If you have a raging sweet tooth, you’re not alone. Many of us feel that daily craving for something sweet, and while a treat now and then is perfectly acceptable, consuming too much sugar can lead to diabetes, liver dysfunction, weight gain, and high cholesterol.
One way that many Americans go overboard on the sugar intake is sweeteners. We put them in our coffee, on our fruit, in our baked goods and even in our smoothies. Lucky for us, there are many sugar substitutes available in nature that are much healthier for our bodies. Substitutes that aren’t only lower in fructose, but actually have additional vitamins and minerals.
Avoid a sugar crash while exploring these healthy, naturally sweet, plant-based foods that taste great in smoothies — or on their own!
Bananas are Mother Nature’s gift to humankind! What’s not to love? They’re naturally sweet, loaded with potassium, fiber, and vitamin C, and they thicken smoothies without the need for diary or even nut milks. They’re also great for digestion and even for weight loss, since they have a large amount of soluble fiber.
If you have frequent sore muscles from the gym or find it hard to get enough sleep at night, bananas may be the natural solution! One medium banana contains about 34g of magnesium, a mineral that relieves soreness and induces calm.
Fun Fact: Brown spots on the banana peel indicate prime sweetness, because as bananas ripen, their starch is broken down into natural, healthy sugar.
Ooey, gooey, and totally healthy, medjool dates are one of our favorite natural sweeteners! If you ask us, we think they’re nature’s candy.
Nature makes only the best candy, proven by the impressive nutritional profile of these dates. They contain essential minerals like iron, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc and selenium. Dates are also fantastic for digestion and for keeping things running on a “regular” schedule (if you catch our drift). Satisfy your sweet tooth while improving cognitive functions, maintaining healthy blood pressure, and enhancing your immune system.
Pro tip: If you don’t have a super high-powered blender, soaking dates for a few hours makes them much easier to blend.
Instead of using an unsweetened liquid base for your smoothie, try using natural coconut water. The natural sugars in coconut water will sweeten your smoothie while nourishing your body. Coconut water is loaded with enzymes that aid in healthy digestion, is full of calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, and zinc, and is a great source of potassium.
Because of the natural electrolytes in coconut water, it’s an extra hydrating choice, and perfect for a post-gym smoothie!
Another way that coconut proves its awesomness is coconut sugar, sometimes called coconut palm sugar. which is made from the boiled and dehydrated sap from the coconut palm.
The main reason coconut sugar is a better alternative to traditional sweeteners is that it’s very low in fructose (three to nine percent), as opposed to cane sugar, which is about 50 percent fructose. Fructose can’t be used for energy by the cells in our bodies, and too much fructose can cause insulin resistance. With a taste and consistency close to brown sugar, a small dash of coconut sugar is sure to add an earthy sweetness to any smoothie.
A dash of cinnamon will go a long way in your smoothie! This naturally sweet and warming spice acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory with potent antioxidant properties.
If you’re sensitive to sugar or sweeteners, but really want something that reminds you of comfort food desserts, a small dash of cinnamon is a good choice (just make sure the dash is small — this spice can be strong). The best part about this “sweet” spice is that it actually regulates blood sugar, which means that unlike sugar of any kind, cinnamon actually helps your insulin levels even out.
Native to the Caribbean, molasses is a byproduct of the processing of sugar cane and beat sugar. Unlike refined white sugar, molasses is full of nutrients and minerals, including calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron. It also has the highest amount of antioxidants of all sugar-based sweeteners.
Because of the high amount of iron in molasses, it’s a great natural sweetener for women, who are frequently at risk for iron deficiency. The low glycemic index of molasses also makes it a great natural sweetener for those who are diabetic or pre-diabetic.
In need of more decadence (in the form of molasses) in your life? Try our Orange Gingerbread Smoothie.
Goji berries have been eaten for centuries in Asia, and many people claim they’re the closest we’ve come to the fountain of youth. There have been numerous studies linking these tart berries to weight loss, an improved immune system, better sleep, and less stress.
Goji berries are bursting with vitamin A, vitamin C, and are one of the few fruits that contain iron. They’ve also got Omega-6 fatty acids, and may even help you feel happier after you eat them — in some circles, they’re known as the “happy berry.”
These superfood berries have a sweet and tangy taste, and are a perfect natural sweetener whether you use the dried berries, goji powder, or even goji berry juice.
100% Pure Maple Syrup
Did this one shock you? Contrary to popular belief, maple syrup in its purest form is perfectly sweet and perfectly healthy. Maple syrup is an excellent source of zinc and manganese. It also contains calcium, iron and magnesium. Zinc is an important mineral for the immune system, as well as for the heart.
Wake up your taste for maple with our Pancakes with Maple Water Smoothie.
A superfood made from the Peruvian lucuma fruit, lucuma powder is a multitasking powerhouse! It acts as a sweetener, but without increasing your blood sugar levels. On top of that, it contains 14 essential trace elements, including potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, as well as an abundance of antioxidants. It’s known world wide for its caramel-like flavor.
Sip on sweetness with our Creme brûlée Smoothie.
Your turn: How do you like to sweeten your smoothie? Join the Green Blender Smoothie Club to test out the sweetest treats!