A smoothie can be a quick, easy and nutritious snack when you’re pressed for time and on the run. If you have insulin resistance, however, you should be careful about what’s in your smoothie because some ingredients can raise your blood sugar too much and too quickly. With a few substitutions, you can be sure that smoothie is not only good-tasting, but also good for your health.
Insulin is the hormone that takes glucose from your bloodstream and feeds it into your cells for fuel. If you have insulin resistance, your body produces insulin but doesn’t use it effectively, so glucose builds up in the blood. Insulin resistance is often a precursor to prediabetes or diabetes, and anyone who has it should choose foods that are lower in carbohydrates and higher in protein and fiber, and try to avoid those with lots of added sugar.
What to Choose
Since vegetables and protein foods are naturally low in carbs, they make a great smoothie base for someone who is insulin-resistant. Look for or make smoothies from protein-rich plain, unsweetened Greek or regular yogurt, and regular dairy or soy milk, rather than fruit juice. Cottage cheese and nut butters are also high in protein and low in carbohydrates and can both be used as a smoothie base. Smoothies made with leafy greens, edamame, cucumber or any other vegetables will also be lower in carbs than those made with only fruit.
What to Add
Even if a smoothie has carbs from fruit, you can slow down the absorption of that carbohydrate by adding more protein, healthy fat or fiber to the mix. A scoop or two of sugar-free protein powder is an easy way to boost protein. Creamy avocado blends in nicely and adds heart-healthy fat, as do walnuts or chia seeds. For a good dose of fiber, oats fit the bill with lots of slowly digested soluble fiber. The American Diabetes Association lists them as one of the super foods to help manage diabetes. Instead of adding extra fruit or sugar for flavor, try extracts like vanilla or almond, or spices like cinnamon, which has also been shown to benefit blood sugar.
What to Avoid
Any added sugar, versus naturally occurring sugar from whole fruits or milk, is considered a fast-acting carbohydrate. These can raise blood sugar very quickly, so anyone with insulin resistance should avoid added sugars, which can come not only from white table sugar, but also from brown sugar, agave nectar, honey, molasses or maple syrup. Always check the ingredients list on your smoothie, and when preparing your own, make sure it has no or very little added sugar.