Smoothies & Health Part 2: Dealing with Diabetes

According to Jonhannesburg’s Centre for Diabetes and Endocrinology, around 3.5 million South Africans are living with Diabetes, and another 5 million are pre-diabetic. The prevalence of Diabetes throughout Africa is expected to rise dramatically in the coming years, largely due to more people living a more sedentary lifestyle and following a poor diet high in processed, sugary foods. Diet plays a huge role in preventing and managing Diabetes; let’s take a look at the causes behind this widespread condition, and the best dietary changes you can make to help manage it.

What is Diabetes?

Simply put, Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder characterised by long periods of elevated blood sugar. Symptoms include rapid weight change, constant thirst, frequent urination and slow healing of cuts; there is also the risk of long-term complications, like kidney damage and heart disease.

Sugar & Insulin

Your pancreas produces a peptide hormone called insulin, which helps your body to absorb excess glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream, regulating your metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. When insulin levels fail, this excess glucose remains in your bloodstream, and becomes toxic, leading to the symptoms of Diabetes.

Types of Diabetes

Type 1 Diabetes: This is a genetic condition that occurs when your pancreas stops producing insulin. Type 1 typically starts during infancy, and people living with Type 1 Diabetes must take regular insulin injections and follow a carefully balanced diet to stay healthy.

Type 2 Diabetes: Largely related to lifestyle and partly to genetics, this condition occurs when your body starts becoming insulin resistant (the pancreas no longer produces enough insulin). Reduced insulin sensitivity is typically caused by poor diet, high refined sugar consumption, lack of exercise and obesity. Type 2 usually develops gradually and the onset occurs around middle age (40 or older).

Gestational Diabetes: This condition occurs during pregnancy, when a mom-to-be develops high blood-glucose levels despite having no previous history of Diabetes. The condition typically improves or disappears after delivery, but both mother and baby require extra-special care throughout the pregnancy to ensure there are no adverse effects on their health.

Foods for Coping with & Preventing Diabetes

The best foods you can eat if you’re diabetic, pre-diabetic or looking to lower your risk of developing Diabetes, are those that help to a) lower blood sugar, b) burn fat, and c) reduce inflammation. Here are some of the top nutritional superstars:

Broccoli: This crunchy green veggie is a great detoxing agent; it contains a compound called sulforaphane, which triggers anti-inflammatory processes in your body, improving blood sugar control and protecting your heart and blood vessels from damage. Kale and cauliflower are also rich in sulforaphane.

Blueberries: These yummy fruits are loaded with anthocyanins, which stimulate the production of adiponectin, a substance that helps to control your body’s blood sugar levels. The high insoluble fibre content in these berries helps to flush out your system, while the soluble fibre slows down the emptying of your stomach, also improving blood sugar control. What superstars!

Psyllium husk: A powerful natural fibre supplement, typically used as a constipation remedy, psyllium is also useful in controlling blood glucose levels. Taking psyllium before a meal helps to lower the rise in blood sugar post-meal. Just remember, because psyllium is such a great cleanser, you should take it at least 4 hours before or after taking medication, otherwise it will affect your body’s ability to absorb the medication.

Leafy greens: Spinach and other leafy greens significantly decrease your risk of developing diabetes. Spinach in particular is rich in vitamin K, a fat-soluble nutrient that protects your heart.

Sweet potato: Another great source of anthocyanins, sweet potatoes help to significantly reduce fasting blood glucose levels.

Walnuts: Delicious crunchy nuts that pack a nutritional punch! Walnuts are full of alpha-linolenic acid, a polyunsaturated fatty acid which has been shown to lower inflammation in the body. Walnuts are also beneficial in reducing high cholesterol, and a great source of antioxidants too.

Quinoa: Unlike processed starches, quinoa gives you the taste, texture and satisfaction of a grain, but in fact it’s a complete protein, and won’t spike your blood sugar like bread or pasta. It’s very rich in heart-healthy fibre, and also helps to lower cholesterol.

Did You Know? Cinnamon and turmeric are both excellent spices for lowering and balancing blood sugar levels.

Delicious & Healthy Diabetic Smoothies 

These tasty smoothies are low in calories, high in fibre and free of processed/ refined sugars.

Green Spinach & Berry Smoothie



  • Process all ingredients in a blender on high speed, until the mixture is smooth.
  • Garnish with a few fresh blueberries. Sip and enjoy!


Cherry-Berry Banana Smoothie


  • ½ cups pitted dark sour cherries
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1tsp vanilla powder
  •  1 x 6oz. carton Greek non-fat yogurt
  • ½ cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 small banana, peeled



  • Process all ingredients in a blender on high speed, until the mixture is smooth.
  • Sip and enjoy!


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