Smoothies and Detox Juicing: Blended Bliss or Diabetes Nightmare?

Patient Expert

Flickr user elena's pantry

What does eating healthy mean?   Smoothies and raw juice stores are popping up all over the place, or you can  buy them online  from your favorite celebrity.  Local stores for smoothies like Robex, Tropical Smoothie, and Smoothie King are in almost any city, you can spend a fortune at Whole Foods for  BluePrint  cleanse too, which  costs up to $11.00 for one of those sixteen ounce Cashew Vanilla, Cinnamon, or Agave drinks!

Right down the street from my office is a Tropical Smoothie restaurant.   Everyday, the place is mobbed with moms and their kids buying a healthy meal. Or so they think.   It's fruit, and fruit is healthy, right?

After reviewing Tropical Smoothie's nutrition guide, there's not much in one of their smoothies that relates to health. One example is the low-fat Sunny Day smoothiemade from mango, kiwi, orange and banana. Their 24 oz. serving has 128 carbs, 5 grams dietary fiber, and 113 grams of sugar, 4 proteins and 497 calories. The nutrition guide is worth taking a look. Be sure to check out the Peanut Paradise - wow! No one on this earth should eat it.

When I first started working at  my office, I tried a Sunny Day smoothie. It tasted great, and I guessed at how many carbs. A couple of hours later, I started to feel heartburn and when I checked my blood sugar it was a whopping 400. Ugh. I struggled for the rest of the day trying to correct and bring down that spike, and I vowed never to have another smoothie.

To help every American understand what"�s reasonable sugar consumption, the American Heart Association has added  guidelines for sugar intake. Added sugar should be no more than half your discretionary calories per day. For the average American woman, that means no more than 100 calories per day, or 6 teaspoons, or 30 grams.   For men, it's 150 calories per day or 9 teaspoons, or 45 grams. These are sugars that are added to food, like high fructose corn syrup and other refined sugars that are not naturally occurring sugars found in food.   Now, if we go back to the Tropical Smoothie nutrition guide, every smoothie has more than the recommended daily allowance, as well the fact that it is a highly processed food product. Starbucks is another culprit for people.   A grande mocha has 160 calories, or 40 grams of sugar.

Hope Warshaw, MMSc, RD, CDE is the author of  several books  on diabetes meal planning published by the American Diabetes Association.  Hope gets concerned when people mention smoothies for the reasons I mentioned above. But Hope agrees that if people want to combine a few nutritious ingredients and drink a healthy homemade smoothie a few times a week, that's great. Smoothies can be a great way to start your day or be an afternoon snack.

Smoothies and juices are easy to make at home, so why not?   Here are three tips:

  • Start slowly. Don't go blow big bucks on a juicer unless you have the funds.
  • Ice kills most blenders.
  • Use fresh ingredients.

One of my quick and easy morning smoothies contains an orange, banana and greens:

  • 1 orange, peel and slice into chunks.

½ banana (I found a whole banana just overwhelmed the flavor)

  • Handful of spinach, kale, or any green that appeals to you. (I prefer spinach, as it's milder in flavor than kale.)

½ cup Greek yogurt *
¼ Almond milk

  • Blend. You can add 1 teaspoon agave, if you need a little sweetener, but I never need to add sweetener when the fruit is ripe and in season.

Here are two smoothie recipes fit for people with diabetes!

These two recipes are from two of our friends, Ginger Vieira and Riva Greenberg.

Ginger Vieira's  morning favorite:

Ginger's Spectacular Blueberry Almond & Egg White Deliciousness Smoothie

  • 1 scoop vanilla egg white JayRobb powder (made with stevia)
  • 3/4 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon almond butter
  • Fill to the top with Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk (approximately 1.5 cups)

This smoothie has approximately 15.5 grams of carbohydrate.

Riva Greenberg  has this smoothie almost every morning! She said "it's crunchy, chewy, nutty and dense with flavor!"

Super Sonic Oatmeal

-  1/2 Serving of steel cut oats (trader joes)

-  2 tsp. Flax meal (not seeds)

-  Light sprinkle of sunflower seeds

-  2 tsp. Hemp seeds

-  4 Pieces of Granny Smith apple

-  4-6 blueberries

-  2 Tbsp. Plain non fat Greek yogurt

Add one of the following options:

-  1 tsp. Almond butter, peanut butter

  • 1 tsp. Tahini


This recipe can be mixed by hand as a cereal alternative, or blended for smoothie option and it may be served hot or cold.  To make it easy, make 1/2 cup of oatmeal (and store in fridge), which will last for 6 days worth of smoothies.