Smart Sweets is a low-sugar candy brand that positions itself as a healthier option than regular candy. The brand advertises that their products are free of added sugar and artificial sweeteners, naturally colored and free from common allergens.
But what ingredients does Smart Sweets use to sweeten their products, and are these actually healthier? Does Smart Sweets contain any questionable additive ingredients? Is it really healthier than commercial candy products like Skittles? And how do real users rate the taste of Smart Sweets?
In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more as we review the sugar substitutes in Smart Sweets based on medical research to give our take on whether or not they're healthy.
We'll also highlight two questionable additive ingredients, compare Smart Sweets to Skittles to give our take on which is healthier, and share real, unsponsored user reviews including a taste test.
Are Sugar Substitutes Actually Healthy?
The ingredients listed above are from Smart Sweets Sourmelon Bites.
Smart Sweets uses three newer-generation sweeteners: alluolose, isomalto-ogliosaccharides and stevia leaf extract.
Allulose is a type of sugar which was shown in a 2015 medical review to slow the progression of type 2 diabetes and reduce blood sugar spikes after meals. These are the opposite effects of glucose (table sugar).
Another medical review published in the Frontiers in Bioengineering and Biotechnology journal described allulose as a “high value food ingredient” due to its ability to improve the body’s insulin resistance and due to its antioxidant status.
Isomalto-oligosaccharides is a sweetener derived from starch which also has a prebiotic effect. A medical review published in the Nutrition journal found that this ingredient improved the gut microbiome and improved cholesterol levels in elderly patients.
Stevia leaf extract is a natural sweetener derived from the stevia plant, and as we documented in our review of healthy soda brand Zevia, may actually have favorable effects on blood sugar and insulin levels based on clinical studies.
We consider all three of these ingredients to be healthier choices for a candy product than table sugar. We don't recommend adding them to the diet otherwise, as they're still relatively processed, but for a candy formulation this is about as healthy as low-sugar sweeteners can get.
Smart Sweets Taste Test
One of the most popular YouTube reviews of Smart Sweets comes from a dietitian named Nicole Hoskens. She taste tests many of the brand's products and also shares her thoughts on the ingredients:
Does Smart Sweets Have Questionable Additives?
Smart Sweets contains two ingredients that we generally recommend avoiding.
Citric acid is a preservative and flavor enhancer that was originally sourced from citrus fruits, but is now commercially manufactured from a type of fungus according to medical research. The linked study details how in some patients, citric acid may cause whole-body inflammatory reactions.
Natural flavors is a broad and poorly-regulated term in our opinion. As we referenced in our review of another food brand which contains this ingredient called JUST Egg, there is medical evidence that some natural flavoring agents and their metabolites may have toxic effects.
In the context of a candy product, these types of additive, flavoring ingredients are to be expected. And to give Smart Sweets credit, we consider these to be much healthier options than ingredients like artificial flavors.
Is Smart Sweets Healthier Than Skittles?
To compare the healthiness of Smart Sweets to a commercial candy brand, check out the ingredient list below of Skittles Original.
Sugar and corn syrup are used to sweeten Skittles, which has 84 grams (g) of sugar in a four ounce bag. Processed sugar intake is associated with a range of negative health outcomes in medical research, including increased risk of diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease.
Most Smart Sweets products contain under 4 g of sugar.
Red 40 Lake and Yellow 5 Lake are two of the nine different artificial coloring agents in Skittles. As we documented in our review on is Gatorade Zero good for you, there is clinical research suggesting that all artificial food dyes may be carcinogenic (cancer-causing) and genotoxic (DNA-damaging).
Smart Sweets are naturally colored with whole food ingredients like fruit and vegetable juice and spirulina extract.
Titanium dioxide is banned in the European Union (E.U.) for use as a food additive over genotoxicity concerns.
Smart Sweets has no additive ingredients that are banned in any jurisdiction over health concerns.
We consider Smart Sweets to be significantly healthier than Skittles, and healthier than all commercial candy brands.
Our Healthy Sweets Recommendation
Our top healthy candy brand is Llama Naturals.
Llama Naturals makes fruit gummies that taste just like candy, but are made with whole food ingredients like organic strawberries, organic baobab powder and probiotics. Their gummies are free of citric acid, and contain organic flavor rather than natural flavor.
One serving of Llama Naturals elderberry gummies costs $0.83, while Smart Sweets bags like Cola Gummies and Sourmelon Bites cost over $3 per serving.
Interested consumers can check out Llama Naturals at this link to the brand's official website, or at the specific product page links above.
Real Customer Reviews of Smart Sweets
Smart Sweets is sold on Amazon, which is a more objective resource for customer reviews than a brand's website in our opinion.
The variety pack (linked above) has been reviewed over 4,000 times and has an average review rating of 4.1 out of 5 stars.
The top positive review from a verified purchaser comes from an anonymous Amazon Customer who find the products to be a healthier alternative to regular candy:
"Overall...Let's face it; it's not actual candy so don't expect it to be identical...Even better, the carbs are made of dietary fibers so you may find that they "back you up" if you binge, but you won't be addicted to sugar, requiring you to face those awful withdrawals and cravings. I highly recommend these, and I would love to see the product selection grow!"
The top negative review from a verified purchaser is written by a user named "Lucy Liu" who claims the products taste bad:
"If you love chew gummies this is not it. It definitely taste like substitute sugar / artificial sweetener. The candy is sticky and will get stuck in your teeth. The fruit flavors is much diluted and does not stand out. I'm a trolly/ gummy bear lover so this does not substitute at all. This is value tho. If you like less chewy and more sticky candy while trying to watch your sugar/ caloric intake it be more for you otherwise major no for me."
Smart Sweets Pros and Cons
Here’s our take on the pros and cons of this brand:
- Lower sugar than candy
- Natural coloring agents
- Healthy sugar substitutes
- Healthier than commercial candy brands
- Two questionable additive ingredients
- Some products can be expensive per-serving