7 Healthy Vegan Smoothies
7 Creative Smoothie Ingredients That Are Also Diabetes Friendly
Smoothies can fit well in a diabetes diet when made with healthy ingredients. Next time you’re whipping up a breakfast or snack, try one of these healthy additions.
By Barbie Cervoni, RD, CDE
Medically Reviewed by Lynn Grieger, RDN
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Making healthy choices while managing diabetes, especially when first devising your meal plan, can feel daunting — but it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, coming up with creative solutions to keep blood sugar in check may be as simple as buying a blender.
Unfortunately for people with type 2 diabetes, smoothies are notorious for their proclivity to spike blood sugar. (Did you know the small Mega Mango smoothie at Jamba Juice contains 57 grams of carbs?) But if you use the right ingredients, a quick, filling, and nutritious sip has never been so easy to whip up.
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Why Smoothies Can Make a Great Snack or Breakfast for People With Diabetes
Not only can you pack them with delicious, diabetes-friendly fruit but, when prepared tactfully and enjoyed in moderation, smoothies can also help you drop excess weight. Maintaining a healthy waistline is critical for people with diabetes because too much body weight is linked with insulin resistance. That’s why losing even just a few pounds counts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that dropping a mere 5 to 7 percent of your body weight can help prevent prediabetes from progressing to full-blown type 2 diabetes.
But it is important to note that not all smoothies are healthy. Some may be processed with added sugar, meaning they may have the opposite desired effect on your weight and blood sugar. The best way to take control of what goes into your drink is by measuring out portions at home to help keep calorie and carbohydrate counts down.
If you’re a newbie to making smoothies, here are a couple of tips:
- Add about 1 cup liquid (water, low-fat milk, unsweetened almond milk, or unsweetened coconut milk) as a base.
- When adding nonstarchy vegetables, such as spinach and kale, be generous with portions (this will provide bulk and fiber).
- Fruit should be portioned to about a single serving, such as 1 cup frozen berries or half of a banana.
- Additional ingredients, such as avocados, seeds, and nut butters, should be measured to about a serving, too. For example, use a quarter of an avocado, 2 to 3 tablespoons (tbsp) ground seeds, or 1 to 2 tbsp almond butter.
One of the most alluring aspects of making smoothies is that the variations are limitless, but don’t forget about these staples. Next time you’re looking for an easy breakfast or snack that won’t spike your blood sugar, add some of these ingredients to enhance a smoothie's flavor, appearance, and texture while also adding essential nutrients.
The American Diabetes Association recommends adding avocados to morning smoothies as a replacement for dairy — and for good reason.
According to the California Avocado Commission, this smooth, creamy fruit is low in sugar and rich in fiber, and contains monounsaturated fat — aka "good" fat. The fiber and fat combination is a recipe for a healthy heart because good fats can improve your HDL ("good") cholesterol level while fiber increases satiety, thus improving weight loss, according to an article published in May 2013 inCritical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. In addition, avocados are rich in lutein, a vitamin important for eye health, the article says.
Try adding a quarter of a medium-size avocado to a smoothie. To reduce waste and prevent overeating, cut a whole avocado into quarters and put single servings in freezer bags.
Pro tip: Avocados are super tasty in green smoothies, and they go great with dark cacao, too!
2. Flaxseed Meal
Ground flaxseed is very nutrient dense, containing roughly 80 calories, 6 grams (g) fat, 5 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, 0 g sugar, and 3 g protein in 2 tbsp, according to the . Most of the calories in flaxseed come from polyunsaturated fat, particularly omega-3 fatty acids, according to the Flax Council of Canada. These fats may help with blood sugar control if you have type 2 diabetes, according to a review published in November 2019 inCritical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.
Make sure you use ground flaxseed meal as opposed to the whole seed to receive the full health benefits, notes a review published in April 2015 in theJournal of Food Science and Technology. The body is unable to break down the whole flaxseed so it can't access all of the omega-3-containing oil and fiber. You’ll enjoy the mild, nutty flavor, and because it is fine in texture, flaxseed meal blends well.
Tofu is a whole soy food, not a processed soy ingredient. It serves as a vegetarian source of low-calorie protein and is often used as a replacement for dairy in smoothies. Tofu offers a thick, creamy texture and pairs well with fruits, such as strawberries. When prepared with calcium sulfate, it is also a good source of vegetarian calcium, according to Oregon State University. Calcium promotes optimal bone health, the university notes.
Hempseed is naturally low in carbohydrates (less than 1 g per tbsp) and is also packed with filling fiber, protein, healthy fats (both omega-3 and omega-6), as well as iron, B vitamins, magnesium, phosphorous, and manganese. Getting a balanced ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids may be key in preventing obesity, suggests a review published in March 2019 inNutrients. The factor that best predicts diabetes is being overweight or obese, according to the Obesity Society.
To make the texture smoother, purchase hempseed that has already been shelled. The delicate texture incorporates well into recipes and yields a mild, nutty taste.
5. Nonfat Plain Greek Yogurt
Nonfat plain Greek yogurt is a low-calorie, low-carbohydrate, protein-packed source of natural bacteria that can add texture and creaminess to smoothies. Type 2 diabetes has been associated with a disruption in gut health, suggests a review published in the September-December 2013 issue ofFood Science and Human Wellness. A review published in 2015 inPLoS Onesuggests that consuming probiotics can restore balance in the gut and perhaps even improve blood sugar control.
Avoid added sugar by purchasing plain Greek yogurt — you can always sweeten a smoothie with a serving of frozen fruit, such as blueberries, strawberries, or peaches.
6. Chia Seeds
Chia is a type of seed that comes from the chia plant (Salvia hispanica L.). The seeds are rich in alpha-linolenic acid (a type of omega-3 fatty acid). In addition, chia seeds contain antioxidants, offer a vegetarian source of calcium, and come loaded with potassium and magnesium. Eating a diet that’s rich in potassium and magnesium can help regulate blood pressure, according to Harvard Medical School. Chia seeds have a very mild flavor, but be warned: They can make a smoothie slimy if you use too much.
Simply sprinkle 1 tbsp chia seeds in or on top of a prepared smoothie to give you a nutrition boost. If you’d prefer to blend the seeds into the smoothie, make a chia gel, by soaking the seeds in water first.
7. Almond Butter
Creamy, smooth, and delicious — almond butter is a good source of heart-healthy fat, protein, and fiber. Most of the fats found in almond butter are monounsaturated fats, which can help reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and raise healthy HDL cholesterol when replacing saturated fats with monosaturated fats. Additionally, almonds are an excellent source of the antioxidant vitamin E, manganese, and magnesium, nutrition data show. A review published in August 2015 in theWorld Journal of Diabetessuggests that higher intakes of magnesium are associated with a reduced risk of developing diabetes and can aid in regulating blood sugar.
So when adding almond butter to smoothies, make sure to keep the portions in check. Although the spread is nutrient dense, the calories in almond butter can add up quickly. It’s best to keep it to 1 to 2 tbsp per serving.
Video: 12 Healthy Smoothies
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