Diabetes-Friendly Fruit Smoothies

Glass of wild berry and raspberry smoothie
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Fruit smoothies are convenient, quick, and easy to make. They also can be nutrition powerhouses—or sugar bombs. If you have diabetes, it's important to know how much fruit is in a smoothie and whether it has added sugar or other sweeteners before you take a sip.

One way to do this: Make your own at home. It's easy to do if you have a blender, and whipping up your own smoothies allows you to control the ingredients and keep them in line with a diabetes-friendly approach to eating—low in carbs and with ample fiber, protein, and healthy fat to help keep blood glucose levels in balance.

Prep Tip For A.M. Smoothies

Put all ingredients (fruit chunks, nut butter, seeds, leafy greens, etc.) into the blender at night and store it in the fridge. All you'll have to do is add ice the next morning.

Components of a Diabetes-Friendly Smoothie

Crafting a smoothie that's compatible with a diabetes meal plan involves choosing nutritious and tasty ingredients that won't lead to glucose spike and that will

Fiber

Fiber benefits blood sugar control by slowing the entry of glucose into the bloodstream: Thanks to its complex structure of starch, it takes some time and effort for fiber to be broken down during the digestive process. Fiber also adds bulk to stool, which aids digestion and metabolism. Look to add eight grams of fiber or more to your smoothies (about the amount in one cup of blackberries).

Good sources include:

  • Whole fruit: Limit to no more than two servings per smoothie—for example, one small banana plus 3/4 cup of another fruit. Very ripe bananas make an ideal smoothie base because they're creamy when blended and naturally sweet. Berries are relatively low in sugar and pack lots of fiber. Tropical fruits, such as kiwi or pineapple, are rich in vitamins and minerals and lend an exotic flavor. Leaving the skin on fruits like peaches can increase the fiber content. Frozen fruit such as peeled and chunked bananas and frozen berries eliminate the need to add ice cubes.
  • Leafy greens: Baby kale and baby spinach are more tender than mature greens and will blend in more smoothly with other ingredients.
  • Nut butters and seeds: Seeds are an especially good way to boost the fiber in smoothies. Try flaxseed, chia, hemp, sunflower, pumpkin, or sesame seeds.

Protein

Like fiber, protein slows the rate at which glucose enters the bloodstream, making for an even, long-lasting source of energy. Ideal sources of protein for a fruit smoothie include:

  • Protein powder: Choose either a whey-based powder, shown to help with insulin sensitivity, or a plant-based powder made from hemp seeds or peas with at least 10 grams of protein per serving and no more than 5 grams of added sugar. Avoid rice-based protein powders, as they've been found to be potentially contaminated with heavy metals such as arsenic.
  • Silken tofu, which is creamier than the firm variety.
  • Full-fat plain Greek yogurt or Icelandic skyr, which are higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates than other types of yogurt and have no added sugar.
  • Nuts, nut butters, and seeds. These count as good sources of both protein and fat. For example, two tablespoons of hemp seeds yields 8 grams of protein. Note that nut milk generally is not a rich source of protein.

Fat

Fat is essential for promoting satiety and can help keep blood sugar balanced by slowing glucose absorption, just as with fiber and protein. Fat also lend creaminess. Healthy fats that are smoothie-worthy include:

  • Plant-based fat such as nuts, nut butter, seeds: A couple tablespoons is plenty.
  • Full-fat dairy such as whole milk or plain Greek yogurt: Limit to four to eight ounces per smoothie.
  • Avocado: One quarter to one half of an avocado is especially delicious in green smoothies.
  • Reduced-fat coconut milk: Four ounces will add creaminess and flavor.

If you follow a plant-based diet, you can substitute unsweetened nut milk for dairy products but be aware these are not a significant source of either fat or protein.

Flavor Add-ins

Carefully selected herbs, spices, and other flavor enhancers often offer antioxidants as well. Some tasty options:

  • Grated fresh ginger or ginger powder
  • Cinnamon
  • Chai spices such as cardamom and cloves
  • Fresh mint
  • Lemon or lime juice
  • Vanilla extract (1/2 teaspoon)
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder

Green Smoothie Tips

If you like veggie-forward smoothies, in addition to leafy greens experiment with neutral-tasting vegetables such as chopped cauliflower, cucumber, zucchini, yellow squash, or even a small amount of cooked beets or sweet potatoes. All will add a hefty dose of vitamins and minerals. Matcha (powdered green tea) can also amp up the green quotient of your smoothies.

Sweeteners

Fruit should provide plenty of natural sweetness, but if you're using a predominantly vegetable-based blend a pitted date will do the trick. Besides a punch of sweetness, dates offer minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium and fiber.

Stevia is another good option for adding sweetness but avoid artificial sweeteners, which may negatively affect gut bacteria and have been shown to increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

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