hey sugar...yes honey? agave nectar, stevia, maple syrup, brown rice syrup and other sweet nothings to call your loved one

Sugar is kinda irreplaceable in our pop culture.

I mean, imagine Aerosmith calling out "Pour some stevia on me..... Ohhh, in the name of love."

Or better yet, the Archies crooning,

"Brown Rice Syrup, Oh, Stevia, stevia. You are my candy girl, and you got me wanting you. Honey, Oh, Agave nectar. You are my candy girl and you got me wanting you."

Wait wait, what about this one? Sang to the tune of The Temptations' Sugar Pie Honey Bunch:

"Oooooooooooooooh! Maple Syrup Pie, Agave Nectar Bunch You know that I love you I can't help myself I love you and nobody else"

Well luckily, sugar is way easier to replace in your diet. Here are 5 natural substitutions: Honey, Agave Nectar, Brown Rice Syrup, Stevia and Maple Syrup.

Honey - This golden nectar, once thought to be the fruit of the gods, is laden with good stuff. It contains enzymes, minerals and anti-oxidants, although at low levels.  You may have heard that eating local honey (honey produced within 100 miles of your home) helps to combat and ease problems with allergies. And you have probably added honey to your tea to ease a sore throat at some point in your life. It should be noted that honey does have a high glycemic index so potentially could elevate blood sugar quickly. Honey shouldn't be given to infants under one year of age. When looking for honey, you want to purchase something that is locally produced and choose raw over processed.

Agave Nectar - Yes, this is made from the same plant that makes tequila. And yes, you can find agave nectar in your local super market with less and less trouble everyday. As it's pretty sweet, you don't need to add much agave nectar to your meal, tea, dish to find a desired level of sweetness. It does come in both a light and dark variety. My experience is that the difference just comes down to taste.

Maple Syrup - Mmmm, I have some VT produced maple syrup, not just straight from VT, but also produced on one of my bestie's lands.  Her and her partner tap the trees each year and then make the syrup. And yes, it makes it taste all the more better. Long associated with pancakes and waffles, maple syrup has begun finding it's way into recipes and expanding it's use. Personally, I love adding it as a sweetener while making sauces or when cooking. It's also great in tea and smoothies when you need a bit of sweetness.  Like everything else, stay away from the processed stuff and if you can, get it straight from the farm that taps the trees.

Brown Rice Syrup - Uh, yup. This comes directly from brown rice and as you might imagine has a bit of a residual taste of brown rice when used. It is a liquid substitution for sugar. While having a similar consistency to honey, a bit gooey, it does have a distinctly different sweetness than say honey. When cooking with brown rice syrup, assuming you have a recipe that calls for 1 cup of sugar, would substitute in 1 1/4 cup of brown rice syrup and then just use 1/4 less of whatever liquid is part of the recipe.

Stevia - Holy sweetness! This stuff is SWEET, to say the least. Stevia, like agave nectar, is also made from a plant. In this case, one native to South America. It's found in powdered or liquid form (the product, not the plant!) I use it in teas and coffees as a sweetener and honestly, a little bit does go a looooooonnnnng way.