Corn syrup — an ingredient found in sugary drinks and processed foods — tastes sweet and is cheap to produce. Critics say using corn syrup is harmful to health, as it's linked to obesity, diabetes, tooth decay and high cholesterol. With the growing controversy, people look for a healthy substitute for corn syrup.

According to a study by Virginia Tech, there are healthful benefits to using natural sweeteners as substitutes. To avoid the negative effects of the sweet syrup, here are five alternatives to use in place of corn syrup.  

Agave Nectar

Agave nectar, mainly produced in Mexico, is made from the Agave tequiliana (the fancy name for the tequila plant). The slightly healthier substitute contains about 60 calories per tablespoon--more calories than the same amount of table sugar. 

Although agave nectar is less processed than corn syrup, it's more processed than maple syrup or honey. According to LIVESTRONG, "to use agave nectar in a recipe, use 3/4 the amount of corn syrup specified." 

Cane Syrup

Cane syrup, a popular ingredient in the south, is made by simmering sugar cane juice until it reaches a thick, molasses-like consistency. Its taste resembles molasses as well; however, cane syrup does not contain the sulfur that's in molasses. 

The substitute endures less processing and contains no additives or preservatives. Bonus: some cane syrup stems from "organically grown sugar cane", which means it wasn't treated with pesticides or chemical fertilizers.

A tablespoon of cane syrup contains roughly 60 calories—more than a tablespoon of table sugar, but without the additives. Come Thanksgiving (only the best holiday of the year), cane syrup is a perfect substitute in a classic pecan pie


Honey, the epitome of a healthy substitute for corn syrup, contains many health benefits. The consumption of honey helps prevent cancer, reduces ulcers, reduces throat irritation and improves skin.

The ingredient features different types (i.e. Alfalfa, Blueberry, Clover, etc.). Different honeys feature different flavor profiles, with darker honey containing higher antioxidant levels. Too good to be true?

Well, heating honey will transform it into a glue-type substance that proves hard to digest. To receive the health benefits of honey, try consuming it in the purest and rawest form. Even more, the possibilities are endless when it comes to honey. 

Brown Rice Syrup

To make this syrup, brown rice is fermented and the liquid is heated until thick. A healthy substitute for corn syrup, it provides your body with fiber and, according to LIVESTRONG, about 3 percent of the recommended daily intake of potassium and sodium

The consistency of brown rice syrup is similar to corn syrup with a nutty flavor that resembles cooked brown rice. Try experimenting with this ingredient in your future baking endeavors!

Maple Syrup

The perfect sidekick to a fluffy pancake and a staple in Buddy the Elf's diet, maple syrup is created from the sap of a maple tree. It's all natural and proves a sweet substitution for corn syrup. 

Unlike corn syrup, maple syrup contains the nutritional benefits of minerals including potassium and calcium. Vitamins in this sweet substitute include niacin, B6 and riboflavin. Maple syrup also contains antioxidant properties that boosts our immune systems. 

#SpoonTip: Use the equivalent amount of maple syrup in a recipe that requires corn syrup.

Whether or not you side with the critics of corn syrup, it's found in a majority of processed goods. With several negative health concerns, corn syrup is an ingredient you should consume in moderation. The next time a recipe calls for it, consider using one of these healthy substitutes.