Smoothies for Diabetics: What Ingredients Should You Include?
Smoothies are an excellent source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, however, not all smoothies are healthy. People with diabetes need to be especially careful when making or buying smoothies, as many smoothie recipes have added sugar and can lead to a harmful blood sugar spike.
The good news is that by following a few simple guidelines, a person with diabetes, or high blood sugar, can enjoy smoothies without experiencing any adverse effects—only positive ones! It's not difficult to make delicious smoothies for diabetics, just ensure you're using healthy ingredients and watching the sugar content closely.
So, what smoothie ingredients are diabetes-friendly and which ones should you avoid? We’ll be answering those questions and many others in this article, but first, let’s quickly review what diabetes is.
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when your blood glucose (aka blood sugar) is too high. Glucose, which comes from carbohydrates in the foods and drinks you consume, is your body’s primary energy source. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose from food enter your cells to be used for energy.
Some people’s bodies don’t make enough insulin (or any), such as in type 1 diabetes. In other cases, people’s bodies don’t use insulin well, such as in type 2 diabetes. In both cases, glucose stays in the blood and doesn’t reach the cells. Over time, high glucose levels can cause damage to the body and failure of various organs and tissues.
Can People with Diabetes Drink Smoothies?
The answer is: it depends. Smoothies can work for people with diabetes or against them, depending on the ingredients that are used. Smoothies that you buy from a retail location are often loaded with sugar and carbs, which can be harmful to people with diabetes.
A medium Aloha Pineapple smoothie from Jamba Juice, for example, contains a whopping 77 grams of sugar and 89 grams of carbs.[*] This isn’t surprising when you realize that the ingredients are pineapple juice, pineapple sherbet, strawberries, bananas, and nonfat Greek yogurt. This smoothie recipe would not be a good choice for smoothies for diabetics.
Why? Research has shown that limiting carbs can help people with diabetes manage their blood sugar and, in some cases, lead people with type 2 diabetes to experience disease remission.[*] This is because the body breaks carbs down into glucose (a type of sugar), which then raises the level of glucose in the blood.
What Smoothie Ingredients Are Good for Diabetics?
Whipping up a smoothie that’s compatible with a diabetes meal plan involves choosing nutritious ingredients that won’t cause blood sugar spikes. Don’t worry—once you know what to include, making a delicious smoothie AND a healthy smoothie for diabetics is super easy.
Let’s take a look at what ingredients to include in a diabetes-friendly smoothie:
Just because consuming too many carbs is bad for diabetics doesn’t mean you can’t include some carbs in your smoothies - it's about managing your carbohydrate intake and overall fewer carbs. The key is to choose carbs that are high in fiber and low in sugar and starch, as these will have less of an impact on your blood sugar.
Fiber benefits blood sugar control by slowing the entry of glucose into the bloodstream.[*] Foods that fit the bill include non-starchy veggies, such as leafy greens, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, and cabbage, as well as low-sugar fruits, including cucumber, avocado, lemons, limes, and berries. Don't be afraid of that low sugar, low carb smoothie bowl!
Fats play an essential role in the body and can help slow down the speed at which sugar enters the blood, leading to more balanced blood sugar levels.[*] Some healthy fats to add to your smoothies include almonds, almond butter, walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds, avocado, coconut oil, and MCT oil.
Similarly, protein is essential for everyone, but is particularly beneficial for people with diabetes. Protein slows the absorption of food, which reduces the speed at which sugar enters the bloodstream. Good protein options for smoothies include nuts, seeds, and low-sugar protein powders, such as pure pea protein or hemp protein. Again, watch the sugar, but consider whey protein or protein powder as a great add on for smoothies for diabetics.
To add flavor and extra nutrition to your smoothies, turn to spices, roots, herbs, extracts, and superfoods, such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, vanilla extract, mint extract, monk fruit extract, ginger, turmeric, mint, cilantro, and cacao powder. These ingredients have minimal or no carbs yet add tons of flavor.
How to Make a Diabetes-Friendly Smoothie Recipe
The great thing about smoothies is that you can mix and match ingredients to your liking. To make a diabetic-friendly smoothie, follow these general guidelines:
- Add 1-3 cups of non-starchy veggies to your blender, such as leafy greens, cauliflower, and celery. (Hint: in general, look for green smoothies for diabetics for optimal health benefits)
- Add ¾ cup of low-sugar fruit to your blender, such as frozen mixed berries and lemon.
- Add some healthy fats, such as ½ an avocado and/or 1 tablespoon almond butter.
- Add a pinch of spice, some fresh herbs, and/or extracts for flavor.
- Add 1-2 cups of low-carb liquid, such as water or unsweetened almond milk.
- Blend in a high speed blender and enjoy!
While you can opt to buy all of the smoothie ingredients, wash the produce, and chop everything up, not everyone has the time to do so. A quicker, more accessible option is to use pre-portioned smoothie packs from Blendtopia.
Blendtopia offers three keto smoothie options—Keto Green Smoothie, Keto Berry Smoothie, and Keto Chocolate Chai Smoothie. We also offer a Keto Smoothie Variety Box, which includes 12 pre-selected keto-friendly smoothies. When a food is labeled as “keto,” it means it’s low in carbs, moderate in protein, and higher in fat. This macronutrient profile makes Blendtopia keto smoothies ideal for those with diabetes.
Each kit contains low-carb, organic frozen fruits and veggies and other low-sugar superfoods, such as organic milled flax seeds, organic MCT oil, organic virgin coconut oil, and organic ground ginger. All you have to do is pour the pouch contents into your blender, add 12-14 ounces of a low-carb liquid, and blend up a creamy smoothie recipe!
What About Green Smoothies for Diabetics?
We're a big fan of a healthy green smoothie and green smoothies can certainly fall in the diabetic friendly category, again assuming they're made with the correct ingredients. In fact, due to these plants' high antioxidant contents and starch-digesting enzymes, the following leaf greens are recommended for green smoothies for diabetics:
- collard greens
- bok choy
Taking a Holistic Approach to Managing Diabetes
Smoothies are a healthy way to consume fiber and other vital vitamins and minerals. However, the wrong kind of smoothie—we’re looking at you, Aloha Pineapple—can be harmful to people with diabetes. To reap the benefits of smoothies without adverse effects, stick to the guidelines in this article or use Blendtopia’s keto smoothie packs.
Besides drinking low-carb smoothies filled with nutrient-dense ingredients, it’s also important to maintain a low-carb diet, regularly exercise, stay hydrated, limit alcohol consumption, and manage your stress. With consistency and care, you can maintain a healthy body and mind, regardless of your diabetes diagnosis.
- Not sure if you should use almond milk, coconut milk, or other milk in your smoothie for diabetics? Read: The Best Milk for Smoothies
- If you're a green smoothie snob and think green smoothies are the best - read: Green Smoothies for Weight Loss
- Smoothie recipes for a rich and creamy smoothie that is KETO: The Best Keto Smoothie Recipes
- Diabetes Superfoods - Blendtopia Superfoods