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How to make a smoothie that doesn't blow your blood sugar out

Ah, smoothies. It's amazing how often I get asked if I recommend them, or if they're healthy so I thought I'd put my two cents out there. My answer (for those that were still waiting) is usually: it depends.

They can often be loaded with sugar from excess fresh or dried fruit, fruit juice, sorbet and sweeteners to the point that they rival soft drink. When this is combined with a lack of protein and fat (two key ingredients to slowing down the release of sugar into our blood stream) it's a disaster for circulating blood sugar levels.

Mango smoothie, garnished with dry fruit

Mango smoothie, decorated by the kids

A balanced smoothie can make a brilliant meal when done well. While I know many smoothie lovers enjoy them for the portability factor, our body will handle them better if we stop and enjoy them, sipping not gulping and taking our time to appreciate the "meal" we're having. Chew your smoothies to help mix with digestive enzymes in saliva and to slow down how quickly you "eat" it.

Here's my guidelines when it comes to smoothie making:

1. Limit your fruit

Essentially a piece or serve is plenty- whatever you would eat if you were consuming it whole. Generally 1/2 cup berries, 1 small (or 1/2 large) banana, 1/2 mango etc.

2. Choose your base

We don't handle dairy so well in our household so we go for coconut water usually, occasionally with a little coconut milk, cream or yoghurt. You can use homemade or activated nut milks too if your digestion handles them (just check your overall nut consumption as its easy for it to sneak up). For those still consuming dairy, kefir or yogurt and water are other options.

3. Fortify- for nutrient density and blood sugar balance

* Egg yolks

Raw eggs are quite a controversial topic when it comes to food safety. Yet in my research I've come to the conclusion that if I'm buying fresh, pastured eggs the risk is really quite tiny and not one I'm concerned about (or when I am lucky enough to get some fresh ones from our neighbours next door). This differs for supermarket bought eggs, especially caged eggs where the sanitary conditions of the chickens is quite different and they're likely to have been stored for longer.

If you're still a little nervous, you can wash your eggs with warm soapy water before cracking, as if there is any salmonella present its most likely going to be on the shell. Or I have clients who blend in hard boiled eggs to their smoothie, swearing they cant taste it. Or just team your smoothie with a hard boiled egg or two for a portable breakfast.

I tend to add the yolks only, reserving the whites for cooking (coconut macaroons, or adding them into omelettes, scrambled eggs, frittata with a few more whole eggs etc). The reason is egg whites contain avidin, a compound which interfers with Biotin absorption, an important B vitamin present in great amounts in the yolk. Raw whites also contain trypsin inhibitors, which hinder protein digestion.

Cooking negates both these anti-nutrients, so the biotin and protein in eggs are often better absorbed cooked, and often better tolerated by our digestion.

There's a little debate as the whether this is really necessary, and many cope well on whole raw eggs. As I find lots of my clients do better on just the yolks that tends to be what I encourage but with the pretense that we are all individuals and if we listen to our body it will usually guide us in what suits it best.

* More fat

Often a little more fat will go along way to filling you up, supporting energy and brain health, and providing and helping absorb fat soluble nutrients. Try adding a tablespoon or two of your choice of coconut oil, ghee, nut or seed butters, or even a little avocado.

* Collagen Hydrolysate or gelatin powder

In general, if you're adding egg yolks to your smoothies, or consuming alongside protein in a meal this may not be needed. For those that need additional protein, or are adding gelatin for specific health purposes (i.e. joint support) this is the main "protein power" I suggest. I find its tolerated by most digestive tracts and is a good, well absorbed form of protein, low in gut irritants and allergens.

4. Make it tasty

For us, the fruit is normally enough to satisfy our taste buds and make an enjoyable smoothie. However feel free to pimp your smoothie however you wish to get it tasting the way you like it. You may add some fresh herbs like mint, or spices such as vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg etc. Maybe even turmeric for added anti-inflammatory support along with the host of other benefits this golden spice offers. If you need it sweeter try some green leaf stevia or a little raw honey to taste.

Well that's it. A few guidelines and ideas and a whole lot of encouragement to try things out for yourself and see what "fits"

I'd love to hear your thoughts, maybe even your favourite smoothie recipe if you care to share.

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