Amid growing concern about the health impacts of refined sugar, many are turning to natural alternatives for their sweet fix. There are a variety of options on the market – so which should you choose? Here’s a quick guide to a few of the most popular sweeteners.

Rice malt syrup is made from cooked brown rice and contains maltose and glucose, which makes it suitable for those avoiding fructose. You can use it to hold together protein balls or energy bars, or to add some sweetness to baked goods.

Dates are high in natural sugar but also contain potassium, protein and fibre. Add them to puddings, scones and cakes for a fruit-based sweetener.

Coconut sugar is made from the sap of the coconut plant and has a mild, nutty flavour. It has a low glycemic index and retains a few nutrients (though not as many as fresh fruits, of course). You can sprinkle it over porridge or substitute for processed sugar when baking.

Honey is composed of fructose and glucose and has around the same natural sweetness as sugar, but a more distinctive, appealing flavour that works well in drinks, smoothies and desserts. To get the most out of your honey opt for unprocessed varieties and support your local producers where possible.

Agave nectar is derived from the agave plant and is often used as a vegan substitute for honey. Around 1.5 times sweeter, it has a lower glycemic index than table sugar but contains high levels of fructose, so keep moderation in mind.

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