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.

Components of a Diabetes-Friendly Smoothie

When crafting a smoothie that's part of a diabetes meal plan, keep the following components as part of your mental checklist of ingredients to include.

Fiber

The presence of fiber is what primarily distinguishes smoothies from juices. Fiber benefits blood sugar control by slowing glucose's entry into the bloodstream, as the digestive system requires more time and effort to break down fiber's complex starch structures. Fiber also bulks up your stool, which helps with digestion and metabolism. It can be found in whole fruit and leafy greens (try baby kale or baby spinach), as well as nuts. Seeds are an especially good way to boost the fiber content of your smoothies without greatly altering the taste. Try flaxseed, chia, hemp, sunflower, pumpkin, or sesame. Look to add about 8g of fiber at minimum to your smoothies (about the amount in 1 cup of blackberries). Keeping the skin on certain fruits such as peaches or pears can also increase the fiber content of your smoothies.

Here's a tip: Prep the smoothie ingredients in your blender the night before and store it in the fridge (minus the ice) to speed things up even more in the morning.

Fruit

Fruit is generally the main component of most smoothies, but for a diabetes-friendly version, limit your fruit to no more than two servings—for example, one small banana plus 3/4 cup of another fruit. Berries are an excellent choice, as they're lower in sugar than most other options. They also pack in lots of fiber. Bananas make an ideal smoothie base because they're so creamy when blended. For natural sweetness, choose bananas that are ripe or even over-ripe. Or try adding a small amount of tropical fruits, such as kiwi or pineapple, which are rich in vitamins and minerals and also lend a more exotic flavor. Using frozen fruit such as peeled and chunked bananas and frozen berries eliminate the need for adding ice cubes.

Protein

Protein is a building block of muscle and also is used for generating energy. It's a key component in a diabetes-friendly smoothie, as this macronutrient helps slow the rate at which glucose enters the bloodstream, making for an even, long-lasting source of energy. Good sources of protein for a fruit smoothie include protein powder and silken tofu, which is creamier than the firm variety. Additionally, full-fat Greek yogurt and nut butters count as both good protein and fat sources. Note that nut milk is generally not a large source of protein on its own.

When choosing a protein powder, aim for either a whey-based powder, which has been shown to help with insulin sensitivity, or a plant-based powder made from hemp seeds or peas. Avoid rice-based protein powders, as they've been found to be potentially contaminated with heavy metals such as arsenic. No matter which type of protein powder you choose, be sure it contains at least 10g of protein per serving and is low in sugar/added sugars, ideally no more than 5g. It's also possible to skip the powder in favor of a whole-food source for protein: just two tablespoons of hemp seeds yields 8g of protein.

Fat

A couple tablespoons of plant-based fats, such as nuts, nut butter, seeds (such as flaxseed, chia seeds, or hemp hearts), or 4 to 8 ounces of full-fat dairy such as milk or yogurt will help keep you full (fat is essential in promoting satiety or a feeling of fullness after meals). Fat can help keep blood sugar balanced by slowing glucose absorption, just as with fiber and protein. Also try adding 1/4 to 1/2 an avocado (great in green smoothies) or 4 ounces of reduced-fat coconut milk. Fat also provides extra creaminess which will make your smoothies even more delicious.

If you're following a plant-based diet, you can sub nut milk for dairy products but be aware these are not a significant source of either fat or protein. Just be sure to seek out unsweetened nut milks to avoid added sugar.

Flavor Add-ins

To enhance the taste of your blends and also add in extra antioxidants (great for fighting inflammation), try adding in grated fresh ginger or ginger powder, cinnamon powder, chai spices such as cardamom and cloves, fresh mint, lemon or lime juice, or 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Unsweetened cocoa can also provide a chocolate-y flavor. A teaspoon or two of herbs, spices or other flavor boosters can make a smoothie taste sweeter without adding any extra sugar or sweeteners.

Green Smoothie Tips

Leafy greens and veggies can greatly increase the nutritional value of your smoothie, especially if you're using it as a meal replacement. Try adding a handful of greens but also neutral-tasting vegetables such as chopped cauliflower, cucumber, zucchini, yellow squash, or even a small amount of cooked beets or sweet potatoes, which will add a hefty dose of vitamins and minerals to your blends. Matcha, powdered green tea, can also amp up the green quotient of your smoothies.

Sweeteners

Usually, fruit provides plenty of natural sweetness, but if you're using a predominantly vegetable-based blend, you could try adding a single pitted date to your smoothie. Full of minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium, plus fiber, dates add a punch of sweetness in a small package—without significantly spiking your blood sugar. Stevia is another good option to add a sweet taste without adding sugar, but avoid artificial sweeteners, which may negatively affect your gut bacteria, and have been shown to increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

A Word From Verywell

Smoothies can be a great choice for people with diabetes when blends are composed of all three macronutrients (complex carbs in the form of fiber, protein and fat). If you're incorporating a smoothie with your meal, keep the serving size small (try 4 to 6 ounces, and save any excess in the fridge or freezer for later). If you're using a smoothie as a meal replacement, aim for 8 to 12 ounces. If you aren't sure how to fit smoothies into your meal plan, a nutritionist, dietitian, or certified diabetes educator can help.

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