Refreshing Fruit Smoothie and The Glycemic Index

June 15, 2012

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy a cold, refreshing beverage. One of my family’s favourite afternoon “snacks” is a Refreshing Fruit Smoothie (though they also make for a great way to start your day!). They are quick and simple to make and are packed with great nutrition because I use plain Greek yogurt and plain kefir as the base of my smoothies. What I add to the base depends on who I am making the smoothie for and what I have in my freezer and in my fruit basket. Mostly, I use ripe bananas (fresh or frozen), frozen berries, a splash or two of orange juice, and a little agave nectar, honey, or maple syrup. However, banana and mango, or banana and pineapple also make super yummy combinations! Feel free to scroll to the very bottom of this post for the recipe, however I would encourage you to continue reading for some (what I feel are important) nutritional information related to this recipe.

Why do I insist on using plain yogurt and plain kefir? Because they are much lower in sugar than their flavoured counterparts. For example, compare PC brand’s 0% Plain Greek Yogurt versus their 0% Vanilla Greek Yogurt: per 3/4 cup, the plain yogurt contains 2 g of sugar while the vanilla yogurt contains 13 g of sugar! I also like that the plain Greek yogurt does not contain any gelatin or other unnecessary, not-so-good-for-you ingredients. In fact, the ingredient listing is simply “Skim Milk, Bacterial Culture”. Now, I’m not saying there aren’t other good brands of yogurt out there – I would just encourage you to read the label of your current yogurt to be aware of what’s actually in there. And true, by adding agave nectar, honey, or maple syrup to my smoothies, I’m basically just adding the sugar that has been left out of the yogurt – but at least I can control the amount and type of sugar added.

Aware of the risk of getting too analytical and technical, I would like to briefly explain why the type of sugar is important. It’s because of something called the “glycemic index” (GI). It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes during my second pregnancy that I even heard of this term, and indeed it is an important tool in managing one’s diabetes. However, I believe that the GI index is an important tool for everyone and this is why I’d like to provide you with a simple definition: “The glycemic index measures how fast and how much a food raises blood glucose levels. Foods with higher index values raise blood sugar more rapidly than foods with lower glycemic index values do.” (Click here for the source and a more detailed definition.)

Our goal should always be to incorporate mainly “low GI” foods into our diet and to keep “high GI” foods to a bare minimum. Examples of “high GI” foods are white bread, white rice, refined breakfast cereals, white potatoes, and candy. Examples of “low GI” foods are large flake oatmeal, bran cereals, whole grain bread, brown rice, legumes, nuts, quinoa, apples, berries, yogurt, and milk. Essentially, you want what you eat to be as un-processed as possible. And when it comes to “sweeteners”, you are better off using agave nectar, honey or maple syrup (in order of lowest to highest on the GI index) in place of the highly processed sugar our current generations are seemingly addicted to.

Here is an excellent link to some more in-depth information about the glycemic index, in case you’re interested!

And finally, here is the recipe for my “Refreshing Fruit Smoothie”!

Ingredients:

1 cup plain Greek yogurt (I prefer PC brand’s 0%)

1 cup plain Kefir

2 Tbsp orange juice

1 – 2 ripe bananas (fresh or frozen) (Whenever I have too many ripe bananas on hand, I either whip up a batch of my Bran & Flax Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins or peel them and put them into an air-tight container and into the freezer.)

1 and 1/2 cups frozen mixed berries or other preferred fruit

1 – 2 tsp agave nectar, honey or maple syrup

<strong>Directions:

1. Add first three ingredients into blender (or beaker if using an immersion blender as I do). This becomes your “base” and you can then add any fruit combination you would like!

2. Add fruit and sweetener. Blend. Add kefir for a thinner smoothie. Add more sweetener for a sweeter smoothie. Add more fruit for a fruitier (?!) smoothie. Serve. Enjoy!

What is your favourite summer beverage?!

Have you ever heard of the glycemic index and do you use it in your daily food-consumption decision making?!

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One Response to “Refreshing Fruit Smoothie and The Glycemic Index”

  1. Amy Says:

    Great post Monica…..I am hypoglycemic so I can always use a reminder to stay away from the high-GI stuff 🙂


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