|How to Make a Low-Sugar Smoothie and My Favorite One!|
By now, the green smoothie revolution has taken social media by storm, and most of us know how to make one that tastes pretty epic. Typically, we mask the presence of chlorophyll in our morning blend with fruit, dates, honey and other natural sweeteners. As a result, health-foodistas all over the globe are waking up and taking a straight shot of sugar down the gullet.
The thing is, just because fruit is natural, unprocessed and full of nutrients, doesn't mean it should be consumed with abandon. Fructose, or fruit sugar, is still sugar, and eating too much of it can cause cravings, blood sugar spikes and poor sleep, among other things.
Bananas are a primary culprit, because they’re often the oh-so-creamy goodness that makes a green smoothie palatable and nay, dessert-like. Mangos and pineapple are other super-sweet additions, and we often need several cups of these fruits to get the right taste and texture for a typical 16-ounce smoothie.
So what’s a crunchy smoothie-loving girl to do, who wants to cut back on her sugar too? Well, after daily experimentation in my own kitchen the last few years, here are some of the tricks I use to achieve low-sugar green-smoothie fabulosity!
- USE A SUGAR-FREE SWEETENER | Stevia has been on the radar for some time, and occasionally I’ll add a few drops to my smoothie. However, many people dislike the taste, and it’s easy to use too much. My new favorite option is something called YACON syrup. Yacon is made from a tuberous plant native to the Andes mountains, and it has a caramel, molasses-like flavor that I really enjoy. Low in sugar, yacon has been shown to help regulate glucose levels. I’ve included links to a few articles about it, so you can get informed and decide if it’s something you want to try. I order THIS brand on Amazon, and I add 1-2 teaspoons to my smoothie each morning and sometimes I drizzle a bit extra on top.
- SWAP BANANA FOR PUMPKIN | Libby’s isn’t just for the fall! Canned pumpkin puree is low in sugar and outrageously creamy. I usually substitute half of my banana for 1/3 cup canned pumpkin. Because of its unique flavor, I think it tastes best in a chocolate smoothie—just add 2 tablespoons cocoa powder and a pinch of cinnamon or touch of vanilla extract for a milkshake-like treat.
- **SWAP BANANA FOR AVOCADO (my favorite tip) | Sounds bizarre, but avocado can moonlight as the base of your smoothie even better than banana. It’s outrageously creamy and it acts as an emulsifier, helping blend all of the ingredients together. Taste-wise, it’s pretty neutral, especially when it’s frozen. I usually cut several avocados into quarters and freeze them, using a quarter per smoothie. Plus, they’re insanely nutritious and full of healthy fats that will make your skin glow.
- TRY HERBS | A handful of basil, mint or cilantro to your smoothie provides a serious flavor punch, which becomes the focus of your taste buds instead of the sweetness level. They’re also full of incredible nutrients! When herbs are fresh, there’s really nothing better. Avocado, basil and cucumber is a great combination, and we all know that mint and chocolate is a match made in heaven.
- ADD CACAO POWDER | Speaking of chocolate, cacao can also be your best friend in the smoothie world. When you taste the rich, unmistakable flavor of chocolate, your brain automatically thinks it’s getting a treat. Cacao is the unprocessed, raw version of cocoa, and I prefer it for its flavor and super-high antioxidant level. 1-2 tablespoons per smoothie is perfect. It’s also a natural source of caffeine. Bonus!
- USE UNSWEETENED MILKS | This might be a given, but sometimes people don’t know that they’re using a sweetened version of milk. I prefer making my almond milk, but Califia farms unsweetened is my favorite store-bought brand. Use canned coconut milk instead of boxed, and mix it with water if it’s too rich on its own. Also note that coconut water is pretty high in sugar, so I try not to use it in my smoothies often.
- ADD CASHEWS & ALMONDS | Cashews and almonds have a slightly sweet flavor, and they blend up beautifully in a smoothie. The richness and creaminess they provide also take some of the focus away from sugar. I usually add ¼ cup per smoothie, raw and unsalted. Feel free to experiment with other nuts such as pecans, walnuts or brazil nuts.
- ADD COCONUT BUTTER | What CAN’T coconut do? I’m particularly obsessed with coconut butter, which is simply pureed coconut meat. It has the most divine texture and flavor, and a spoonful has helped me keep sugar cravings at bay many times. It’s also so good for you—rich in fiber, potassium and healthy fats. Two tablespoons will make your low-sugar smoothie taste incredible, and you’ll find yourself going back to the jar for more. I use Artisana brand, which I get a Whole Foods or my local health food store.
- ADD CINNAMON | Cinnamon is by far my favorite spice, at its range of uses is truly magical. Though it is totally sugar-free, cinnamon somehow still tastes sweet, and it will make your whole smoothie tastes sweeter. It is also anti-inflammatory and helps regulate blood sugar levels. Cinnamon actually tastes magnificent paired with berries and avocado! I add ¼ teaspoon per smoothie.
At this point you might ask, is any fruit good for me in my smoothies? Definitely! I still often use ½ banana, and I almost ways pile in some frozen organic berries, which are low in sugar. I also add green apple to my smoothies for a bit of tart sweetness. If there’s a gorgeous, seasonal fruit that you’re dying to add to your blend, by all means do it! This post is simply a guide for those who love their smoothies but want an option that isn’t super fruit-heavy.
*This post was inspired by my smoothies at Live Beaming Café in Del Mar, San Diego, where they have a “low-glycemic” option to sub avocado and yacon for bananas and dates in your smoothie.”
ARTICLES ON YACON || http://authoritynutrition.com/does-yacon-syrup-work/ | http://yaconsyruphealthbenefits.com | http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yacón_syrup