The Best Natural Sweetener for You

Find out everything you need to know for a smart sugar switch. Stevia, Sucanat, Honey and Agave.


sweetener-packets
Looking for something sweet and healthy to stir into your drinks?

We put natural sugar alternatives to the test and found that they provide great benefits over table sugar—like delivering extra nutrients, saving calories (from granulated sugars 45 calories per tablespoon), and keeping blood sugar even. Heres how they stack up.

sweetener-packets
Josh Rutledge

Stevia
Calories per tablespoon: 0
Sweetness: 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar
What it is: The stevia plant is a naturally sweet herb. Stevia-based sweeteners are sold in granular or liquid form.
The skinny: This zero-calorie natural sweetener ranks zero on the glycemic index, so it wont cause your blood sugar to spike. Because its so sweet, you dont need much for flavor.
Best in: Coffee. Most people dont pick up an aftertaste from stevia.

sweetener-packets

Honey
Calories per tablespoon: 64
Sweetness: 1 1/2 times sweeter than sugar
What it is: Most honey is made by bees from the nectar and pollen of a variety of flowers; it comes in a range of colors and flavors.
The skinny: Though a little higher in calories than sugar, its sweeter, so you use less. Plus, it delivers antioxidants and isnt as likely to cause a spike in blood sugar.
Best in: Hot tea. Honey is smooth and wont overpower mild teas.

sweetener-packets

Agave
Calories per tablespoon: 60
Sweetness: 1 1/4 times sweeter than sugar
What it is: This golden nectar is made from the heated sap of the agave plant (the same plant used to make tequila).
The skinny: Not only is agave sweeter than granulated sugar, its better for your blood sugar, too. (And since its sweeter, you use less.) It tastes similar to honey but is easier to mix into cold drinks.
Best in: sweetener-packets

Sucanat
Calories per tablespoon: 45
Sweetness: Same as sugar
What it is: Sucanats dark-brown granules are actually the dried juices of freshly cut sugarcane.
The skinny: Sucanat is unrefined, so it has more nutrients than white sugar. Its natural molasses gives drinks a slight molasses flavor and brown tint, and it can replace sugar one-for-one.
Best in: Smoothies. Its mild flavor is great with naturally sweet fruits, plus it mixes well in cold drinks.
Kimberly Holland
Last Updated: November 24, 2009

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