in lieu of a solid meal, not as a supplement to a meal. The amount of vegetables, nuts and seeds and wholegrains used will determine how heavy the smoothie is, and as a diabetic you need to have the smoothie as a meal replacement. If you need to eat something solid to feel full, have a small portion of the smoothie since we don’t want to overwhelm your system. Even though the smoothie is healthy, if you’re diabetic portion control is very important.
Look at these examples of diabetic-friendly healthy smoothies:
1. Blueberry spinach smoothie
Unsweetened soy milk 1 cup
Blueberries 1 cup
Baby spinach – 2 cups
Almond butter – 1 tbsp
chia seeds – 1 tbsp
Instructions – Combine soy milk, baby spinach, almond butter and blueberries in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a glass or bowl. Add chia seeds. Enjoy!
2. Green smoothie with avocado.
Unsweetened Soy milk – 1 cup
Baby spinach 1 cup
Kale – 1 cup
MInt – 2 sprigs
Avocado – 1 (peeled and pitted)
Lime juice – 1 tbsp
Instructions – Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth. Add ice cubes if desired. Optional sweetener – pinch of stevia powder.
3. Kale cucumber smoothie
Soy milk – 1 cup
Baby spinach – 1 cup
Kale – 1/2 cup
cucumber – 1, medium (not peeled)
apple – 1/2 cup (cored and chopped)
lime juice – 1/2 lime
chia seeds – 2 tbsp
Instructions – In a blender, combine all ingredients except chia seeds and blend until smooth. Pour into a cup or bowl and top with chia seeds.