By Stacy Whitman
A smoothie can be a tasty and nutritious start to your day or post-workout quencher. Since most people don’t consume the recommended amount of fruits and veggies, it’s an easy way to boost your intake. But not all smoothies are created equal. While some are deserving of their health halo, others are packed with sugar and calories. It all depends, of course, on the ingredients.
When a smoothie is made with fruit, fruit juice, and frozen yogurt or sherbert, for example, it can resemble a liquid dessert. Take the classic Jamba Juice Caribbean Passion smoothie. Made with “real whole fruit and 100% fruit juice,” it contains 270 calories and 58 grams, or about 14.5 teaspoons, of sugar in a 16-ounce serving. Compare that to a 7-Eleven Wild Cherry Slurpee with 120 calories and 26 grams of sugar in a 12-ounce drink.
Even a pure fruit smoothie made at home can wreak havoc on your blood sugar. That’s because the fruits themselves (especially bananas, mangoes, pineapples and apples) are naturally high in fructose, a simple carbohydrate. When you blend up the fruit, you destroy much of the fiber that helps slow the absorption of fructose into your bloodstream. It doesn’t matter if the sugar is “natural” or refined – it hits your system the same way.
Fortunately, you don’t have to give up smoothies entirely. With the right recipe, you can create a seriously nourishing meal-in-a-cup that won’t spike your blood sugar. Just follow these tips:
START WITH GREENS
Toss in a handful or two of spinach, kale, or even romaine, chard, parsley, or mint.
LIMIT THE FRUIT
Just a few slices of frozen banana and a handful of berries should be enough to sweeten it up.
ADD PROTEIN & HEALTHY FATS
Try a heaping teaspoon of almond butter or another nut butter to add flavor and keep you satisfied.
SKIP THE JUICE
For liquid, use an unsweetened plant-based milk such as almond or hemp, or try coconut water for a little more sweetness.
EXPERIMENT WITH ADD-INS
Add a nutritional boost with raw cacao powder, chia seeds, bee pollen, a probiotic, a superfood powder (maca, acai, spirulina, beet), etc.
THICKEN IT UP
Include a few ice cubes to make it thick and cold.