If, for whatever reason be it health, lifestyle or choice, you live by a low-sugar “diet” you can often feel like you’re missing out. Be it smoothies, juices, acai bowls, treats… the list is endless. But you don’t have to miss out on your favourite smoothies or smoothie bowls, because they are packed to the brim with sugar… even if it’s a natural sugar.
Now you’re probably thinking: “Of course I don’t, but um, I kinda want it to taste good so there’s no other option”. That’s where you are wrong! Great tasting smoothies and
smoothie bowls are possible, even if they contain virtually no sugar.
Top 3 ways to reduce sugar content in your smoothie or smoothie bowls:
1. Ditch the high sugar fruit.
Sorry banana. Mango. Acai. You’re great and all but you’ve gotta go. These fruits contain a hearty dose of naturally occurring sugar, and while they are a much better option then refined sugar, for those that suffer with health conditions like PCOS, diabetes, metabolic syndrome or anything else where insulin resistance plays a vital role, even the best sources of naturally occurring sugar can cause havoc. Instead look to low-sugar fruits. My go-to are berries – blueberries, strawberries and raspberries. They provide colour, antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins and minerals, a touch of sweetness without the hard-hitting sugar. Leave the more exotic fruits for the occasional smoothie bowl when you’re out and about and don’t have much choice.
2. Be basic and use water
When it comes to smoothies and some smoothie bowls, it’s not uncommon for cafés to use coconut water as their go-to liquid. And don’t get me wrong, coconut water is great – it’s got A LOT of nutrients packed in there – but it also has a lot of sugars. Yes, natural sugars, but irrespective of natural or unnatural, sugar still acts the same in the body when it gets broken down into glucose. Fact. So be basic and use filtered water or an unsweetened almond milk to fill out your smoothie creations.
3. What goes on top matters too
For me, the best part of a smoothie bowl is what’s popped on top. Granola… you devilishly good thing. Try and steer clear of baked granola’s that use honey, or other sweetener alternatives as a cluster agent. Again, be mindful of the types of fruit, and try to steer towards low-sugar fruits including berries, kiwi, orange and watermelon (yes surprisingly I know that some of the sweetest tasting fruits are deemed low-sugar!). Also consider nut’s and seeds as your crunch factor. They are a source of good fats, vitamins and minerals. Cacao nibs are another great option!
Now sugar is just one part of this equation. I personally believe smoothies and smoothie bowls are a great way to get a serious dose of nutrients into you.
With my focus being predominately on PCOS, there are many ways you can make a daily smoothie your little side kick to support your hormonal imbalances. In most instances of PCOS there is an imbalance of three key hormones: testosterone, oestrogen and progesterone. The following nutrients can be used to support hormonal imbalances and regulate blood sugar (which is vital as elevated blood sugar and insulin can really impact hormones.)
Top 8 nutrients to super-size your smoothie or smoothie bowl without compromising on taste and texture!
Fats are an important factor in hormone regulation, as they are a key co-factor to hormone synthesis. Without enough quality fat’s in our diet, our body will be unable to produce the hormones that we need – and this extends outside of our sex hormones that impact conditions like PCOS and impacts all hormones in the body. If you’re brave add half an avocado to your smoothie for a decent dose of anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids and for a seriously creamy texture. Now I’m not necessarily that brave all the time (at all), so, my go-to fats are coconut yoghurt (or coconut milk would work) and natural peanut butter. They both add flavour and for my palate a false sense of sweetness. You could also use an MCT oil, flaxseed oil and macadamia oil but I’m yet to try these myself!
Psyllium husk is a natural source of fibre which helps in two key ways. Fibre is important for regulating bowel movements and it’s also used in the body to carry out excess oestrogens. In PCOS excess oestrogens is common in most cases and by having this, coupled with a few other nutrients that I’ll talk about in a minute, you’re supporting your bodies phase 3 detox – your faecal elimination!
You may or may not have heard of the phrase phyto-oestrogen so let me break it down for you in the simplest way I can. In the body our hormones interact with receptor sites. They all have a buddy and our hormones are designed to find an unoccupied receptor. If they can’t they simply leave the body (cue psyllium husk). A phyto-oestrogen is like oestrogen but it elicits the oestrogenic affects at a much lower level, say at a level of 10. By having a phyto-oestrogen occupying the receptor site that would normally be occupied by actual oestrogen, which is at a level of 100, you’re reducing the overall impact that the oestrogen has on your body. This is especially important for cases of oestrogen dominance – seen in PCOS or menopausal women. By adding flaxseed to your smoothies you can help push out the excess oestrogen via the liver, which brings me to my next superfood ingredient.
Broccoli sprout powder
I know, I know, this is next level but a little of this goes a bloody long way. It’s virtually
tasteless among all the other goodies and a $30 70g bottle will quite possible last you a
whole year. I’ll report back in 2019. They key benefit of broccoli sprout powder is that it
produces sulforaphane, which detoxifies carcinogens in the body. It also helps to clear out oestrogens and the sulphur compound stimulates phase 2 detoxification in the liver.
Broccoli and broccoli sprouts in particular, are also being touted as having anti-cancer
affects, and that’s certainty something I can get around! Eat yo greens kids.
Maca Root powder is arguably a great wonder of this world. In the health space, it’s
described as an “adaptagen”. What does this mean? Well, put simply, in the case of
hormones, it contains no hormones but all the necessary nutrients to elicit a positive impact on the hormones in our body. It not only regulates the balance of our sex hormones – that I’ve already mentioned – but it also helps increase fertility and supports adrenal fatigue – supporting the hormones involved here including cortisol and adrenaline. It has a nutty scent but a very faint taste. Some even add it to their coffee’s which is something I might like to try, as coffee can be quite disruptive to our hormones. Counteractive? Potentially!
Adequate amounts of protein are essential for every person, not just one with hormonal
imbalances. Adding protein to your smoothie or smoothie bowl can increase satiety
(feelings of fullness) and help regulate blood sugar spikes – which aren’t a major concern in our low sugar smoothies ;). Keeping in mind that fats also work in the same way. If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, adding protein can also mean that you’re comfortably meeting your daily requirements, without the stress. I tend to opt for a vegan protein in the form of pea and rice. I’m also including collagen in my smoothie (which is a mix of three amino acids – aka building blocks to proteins) to promote skin elasticity (byeee cellulite) and anti-aging.
Cinnamon and cacao
I’ve combined these two as 1) they are a winning combination and 2) they have a similar
impact in our body. Cinnamon and cacao have been scientifically shown to improve the
uptake of glucose into our cells and subsequently supporting insulin resistance. Cacao also provides a heart dose of magnesium, which is important for every person, as it’s such a common deficiency these days. On top of that, they taste great and I personally don’t need any reason to include either one in my diet. Be sure to look for a clean, sugar free cacao powder.
I hope this insight has inspired you to take your smoothie or smoothie bowls to new heights. Here’s my current, go-to, favourite smoothie bowl recipe. Try it and be amazed at how great a sugar-free, low carb, high-fat, nutrient-dense smoothie bowl can be!
3 tbsp of coconut yoghurt
1 scoop collagen
½ scoop of protein powder
⅓ tsp broccoli sprout powder
2 tsp maca powder
1.5 tbsp cacao powder
1 tsp natural PB
Handful of blueberries
2 pinches of flaxseed, ground
1 pinch of psyllium husk
3 ice cubes
Place all ingredients in a blender / nutra-bullet. I put the coconut yoghurt either side to make
sure I get a creamy result as there is very little liquid.
Pour out into your favourite smoothie bowl, bowl.
Top with berries, peanut butter and cacao nibs.