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These days, it seems as though everyone’s afraid of his or her food or what’s in it. Egg whites are good, carbs are bad, sugar is the enemy, but it can’t be totally true, can it? Our body is capable of breaking down sugars just like anything else, but the trick is to limit your intake and make sure it’s a body friendly sweetener — but between honey, brown sugar, Stevia, and other natural alternatives, how are we to know which ones are best?

Thankfully, Shape zeroed in on the top contenders for best natural sweetener to analyze their pros and cons, as well as their best uses while cooking and baking. Our takeaway is that less is always more when it comes to sugar, and we recommend limiting your intake when possible.

1. Maple Sugar
We’re talking real maple syrup tapped fresh from a maple tree, not Mrs. Butterworth’s corn syrup knock-off. This option contains more natural minerals that any other sugar and is “all natural” and “unrefined,” so here is your top contender for a healthy sugar alternative. If you’ve never had this natural goodness before, you’re in for a treat!

2. Honey
Whether it’s straight from the hive or direct from processing, the health benefits of replacing your white granulated sugar with this golden goo are backed by a study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Researchers concluded that honey was best post-workout as opposed to glucose, the most pure form of sugar, so add it to a smoothie or use it as dip for some those healthy apple slices.

3. Stevia
These naturally derived granules pack a sweetness punch as they’re 300 times sweeter than sugar, so take care not to substitute Stevia on a 1:1 basis in your recipes, or you’ll surely overdo it. But with zero calories to worry about, adding a bit more to satisfy an uber sweet tooth shouldn’t hurt.

4. Brown Sugar
Although brown rice is notably healthier than it’s white cousin, brown sugar is just as unhealthy as the white table sugar. The brown color comes from the addition of molasses (another potential sugar alternative) added for color and the stickiness that makes it ideal for baking. Instead of grabbing pinches of the stuff right out of the bag, pack a tablespoon full and pinch from there to get a proper serving size.

Check out the full article on Shape for more options, calorie information, and popular uses for these sweet alternatives to sugar.

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