Natural Sweetening Options for Green Smoothies

By Jennifer Thompson

Using fresh fruits such banana, apple, pineapple, or mango in a green smoothie makes a naturally sweet, delicious health drink that you really don’t need to add extra sweeteners (or additional calories) to. Especially if you’re trying to lose or maintain your weight, be cautious of adding more sweetening agents to your smoothies.

However, if you’re using bitter greens such as watercress or collard greens and want to hide the bitterness with an added dash of sweetness, try focusing on natural sweeteners such as the ones listed here.

Avoid using refined table sugar, an ingredient that contains empty calories, promotes weight gain, disrupts insulin levels, is addictive, and can increase cholesterol levels.

Raw honey

Honey is nature’s miracle food; it’s known for its natural antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties and has been used as a health food worldwide for more than 4,000 years. When taken orally, honey can be used to treat stomach ulcers, sore throat, strep throat, acid reflux, and gastrointestinal disorders. It’s also an effective cough suppressant and can help alleviate symptoms of seasonal allergies.

Raw honey is the unpasteurized version of the more commonly used heat-treated and refined honey you see at the store. Raw honey has gone through added filtration, which mainly helps extend shelf life but also gives it more antioxidants and health benefits than normal honey.

Manuka honey is a unique variety of raw honey manufactured in New Zealand; it has exceptional healing power because of a very high concentration of methylglyoxal (MGO), the compound that gives honey its antibacterial properties.

Add 2 tablespoons of raw honey to your smoothie for a sweeter drink and lots of side bonus health benefits, too.

If you’re allergic to bees or suspect that you’re allergic to bees, don’t consume honey or any bee products.

Stevia

Stevia is the best natural sweetener if you have diabetes, high cholesterol, or are trying to lose weight. Stevia is a plant native to South America with leaves that contain a naturally sweet compound called steviol glycosides. In fact, stevia leaves are so sweet that they’re 30 to 50 times sweeter than sucrose (table sugar)!

Unlike synthetic sweeteners, stevia has no side effects. Even better, stevia has a glycemic index of 0 and is a low-calorie, noncarcinogenic sweetening option that helps stabilize blood sugar levels, reduce blood pressure, and treat heartburn and indigestion.

Find stevia in green leaf, liquid extract, or powder form in the sweetener section of health food stores or larger supermarkets. Of all forms, the most commonly used is powdered stevia. Adding just a teaspoon of stevia powder gives you a burst of sweet flavor in your green smoothie.

Dates

Dates are a fantastically sweet desert fruit sold in dried form, and Medjool dates are the most common variety available. Dates are high in fiber, potassium, copper, manganese, and magnesium and are especially known for promoting healthy bowel function. The high natural sulfur in dates helps reduce seasonal allergies. The high sugar in dates makes them perfect for an immediate energy boost.

Dates can also promote weight gain if you aren’t careful. If you’re watching your waistline, limit your intake to only one date per day. Otherwise, you can add two to three dates to your smoothie.

Agave nectar

Many people mistakenly think that agave nectar is a healthy option for a natural sweetener, but recent studies now show that it’s not. In fact, almost all commercially available agave nectar is processed in the same way as high fructose corn syrup (HCFS), giving agave nectar the highest fructose content of any commercially available sweetener (with the exception of pure liquid fructose).

Agave nectar is made from made from the starchy root of the agave plant, a type of cactus native to Mexico. Although agave nectar is marketed as a low glycemic index food suitable for diabetics, the high fructose content definitely makes its health benefits questionable. If you choose to eat it, use it sparingly — not more than one to two tablespoons in a smoothie per day.