Many of us like to choose healthy options whenever possible.
But if you have diabetes, you need to be more conscious of what you eat and the effect that food has on your blood sugar levels.
So, if you’ve been wondering whether smoothies are ok for diabetics to drink regularly, I’m here to share my view as a nutritionist.
The benefits of smoothies for diabetes
First, let’s look at the benefits of smoothies when it comes to diabetes.
Smoothies may be:
- A simple way to boost your intake of nutrient-dense wholefoods
- A way to help retain all of the fibre of its ingredients, which means steadier blood sugar levels
- Low GI, thanks to the fibre content and any protein and healthy fat sources added
- A good source of antioxidant-rich and anti-inflammatory nutrients
Want to experience all of these benefits?
The best smoothies for someone with diabetes are those based on wholefoods such as wholegrains, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
Potential downsides of smoothies for diabetes
Everything has downsides – particularly smoothies.
This comes down to the fact that smoothies can be made with almost any combination of ingredients.
Theoretically, you could make a smoothie with lollies and chocolate if you really wanted (although I would call that more of a milkshake or freakshake!)
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the potential issues with smoothies:
- Not all smoothies are low in sugar. You could make a banana, date and honey smoothie with coconut water, which could send your blood sugar levels skyrocketing!
- Not all smoothies are high in fibre. Given fibre’s benefits for steadying blood sugar levels, this could be a problem when combined with high sugar ingredients.
- Smoothies may not contain high-protein ingredients that can also help with balancing blood sugars.
- When you purchase a smoothie from a cafe or smoothie bar, you may not know the quantity of the ingredients used. This means you don’t know what impact it might have on your blood sugar levels.
If you are going to drink smoothies, it’s best to make your own, so you know what is going into the smoothie.
When purchasing a pre-made smoothie at somewhere like Boost Juice, ask about the ingredients and nutritional information before choosing which is best for your needs.
How to make a diabetic-friendly smoothie
Obviously, this is not a substitute for 1:1 nutrition advice by any means.
But as a health professional, this is what I would suggest when it comes to creating a smoothie that is beneficial for someone who has diabetes.
Keep a balanced fruit/vegetable ratio
It’s easy to go overboard when it comes to high-sugar fruits in smoothies.
So I like to focus on keeping to a ratio between fruit and veg to ensure you’re getting plenty of fibre to keep your blood sugar levels steady.
For every 1 serve of fruit, include at least 2 serves of vegetables in your smoothie.
You can even go as high as 1 serve fruit to 3 serve vegetables if you want.
Add in some satiating protein
Protein is not only the most satiating of the macronutrients – it can also help with blood sugar levels.
Research shows that protein can slow the absorption of sugar from your food.
It takes around 3-4 hours for the energy from protein to enter the bloodstream, which gives you a steadier blood sugar levels.
Boost the flavour with beneficial ingredients
Everyone loves a delicious smoothie.
But did you know that there are flavour-boosting ingredients that are also beneficial for diabetes?
Cinnamon is well-known for its blood sugar-balancing effects.
There are many studies that show cinnamon’s benefits for blood sugar levels and overall antioxidant activity.
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Love your smoothies with a bit of spice?
Ginger might be a good pick for you.
Research supports ginger’s ability to lower fasting blood sugars when consumed daily for 12 weeks.
Ginger was also shown to reduce HbA1c levels, which measures blood sugar control over the previous few months.
Try some cocoa or cacao in your smoothie recipes
Cocoa or cacao is another great way to make a tasty smoothie that is good for you.
Research has found that the antioxidants found in cocoa improve insulin sensitivity and can prevent the inflammatory damage that diabetes may cause.
So, a chocolate smoothie made with cocoa and other wholefood ingredients gets the big thumbs up from me!
Be careful and research your ingredients
Planning your daily meals and keeping them exciting and tasty is not the easiest of tasks (even when you can eat everything!).
So when it comes to smoothies and finding out what ingredients you can use to keep in line with your dietary requirements, you need to exercise the same care the same as you would your meals.
Once you have a few go-to diabetes friendly smoothie recipes that work (or even a few good smoothie bases to start with), it can add some colour into your meals for the week without stressing you out.
You should enjoy this discovery phase as much as your tastebuds do!