Fruit and vegetable smoothies are easy ways for people with IBD to eat more fruits and vegetables, and people who eat more fruits and vegetables live longer, healthier lives. Fruits and vegetables are jam-packed with essential vitamins, minerals, fiber and other powerful nutrients that work together to protect us from chronic disease.
Unfortunately, eating fruits and vegetables is easier said than done for people with IBD. Many folks with IBD avoid fruits and vegetables because they’re on a low-fiber diet. Let’s set the record straight.
Fruit and Vegetable Smoothies Are Easy To Digest
Most individuals with active or inactive IBD can tolerate fruits and vegetables when the rough fiber is removed or broken down (predigested) in the blender before ingestion.
That’s why I often recommend fruit and vegetable smoothies to my IBD patients, both during flares and in remission.
Blending fruits and vegetables breaks down the tough-to-digest fiber but leaves the nutrients intact.
Health Benefits Of Drinking Smoothies With IBD
Drinking smoothies can be a delicious, nutritious, easy and quick way for people with IBD to eat more disease-fighting fruits and vegetables.
Besides protecting us from chronic disease, research supports that people with IBD who eat more fruits and vegetables flare less frequently and experience shorter flares. This is no surprise given fruits and veggies are full of anti-inflammatory nutrients!
Eating fruits and vegetables helps us feel energized, sleep better, and prevent nutrient deficiencies and malnutrition, two conditions that are more common in people with IBD compared to the public.
Some patients grimace when I suggest adding vegetables, but don’t knock it ’til you try it. Including vegetables adds valuable nutrients without too much sugar.
Will Smoothies Help Me Lose or Gain Weight?
Lots of IBD patients use smoothies to sneak in added calories when they’re not feeling well. Including small amounts of healthy plant fats, such as avocados, nut butters, and coconut oil, add calories and nutrients without too much bulk. Plus, lots of folks find drinking is easier than eating when appetites are poor.
I’ve worked with IBD patients who eat 2-3 homemade smoothies daily, in addition to their meals, to promote weight gain and boost intake of healing nutrients. Be careful not to drink a smoothie right before mealtimes because all that fluid in your belly might make it hard for you to eat.
If you’re looking to lose weight, then you might choose a highly nutritious vegetable smoothie as a meal or snack replacement.
Whatever you do, be careful to make or choose combinations low in sugar, and include a healthy protein (see custom smoothie guide) if the smoothie is taking the place of a meal.
What Blender Is Best For Making Smoothies?
For most people, any old blender will do. But, if you have GI symptoms or plan to add whole nuts, seeds, or raw fruits or vegetables with thick skins and/or seeds then you might need a high-speed blender. A high-speed blender, like a Vitamix, will really pulverize those tough-to-digest nuts, skins, and seeds.
America’s Test Kitchen tested several mid-priced blenders to see how they make smoothies and crush ice, among other functions. The winner was Breville’s Fresh & Furious. Smoothies are very smooth, and there’s even a dedicated “green smoothie” button that “completely blends fibrous ingredients into a silky smooth drink.” Perfect for someone with an inflamed gut! Plus, it’s reasonably quiet and compact.
If you don’t have a heavy duty blender then stick to blending softer fruits, vegetables and smooth add-ons, like nut butters versus whole nuts.
How To Begin Including Smoothies In Your Diet
Start simple. You might be excited to eat these nutritious foods, but be careful to add only one “new” ingredient at a time. For example, if you tolerate bananas and almond milk then make a banana almond milk smoothie. From there, add blueberries. Did that work well? Great! Now add a handful of spinach. You get the gist.
While it’s tempting to become a creature of habit and eat your same favorite smoothie every day, I encourage you to mix things up. A key part of healthy eating is variety so you’ll want to incorporate all the colors of the rainbow. Plus, eating the same food every day when the gut is unwell can increase your risk of becoming sensitive to it.
6 Step Guide To Gut-Healing Smoothies
Given the endless possibilities of smoothie combinations, we’ve created a Custom Smoothie 6-Step Guide to help you make delicious, nutritious, gut-friendly smoothies. Be creative and experiment until you find combinations you enjoy.
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- Organic milk or organic lactose-free milk
- Unsweetened milk substitute, such as almond, rice or coconut milk
- Coconut water
- Brewed unsweetened tea or herbal tea
- Vegetable juice
- Plain dairy yogurt
- Plain non-dairy yogurt
- Organic silken tofu (contains soy)
- Plain dairy or non-dairy kefir
- Avoid using fruit juice, sugar-sweetened beverages, or flavored yogurt as your base since those contain a lot of sugar.
- Dairy, especially cow’s milk, is a common trigger food for IBD. If you’re on a dairy-free diet then avoid milk, lactose-free milk, yogurt and kefir.
- Be careful to avoid unrecognizable food additives in milk and yogurt substitutes. Choose products with the fewest ingredients possible and avoid carrageenan.
- If your smoothie is too thick then add more of your base or plain water.
- Dates, without pit (limit to 1-2 dates per smoothie)
- Melon (cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon)
- Avocados and bananas help to create a smooth and thick consistency.
- For out-of-season fruit, choose frozen. Not only will it taste better, but it’ll last longer.
- Dark leafy greens (Spinach, Swiss chard, kale, beet greens)
- Beets, cooked without the skin (pairs well with chocolate)
- Frozen broccoli (great substitute for ice cubes)
- Pumpkin, cooked or canned (pairs well with cinnamon and vanilla)
- Sweet potato, cooked
- If you haven’t had vegetables in your smoothies then make sure to start with ½ cup of ONE vegetable. Adding a lot of veggies at once may lead to unwanted GI side effects.
- Some vegetables, like celery and cucumber, are full of water so you might need to use less liquid if you choose these vegetables.
- Chia seeds (these will thicken your smoothie)
- Coconut oil or shredded coconut
- Flax seeds or flax seed oil
- Nuts and nut butters (e.g. almond butter)
- Peanuts and peanut butter (pairs very well with banana)
- Protein powders
- Sunflower seeds and sunflower seed butter (excellent choice for people with nut allergies)
- Collagen from grass-fed cows
- If using a protein powder then choose one without artificial sweeteners, food colorings or sugar alcohols (e.g. sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol). Choosing an organic option helps to limit your chances of buying one with these ingredients.
- A high speed blender is best if using whole nuts or seeds.
- Cacao nibs
- Extracts (vanilla, mint, almond)
- Other spices (nutmeg, cinnamon)
- Herbs (mint, basil)
- Pomegranate seeds
- Unsweetened cocoa powder
- Ice cubes
- Spices, like ginger and turmeric, are powerful anti-inflammatory agents that can ease digestive upset.
- Oats are a great source of soluble fiber, which can help form BMs and minimize trips to the bathroom.
- In addition to having anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, herbs are well-known for their antibacterial and antifungal properties, meaning they can help fight unwanted bacteria and yeast in the gut.
- MCT oil
- Psyllium seed husk powder or other soluble fiber
- *Discuss with your healthcare provider before using
Key Takeaways for IBD Healing Smoothies
- Smoothies are an excellent way for people with IBD to eat more disease-fighting fruits and vegetables.
- Most individuals with active or inactive IBD can tolerate fruits and vegetables in a smoothie form.
- Smoothies can be jam-packed with gut-healing supplements and foods.
- Start simple. You might be excited to start eating colorful smoothies, but be careful to add only one “new” ingredient at a time.
Smoothies to the Rescue
For a step-by-step guide to building your perfect smoothie (and anything else you ever wanted to know about smoothies and IBD), check out our new ebook Smoothies to the Rescue.
Smoothie Cheat Sheet
Sign up, its free. Next to the blender or on the fridge, this Smoothie Cheat Sheet will inspire your smoothie creations!