In summer, there’s usually nothing more I crave than the taste of a refreshing, hydrating and mouth-wateringly delicious smoothie.
Are smoothies good for me?
There’s so much miscommunication around whether smoothies are good or bad for us. The key to the answer is by taking a look at what a smoothie really is.
Most smoothies consist of blended fruits, vegetables, milk and any other added ingredients. In their natural, whole form, these are fantastically nutritious foods to include in your diet. Fruits and vegetables are packed full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants - all of which are essential to good health.
You likely know that fruit contains sugar, which can be found surrounded by fibre within cells of the fruit. When you eat a whole apple, the fibre slows down how quickly the apple is digested and the speed at which the sugar is absorbed into your bloodstream. However, when an apple (or any fruit) is blended into a smoothie, the fibre is broken down. As a result, the sugar is released from the cell and can be quickly absorbed into your bloodstream. This causes a greater spike in blood sugar levels when drinking a fruit smoothie, compared to eating a whole piece of fruit.
Rollercoaster fluctuations in blood sugar levels ought to be avoided where possible. Frequent high blood sugar levels increase your risk of developing insulin resistance. It’s partly for this reason that it’s generally recommended to limit fruit juice and smoothies to 150ml/day. In reality, many people don’t stick to this recommendation. For some, a smoothie is a go-to breakfast and 150ml won’t fill them up. This is where you need to get smart and savvy, by balancing your smoothie.
Follow my 3 essential steps below to create a healthy, balanced smoothie to prevent rollercoaster rides in your blood sugar levels.
Step 1: Choose your fruit and vegetables
Most fruits and vegetables work well in a smoothie. The decision really comes down to your flavour preference. Another consideration is that some fruits may offer more sweetness than others, such as bananas. On the other hand, frozen berries add a touch of tartness without as much sweetness.
Some recipes might include dates to add sweetness. Whilst dates contain fibre, potassium and magnesium, they’re also a concentrated source of sugar. Use dates in moderation in smoothies to prevent rollercoaster fluctuations in your blood sugar levels.
Even if your smoothie is fruit based, it’s always worth throwing in a handful of leafy greens, such as kale or spinach, for extra nutrients. Don’t worry - you won’t be able to taste these.
Step 2: Choose your carbs
I’m a massive fan of including oats in my smoothies. This is because oats are a source of complex carbohydrates. Despite the bad rep that carbs get, they’re an essential part of any diet - especially complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are broken down in digestion into glucose, which is the sugar that fuels the brain and body. Not only this, but oats have a low glycemic index, meaning they contribute towards a calmer, more steady change in blood sugar levels.
Oats are also a source of soluble fibre, which helps to soften your poo, as well as supporting blood cholesterol management.
You could also experiment with adding bran-based cereals (such as all bran) or Weetabix.
Step 3: Choose your protein and fat
There are so many opportunities to add protein to your smoothie, without relying on protein powder.
Cow’s milk is a great option - it has protein, calcium, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin B12 and more. If you choose to avoid cow’s milk, you might want to choose soya milk. Soya milk has the highest protein content out of all the plant-based milk alternatives. Always opt for a calcium-fortified plant-based milk alternative.
Adding a spoonful of yoghurt can also boost the protein found in your smoothie. Opt for a no-added sugar, plain natural or greek yoghurt.
The addition of nuts or seeds can also add a top up of protein, whilst also offering your smoothie some healthy unsaturated fats. Flaxseeds and chia seeds provide omega 3, which have been shown to be heart friendly. You could also try adding almonds, cashews or a nut-butter too.
If you’re not a fan of nuts and seeds, but want to add unsaturated fats to your smoothie, opt for avocado.
Smoothies don’t need to be all bad. With some smart thinking, you can create a healthy, balanced and filling smoothie to fuel your morning. The next time you’re making a smoothie, check whether you’ve followed my 3 essential steps.