Spring! Here it comes lightly, on blue jay wings and purple crocus petals. And look what's popping up in my garden. Could that be a rare variety of... Green Smoothie?!
Well, I confess that was a staged photo. But what fun I'm having, and hopefully, you are too as warmer weather finally, finally makes a tentative but unmistakable appearance here in New England.
On the menu today, a fruit-free, sugar-free green smoothie. This is a rare variety indeed, as typically, I always put fruit in my smoothies. But I'm experimenting with eating less fruit, so this is a departure for me. And I am pleased to report the results are most satisfactory.
So, how do you sweeten up a smoothie without fruit? There are a few options: agave, raw honey and maple syrup are obvious choices. All are low glycemic but still contain sugar calories as fructose, which can feed yeast and lead to bloating. If I wanted fructose, I'd use fruit. So that leaves me with stevia, lo huan go and the happy members of the polyol family. I went with the latter, using a relatively new-to-market sweetener you may not have yet heard of: organic erythitol.
Organic erythritol is a naturally-occurring compound that, in this case, is derived from organic sugar cane juice. Erythritol has a spotless safety profile, contains zero calories and has zero impact on blood sugar levels, making it zero glycemic. Best of all, it's delicious, without any of the weird bitterness or licorice aftertaste that plague some healthy sweeteners I know.
As a polyol or sugar alcohol, erythritol belongs to the same family as xylitol, sorbitol, maltitol, etc. The unique advantage erythritol has over it's cousin polyols is that erythritol does not cause any digestive upset (gas, bloating, diarrhea). That's because unlike all other polyols, erythritol is absorbed by the small intestine. However, once absorbed, it doesn't do much of anything in the body. In my booklet Natural and Healthy Sweeteners, I liken erythritol to a polite tourist, absorbed by the villi, taking in the anatomical sights as it travels through circulation and then leaving the body as it entered, without changing a thing.
Erythritol is sold in a white crystalline form and is half as sweet as table sugar. The organic brand I use is called Zero, by Wholesome Sweeteners. Whole Foods carries it in 12-pounce packages for $13.99, a bit steep, so I special ordered a case from my local coop and have it available at Community Superfoods for a couple dollars less. Still pricey, I know, but worth it for someone like me who really—I'm sorry—can't stand the taste of stevia, and wants to enjoy a neutral, low glycemic, safe and healthy sweetener in my tea.
Or smoothies, as the case may be. Turns out, I don't even miss the fruit in this delicious Lemon Cream Pie smoothie which is smooth and sweet, refreshing and nourishing all at the same time. High-protein hemp and chia seeds make it creamy and rich with omega-3s. Fresh lemon and green veggies give it an alkaline charge, helping to neutralize acidity in the body. Optional ginger offers anti-inflammatory benefits and vanilla powder plus erythritol make it sweet as pie.
Lemon Cream Pie - a Sugar-Free Green Smoothie
3 Tbs hemp seeds
1 Tbs chia seeds
1 cup water
1 lemon, peeled and pitted, or 2-3 Tbs lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla powder
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 handful baby spinach
1-2 Tbs organic erythritol
a few slices of fresh ginger root (optional)
4 ice cubes (optional)
Add hemp seeds, chia seeds and water to blender while preparing remaining ingredients, allowing seeds to soak and soften. Put everything in the blender, including optional ginger and ice if you want a colder, frothier smoothie. Blend on high speed about one minute, until fully blended.
Substitutions & Variations:
If you don't have vanilla powder, substitute vanilla extract.
For Banana Cream Pie smoothie: add banana, reduce erythritol.
For Chocolate Cream Pie smoothie: add 2 Tbs raw cacao powder, omit lemon.
Lemons and greens in juices & smoothies help alkalinize the body.