Healthy Sweeteners for Your Morning Coffee

If you're like most people, the idea of waking up without a mug of coffee or tea is completely unappealing. And while there's nothing wrong with a little caffeine kick to get your day started, the way you prepare your morning beverage can have a major impact on your health. Still, if you're used to indulging in a sweet cup of java, the concept of drinking it black probably turns you off. Looking for a healthy alternative to sugar, but aren't sure how to navigate the confusing world of sweeteners? Here's a guide to some of the best substitutes.

Stevia
This sweetener is derived from the stevia plant, meaning it's considered a natural option. Still, the plant goes through an intense purification process to be transformed into a sweetener. Prevention magazine explained that liquid stevia products often contain added alcohol, water and rebaudioside A, while the powdered variety is typically crafted with dextrose and sugar alcohol. Stevia is much sweeter than sugar, so a small amount can go a long way, especially in a single cup of tea or coffee.

The source noted that stevia has zero calories and does not cause your blood sugar to spike or crash. However, some people find that the sweet flavor is accompanied by a slightly bitter aftertaste.

Agave nectar
Agave nectar is a syrupy sweetener made from the agave cactus. It's often compared to honey, explained Health magazine, though it has fewer antioxidants. It's much sweeter than sugar, so people who use multiple sugars will find they only need a couple of drops of agave.

The source noted that agave has more fructose than standard table sugar, which means you're less likely to experience changes to your blood sugar.

Honey
While the idea of putting honey in your coffee might sound like something you'd do when running on two hours of sleep, it's actually a pretty smart method of sweetening your caffeine. Nutritionist Kelly LeVeque explained on Lauren Conrad's blog that honey has lots of nutritional benefits, including enzymes, proteins and antiviral and antibacterial properties. It's 31 percent glucose, meaning it's actually fairly high in sugar, but its many healthy features still make it a great choice. LeVeque recommended buying honey locally, as this can actually help with seasonal allergies.

Of course, honey has long been known as a tasty addition to tea, so swirl some into your next mug of Earl Grey.

Sucralose
Sucralose, the ingredient used in Splenda, has been very popular since it received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1998, explained Health magazine. Its lack of calories has made it a popular choice among diabetics and people watching their weight.

Notably, sucralose is one of the only sugar substitutes that doesn't react with heat, so it can be used in baked goods. Sucralose is derived from sugar, however, and is produced using chemicals, so people looking to stick with natural options may want to consider something else.