We think smoothies should be addictive. They need to taste amazing. But we also don't want to overdo the sweetness, creating a caloric monster that crashes our energy like a 20 foot wave. The key, as is always preached when it comes to things that taste good, is moderation.
Our Favourite Smoothie Sweeteners
Non-vegan and one of our favourites. Raw honey contains over 200 substances such as vitamins, phenolic acids, flavonoids, and enzymes. It has powerful antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, and is used in the treatment of digestive disorders such as colitis.
It's seriously nutritious and seriously sweet. 40% of it's body weight is fructose, which is a lot. But you only need a teaspoon in a smoothie serving. Therefore, enjoy the nutritious benefits and don't be fructose fearful as raw honey won't overwhelm your liver. It will just support your immune system and create a delicious smoothie.
Maple syrup is derived naturally from tree sap. It contains approximately 23 phenolic compounds including lignans that have been shown to produce powerful antioxidant properties.
Additionally, maple syrup contains magnesium, iron, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. It may also be able to fight cancer and other inflammatory conditions by inhibiting the formation of tumor cells.
Maple syrup tends to be high in calories. Specifically, one ¼ cup serving of maple syrup will cost you 220 calories, so use sparingly. But we're all about counting nutrients, not calories.
Because maple syrup is already in liquid form, it’s great for replacing sugar in just about any dish. Add it to baked goods, smoothies, and raw desserts.
Be sure to look for 100 percent pure maple syrup and not the cheap, processed kind. The real stuff will usually come in a glass jar or on a bottle that indicates “100 percent pure maple syrup.”
One of our absolute favourites. They are a good source of fibre and minerals. But a high source of natural sugar. However, the nutritional profile doesn't have much impact. Serving sizes are only 1-3 dates so you're not going to experience intestinal broom bliss, nor will your energy levels crash.
For bonus points, make date paste. Add 1 cup of dates to 1 cup of water and bring to the boil on the stove. Stir until you have a creamy texture. Date paste will last fresh in the fridge for 10 days and one tablespoon (about 1.5 dates) will make any smoothie taste amazing.
Vanilla is an amazing flavour enhancer but it needs to be complimented with something sweet. Vanilla alone isn't going to make an impact. Pair it with any of the other sweeteners on this list. And consider adding 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt per serve for extra pop.
We use vanilla bean paste over the synthetic vanilla essence. Freeze dried vanilla powder is less common but it's the cleanest.
Protein Powder & Nut Butter
You've seen these guys in our protein article and therefore don't need to be used twice. Nut butters often shine brighter with another sweetener to really amplify their properties but flavoured protein powders play solo.
What's Not On The List?
Stevia is a rather new sweetener that has come out within the past few years. It has zero calories and is over 100-300 times sweeter than table sugar. Because of these numbers, many claims state that stevia is a good choice for diabetics because of its low impact on blood sugar levels.
But I’m not sold on this wonder plant. First, substituting a high calorie sweetener such as white sugar for a sweetener that has zero calories makes it easier to eat more of because it is less filling.
Second, the FDA has not approved stevia extracts because of its possible side effects. Specifically, the FDA has concerns about stevia’s effect on the kidneys, reproductive and cardiovascular systems, and on blood sugar levels.
That’s enough reason for me to stay far away from this sweetener.
You'll notice we don't mention agave. That guy bursted onto the sugar-free scene and took the crown in about 2010, but now it's reputation is that of the Mexican Cartel.
Lastly, we don't do brown rice syrup. Every other blogger might be fooled, but we're not. This incorrect fructose movement will lose all momentum when people become a little bit more educated on how your liver responds to different natural sugars. Brown rice syrup is man made, potentially arsenic and 100% glucose. Which is worse than raw sugar!
Sugar is bad and kost protein powders are average at best. So make sure you do your own homework on what flavour enhancers will make your smoothie taste amazing, without doing any damage.
Our thorough research said yes to honey, dates, maple syrup, vanilla bean and very select protein powders. Brown rice syrup and agave are flat no's. And stevia might not be any better.
image credit: EmpowHER