“I have a 16 ounce smoothie every day which contains all frozen fruit such as strawberry, blackberry, fresh banana, spinach, flax seed, etc. My question is, aren’t smoothies eventually converted to sugar and are you increasing risk of diabetes?” – Loan
Great question, Loan, and it’s one I get on occasion.
Many people assume that, since diabetes is a disease where blood sugar is not properly regulated in the body, consuming “too much sugar” causes diabetes.
However, diabetes is a complex disease and the scientific consensus isn’t as simple as “eat too much sugar, get diabetes”. Diabetes has a variety of causes and can’t easily be explained by any one thing.
Diabetes Isn’t As Simple As “Too Much Sugar, Get Diabetes”
The evidence shows that there are multiple risk factors for diabetes including genetics, age, family history, obesity and sedentary lifestyle. Obesity and sedentary lifestyle top the list for risk factors for type 2 diabetes.
Since diets high in sugar and other unhealthy carbohydrates tend to make people overweight, and overweight people tend to be sedentary, the inevitable link between sugar consumption and diabetes was made.
As of this writing, there have been no conclusive studies directly linking sugar consumption with diabetes, although populations with the highest sugar consumption tend to have higher instances of diabetes.
It may not be the amount of sugar being consumed alone that increases one’s risk for diabetes, but also lifestyle and genetic factors as well. A diet high in added sugars paired with excess calorie consumption, obesity and lack of exercise may work in tandem to increase risk of developing the disease.
So What About The Sugars In Fruits And Green Smoothies?
There is no evidence that consuming sweet fruit increases ones risk for diabetes. In fact, the overwhelming body of evidence suggests that people who consume more fresh fruits and vegetables have a lower risk for the disease.
It is hard to get excess sugar from fruit. Fruit isn’t in the same league as table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, agave syrup or candy. Fruit contains vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that counter-balance the potential harmful effects of the natural sugars in fruit such as glucose and fructose.
The fiber in fruit slows down the release of sugars, reducing the speed at which fruit may raise your blood sugar. (Read about how all fruits are low glycemic, even bananas and watermelon.)
Fruits, unlike candy, soda and pastries, are not empty calories. They are nutritious fuel for the body.
Furthermore, green smoothies and sweet fruits may lower your risk for diabetes in several ways. First, they boost your nutrition while lowering your overall calorie intake. Secondly, they give you energy to exercise. Thirdly, most people who drink green smoothies on a daily basis lose weight.
I’ve even published more than a few stories on my website about people who have lowered their blood sugar, gotten off diabetes medication, and reversed or controlled their pre-diabetes through green smoothies and a whole foods diet.
Sugar Is Not The Enemy – Your Body Needs It
Your cells require glucose (a type of sugar found in sweet fruit) for fuel. Whether you eat fruit, or no fruit at all, your cells must have glucose in order to function. Even if you ate no fruit at all and went on the strictest of low-carb diets, your body will still convert fat or protein into glucose to feed your cells.
So it isn’t a bad thing at all that you get dietary glucose from fruit. There is nothing wrong with dietary glucose. Sugar isn’t the problem, it’s excess sugar found in processed, empty-calorie foods paired with other lifestyle factors that increase risk.
Since you only drink about 16 ounces of green smoothie per day, that’s a pretty small amount and certainly nothing to worry about unless you already have a metabolic disease, in which case you would need to discuss it with your doctor.
There are no clinical medical studies that I am aware of that provide a conclusive link between fruit consumption (or high-fruit diets) and diabetes, obesity or other metabolic disease.
My Own Experience
In my own situation, I have been drinking at least 32-40 ounces of green smoothie every single day since 2008. I get a significant portion of my calories every day from sweet fruits and green smoothies. I am on a high-carbohydrate diet.
I have not experienced any of the negative health effects of excess sugar in my diet. (I keep my daily fat intake low because I feel it is important to do so when eating a high-carb diet.)
My recent blood tests showed normal fasting glucose and normal triglycerides (nowhere close to the high-end of the range). I have not gotten fat. In fact, I lost 40 pounds from drinking meal-replacement green smoothies and not thinking twice about the amounts of bananas, mangoes and other sweet fruits I consume each day.
My husband has been the same way – no elevation in blood sugar and no sign of diabetes.
I hope this clarifies this issue for you, and truly, I don’t think you have anything to worry about if you’re only drinking a 16 ounce smoothie per day (or even if you drank 40-ounces per day). That’s at most, maybe 20 grams of natural sugar (not enough to even begin to worry about) balanced with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber.
Return to the Green Smoothie FAQ.
Tracy Russell is the creator of RESET 28: A 28-Day Program For Energy, Weight Loss & A Healthy Glow, and founder of Incredible Smoothies. She has been helping people take control of their health and well being with green smoothies, a whole foods diet, and fitness since 2009.