Usually, “healthy” desserts kind of feel like a sham, right? You try to tell yourself, “It’s just like the real thing!” But . . . is it? Is it really? However, there are some brands that are seriously stepping up their game. Take Smart Sweets, for instance. We were lucky enough to be among the first tasters of these healthy gummies back in 2017, and honestly, we couldn’t put the bag down — they’re that good.
Now, six years later, Smart Sweets are no longer the new kid on the block, but they’re still getting buzz. If you’ve seen Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B’s new music video for “Bongos,” you even saw them there, with Cardi taking slo-mo bites out of the gummies at two different points in the video. This isn’t the only ad-y product plug in the video, which people are describing as a “risqué Fanta commercial”: George Clooney‘s Casamigos Tequila and Minute Maid’s Agua Fresca also get some screen time.
If this video left you wondering what Smart Sweets are, you’re not alone. Here’s the rundown on Smart Sweets, the “healthier” gummy, including what they taste like and whether they actually are that much better for you.
What Are Smart Sweets?
Smart Sweets is a brand of candy that claims to have up to 92 percent less sugar than traditional candy. It mostly offers gummies — including classic favorites like sour watermelons, rainbow gummy bears, and peach rings — but has also added caramels and red twists to its lineup.
Smart Sweets was founded by Canadian entrepreneur Tara Bosch at age 22. She “always had a love affair with candy,” per the brand’s website, but started Smart Sweets when she realized she wanted to change her relationship with candy “after experiencing the negative effects excess sugar has on our health.” She apparently spent months recipe testing in her kitchen to innovate what she calls “the first delicious candy — without all the sugar.”
What Are Smart Sweets Made With?
How, exactly, does Smart Sweets candy taste so good while being so low in sugar? They use a sweetener called allulose (also called D-psicose). Allulose is a naturally occurring sugar found in figs, raisins, wheat, and maple syrup, according to the Cleveland Clinic. While it tastes sweet like sugar, it’s not absorbed into the body and therefore doesn’t contribute to your daily sugar or calorie intake or raise blood sugar or insulin levels. Allulose is “generally recognized as safe” by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Smart Sweets candy also contains two other zero-calorie, FDA-approved sweeteners: stevia (extracted from the leaves of the stevia plant native to Paraguay and Brazil) and monk-fruit extract (extracted from a small fruit native to China).
The brand’s products also contain added fiber — for example, chicory root fiber, tapioca fiber, and soluble corn fiber — in an effort to make its candy more nutritious. In one bag of its Sour Blast Buddies, for example, you’ll get 13 grams of fiber, which is about half your recommended daily intake. Reminder: fiber is beneficial for promoting healthy digestion, increasing feelings of fullness, stabilizing blood sugar, and reducing heart disease risk. Some fibers, including chicory root, also act as a prebiotic, feeding the good bacteria in your gut.
So Are Smart Sweets Healthy?
Smart Sweets’ main marketing play is that they’re a healthier candy since they’re low in sugar. You probably already know that consuming added sugar isn’t great for you; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults limit their added-sugar intake to less than 10 percent of their total daily calories because consuming too much can contribute to health problems such as weight gain and obesity, type II diabetes, and heart disease. However, it’s important to remember that all sugar isn’t evil, and low-sugar foods aren’t inherently healthy either.
The sweeteners used in Smart Sweets instead of sugar appear safe. The brand doesn’t use any artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, nor sugar alcohols, such as erythritol — both of which have come under fire recently as new research sheds light on these sugar substitutes’ negative health effects. Still, allulose is considered a “novel food,” per the Cleveland Clinic, which means it hasn’t been thoroughly tested, so we may not fully understand how it affects the human body long-term.
In general, the Mayo Clinic cautions against relying too heavily on sugar substitutes to flavor your food, as “these ingredients may get your tastebuds used to sweetness” and make it harder for you to enjoy unflavored or naturally sweet foods.
Both sugary foods and foods made with sweeteners, like Smart Sweets, can fit into a healthy diet in moderation, especially when you’re otherwise focused on whole foods, such as fruits and vegetables, which usually have the best mix of nutrients for the body, per the Mayo Clinic.
How Do They Taste?
Just like traditional candies, Smart Sweets are sweet and tangy, and if you buy the sour kind, they’re really tart! However, the texture can be firmer and chewier than a traditional gummy. Some of our testers were not fans and were too put off by the texture and taste to enjoy the gummies, but the rest of the group really enjoyed them and embraced the chewiness. If you’re stevia sensitive, you may notice the flavor, but most of our testers found it’s subtle if not downright unnoticeable.
Amazon reviewers are similarly split, with some disliking the taste and texture, whereas others can’t get enough.
Where Can You Buy Smart Sweets?
You can find Smart Sweets — for example, this Smart Sweets Variety Pack ($27) — on Amazon, in Whole Foods, or on the Smart Sweets website. On the brand’s website, you can also search for a retailer near you.
— Additional reporting by Dominique Michelle Astorino