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Thread: Green smoothies - healthy, or insulin bombs? page

  1. #1
    Hilary's Avatar
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    Question Green smoothies - healthy, or insulin bombs?

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    This came up on another thread, but I'd really like some more input as a green smoothie is replacing oats as my normal breakfast.

    Fruit juice = sugar hit, insulin spike etc, I know. Some vegetable juice presumably ditto.

    Is that just because you consume a lot of fruit/ sweet veg with no fibre to delay absorption? Or is it specifically because it's a liquid?

    My breakfast smoothie might contain...
    • handful of berries
    • a plum or nectarine
    • half a frozen banana
    • big handfuls of spinach/watercress/parsley/greens/ something green
    • scoop of whey protein
    • misc extras ad lib, like yoghourt, tsp nut butter, half an avocado, raw egg yolk...

    All this in the liquidiser, not the juicer, so no fibre is discarded. I'm working slowly towards a higher proportion of green stuff to fruit.

    What do you think? Healthy? Or asking for trouble?

    Thanks for your help!

  2. #2
    Paleo Man's Avatar
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    It has been suggested that one difference between us moderns and our primal ancestors is that our primal ancestors undoubtedly chewed their food a lot more thoroughly. They did not have the option of going to a grocery store, buying a quantity of food, and bolting it down without chewing it much. If they were eating edible leaves or fruit, for example, they were probably picking and thoroughly chewing one at a time.

    I've noticed that when I am foraging, e.g. for wild berries or greens, I tend to chew each one that I pick and eat very, very thoroughly as I search for the next. I think we moderns have largely lost this when eating grocery store food.

    Your blender may essentially be doing the same thing, i.e. chewing your food thoroughly for you. I don't necessarily think that this is bad.

    One thing to keep in mind is the our digestive system is designed to begin its process in the mouth, where saliva and enzymes start the job. Normally this occurs with chewing. If we swallow a whole smoothie without allowing it to linger in the mouth, we bypass part of the digestive process. Might be more natural to take the smoothie in small amounts and "chew" it a bit in the mouth even though it doesn't really need chewing.

    As long as the digestive process is properly started in the mouth, I'm not sure that the stomach and lower GI tract notice any difference between fruit and greens that have been really thoroughly chewed as our primal ancestors would have done, as opposed to some help from a blender.

    Fructose is all metabolized in the liver, unlike glucose that can be processed by a wide variety of cells in the body. So too much fruit high in fructose can overload the liver and inhibit its proper function. A moderate amount of fresh fruit doesn't seem to pose a problem. Modern fruit has been selectively cultivated for the highest sugar content. Real primal fruits were undoubtedly generally lower in sugar, but often higher in flavor. A month ago I picked and ate some wild strawberries. Tiny and not super sweet, but the flavor was intense and incredible. The more we can orient toward the sort of fruits that our ancestors probably ate, the better I am sure.
    Last edited by Paleo Man; 08-11-2010 at 07:30 AM.

  3. #3
    Hilary's Avatar
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    That's very helpful, thank you. Luckily I have a not-too-efficient liquidiser, so there are plenty of chewable 'bits' left in .
    Last edited by Hilary; 08-11-2010 at 09:04 AM. Reason: spelling

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    It's high insulin levels caused by consuming too much (chronic) refined carbohydrates and sugar in excess of TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) that we are worried about and not for someone who eats primal, somewhat lower natural carbs and is consuming less food than their TDEE. Insulin is going to happen anyway, but the beauty is that it's going to come back down to your basal insulin levels shortly after you've eaten.....this is all a natural occurance. I wouldn't worry about it, unless you have high blood sugar, have glucose intolerance and are insulin resistant from consuming a sad diet previously. I do prefer to eat whole food myself.......
    Whether you think you can..... or you think you can't..... your 100 % correct.

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    I think the only real issue here is the fruit to greens/fat/protein ratio. I found that adding the juice of a lime or lemon cuts the taste of the greens and allowed me to use less fruit since that was what I was using to cover the taste of the greens.

    I make green smoothies quite often for myself, and usually goes something like this:

    1-2 scoops protein powder
    1.5 cups coconut milk
    1-2 handfuls of berries OR half a frozen banana
    1-2 handfuls of greens
    juice of 1 lime or 1 lemon

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    I think it really depends on the ingredients of your smoothie. Personally I can't handle much banana. And I need to be sure it has adequate fat. Some protein (whey powder) works well for me.

    Though truth be told I like cottage cheese with berries better than a smoothie. I kinda hate taking the blender apart to wash it lol.

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    Mica's Avatar
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    Victoria Boutenko has long promoted green smoothies, and has a few testimonials at her website of diabetics who have improved by incorporating green smoothies into their diets.

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    Hilary's Avatar
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    Ah - that's really good to know, thank you. That's what I was wondering about - is it going to cause the surge-and-crash thing like drinking something sweet? Answer - apparently not. Hooray.

    I wonder if it's possible to make a green smoothie with a stick blender, for less washing up. Anyone know?

  9. #9
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    It all depends on what's in the smoothie. I regularly drink *juice* - but it's from a base of celery/cuke with a lttle lettuce or other leafy green tossed in, some parsley or non-sweet sprouts and definitely isn't an insulin bomb.

    Some do okay with bananas....I happen to not like them due to the low nutritional status per calorie - ie they're mostly carb/sugar compared to dark and bright fruits and veggies.

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    I treat green smoothies as a treat these days, not as breakfast. Personally I would just modify your's a bit. Ditch the extra fruit, keep the frozen berries, maybe throw half an avocado in, and use coconut milk for extra fat. I think the fat helps with the insulin spike!

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