I have been asked a lot lately: “is honey better than sugar?”. And I always answer: “it depends.” I hate when people say of course it is better for you. This is not as black and white as you might think. Both of them have some pros and cons. Honey vs. Sugar is one of the oldest debates since we, as the whole culture, start caring about our health.
First, we need to define what we are talking about. Because honey itself contains sugar, so we will be comparing honey and crystal sugar and how it affects your body and which one is better or in what cases or circumstances, one is better than the other.
Honey vs Sugar, what these two have in common
Both of these are classified as carbohydrates, and both of them are consisting of sugar, from fructose & glucose.
Fructose and glucose are high glycemic, and both of them are quickly broken down by the body. And both of them will cause a significant increase in blood sugar levels.
Even though both of them are consisting of fructose and glucose, they have different levels of each. If this wasn’t already clear enough, yes honey does have sugar in it.
Consistency of sugar
1/2 is from Glucose
1/2 is from Fructose
Consistency of Honey
Fructose little over 43%
Glucose, little over 37%
Water, little under 16%
Oligosaccharides under 3.5%
Maltose under 3%
Ascorbic acid under 2.5%
Sucrose almost 2%
Erlose nearly 1%
Protein less than 0.5%
Fat less than 0.6%
Melezitose less than 0.1%
Thiamine less than 0.1%
Riboflavin less than 0.1%
Niacin less than 0.2%
Vitamin B5 less than 0.1%
Pyridoxine less than 0.2%
Folic acid less than 0.1%
Vitamin K less than 0.1%
This is one of the highest quality honey, which is available on the market today. From Y.S. Eco Bee Farm, 100% Certified Organic. You can buy it here.
All the other additional components of honey, are responsible for the health benefits, which are tied with honey. The other exciting and healthier part about honey is that it has a lower glycemic index, which is somewhere between 45-64. I know that this is a wide range, but there are hundreds of different types of honey. While GI of sugar is 65. Why is that? Well, honey has lower fructose levels and also contains minerals, fat, and protein. When high glycemic foods are combined with lower GI foods, the over GI of the meal, and the insulin spike is much lower. And the same rule applies here, due to the fat and protein content, the GI is lower.
Please don’t make a quick judgment and think that honey is healthier than sugar due to the GI. We have so many more things to discuss these two before we can make a judgment. And you should also keep in mind that if you use enough of any of these two, you can gain weight. If you consume enough sugar or honey to be in a caloric surplus, you will gain weight. Depending on your lifestyle and the rest of your diet, you will either gain muscle and fat, or just fat.
Are you worried about weight gain? Or do you want to lose fat to be healthier? Try this diet; this is the most optimal diet to control your weight and to be healthy.
How much sugar is in honey?
About how much sugar is in honey depends on the type of honey, but generally speaking, there are at least 78 grams of sugar in honey or more.
How many grams of sugar are in a teaspoon of honey
In one teaspoon again depending on the type of honey, there will be at least 7.6 grams of sugar. So each teaspoon will have at least 30 calories.
How many are calories in a tablespoon of honey
Each tablespoon of honey will have around 68 calories and approximately 17 grams of sugar.
Health Benefits of Honey
Honey has been used over the years as a sweetener and also as medicine.
Honey has been used by us humans for thousands of years, since ancient times. Through out the time, it has been associated with several health benefits.
Nutritional consistency of honey varies a lot, unfortunately. It varies due to the origin of the nectar, which is used to make it. And the consistency of honey also creates quite q big range of colors in which you can find honey, from light yellow to full-blown dark brown colors.
From the research I have read, I can say that the dark honey usually has more antioxidants in it, than the light honey. Also, there is quite a big difference between raw honey and the one which is already pasteurized. Which of course the raw honey has more micronutrients and more antioxidants.
With all this being said, is honey healthier than sugar? Again, it depends, just continue reading this article to find out.
Suppression of cough
There was a study done on honey and cough suppression back in 2007. Where children who were diagnosed with bronchitis were given several portions of dark honey. The group, which was given the honey have experienced more magnificent reliefs of bronchitis symptoms, than the other group which was taking a placebo. But I should note that the cough suppression benefits were small.
A few years ago was another study done on this, and even though that they recommend honey rather than no treatment for cough, there are medications on the market, which provide far more significant symptom relief.
Allergy relief effects
Over the years, anecdotal reports have indicated that honey may reduce seasonal allergy symptoms. But there were few studies done on this matter, and they did not find any consistency between these two.
Topic Use Benefits
This is one of the rare uses where honey is beneficial, but no one is talking about them. If you apply honey topically, it has antimicrobial properties. So it helps with wound healing. And there is even research on this, which supports this. It can heal the treatment of chronic burns, ulcers, and wounds.
Also, when applied topically raw honey markedly improves seborrheic dermatitis [intchy and flaky scalp condition].
And lastly believe it or not, but there is a research which supports this, honey and its at least weekly application can help with the reduction of hair loss.
And it is easier on your digestive system
Thanks to its composition and the enzymes which are added to honey from bees and the partially broken down sugars are quite frankly easier to digest for the human body.
Cons and Risks of Honey
Before we can make the final decision if is honey better for you than sugar, we need to talk about its drawbacks and risks.
“Higher” in calories
When most people are comparing these two, and they are trying to make an argument for sugar, they always mention that honey has a higher calorie count. But the reason why I wrote “higher” in calories is, that yes tablespoon of sugar has only 49 calories and one full tablespoon of honey has 64 calories. But that is only because honey is denser and one tablespoon of it weighs 28 grams, whereas one full tablespoon of sugar weights only 16g.
So there should be done a comparison in 100 grams, rather than in tablespoons and we should stop saying that sugar has fewer calories, because it is simply not true.
White sugar has 406 Calories per 100g (1700 kJ)
Honey has 334 Calories per 100g (1400 kJ)
This is another one of less known facts, but it is not saved to serve honey to infants, who are year old or younger. The bacterial spores which are in it can cause infant botulism, which I have to mention is rare, but potentially life-threatening disease.
These spores are harmless for adults and older children, but they can cause botulism in infants. Most common symptoms of infant botulism are constipation, a weak cry, and generalized weakness.
This mainly applies only on people with diabetes and for those who have insulin resistance, because honey has similar effects like sugar gas on blood glucose levels.
Too high consumption of honey can lead to health issues and also blood sugar issuer in healthy people, but we can say this about everything, even too much water can kill you. But with honey, it might be quite easy to over-consume it, some most common risks are:
There are two main ways, how to make sugar. Either from sugar cane or sugar beets. Even though sugar is created from natural substances, it is quite a long process before we get the sugar itself. And there are also several different types of sugar like white, brown, muscovado, powdered, raw and turbinado.
All of these types of sugars are from glucose and fructose, which are bonded together in different % and making the sugar we all known as sucrose. The only sugar that has some micronutrients is brown sugar because it is a blend of white sugar and the byproducts of sugar manufacturing known as molasses, which contains some micro trace nutrients.
We talked about this already within the article, but if you use a tablespoon of each than the sugar has fewer calories. But not in 100 grams comparison.
Sugar is widely available and quite frankly very cheap. And you might be wondering why this a health benefit. Well, the money you will save on sugar instead of honey. Can be used for vegetables or fruits or other foods, which contain a lot more micronutrients.
Long Shelf Life
With sugar, you almost don’t have to worry, that it goes wrong. It has a super long shelf life.
Cons and Risk of Sugar
Consumption of sugar might lead to several risks.
Very High GI
Sugar, due to its high glycemic index can spike glucose levels higher and faster than honey itself. Which leads everyone after consumption to a quick spurt of energy, which is always followed by a rapid decline/crash of energy. Which is usually characterized as tiredness, difficulties in concentration, and headaches.
Weight Gain & type 2 diabetes
Over consumption of sugar can lead to weight gain and possibly obesity; both of these factors are increasing the risk of getting type 2 diabetes. But the same applies to honey. Most people when they are asked if is honey better than sugar. Tell you that you should use honey because you can weight gain or even get two diabetes from sugar. But if you over consume honey, you can gain fat/weight and with that increase the chances of getting type 2 diabetes!
Hard to Digest
Since there are no enzymes in sugar, unlike in honey. The liver has done all the work to metabolize refined fructose. And if the consumption of sugar is high enough, it can lead to issues related to proper liver function, like:
NALFD [nonalcoholic fatty liver disease]
As we all know, dental cavities or caries are developing faster and in more teeth, while on a high sugar diet. And this is true for everyone. To reduce the risk of cavities, we should all reduce our sugar consumption.
High sugar consumption will change your gut bacteria because you will have less healthy and less diverse gut bacteria. This can lead to increasing changes in several chronic diseases.
Honey vs. Sugar, which is better for you?
I have already mentioned this, but you can overconsume both of these. And if you read this article thoroughly, you know that the risk that comes with overconsumption are the same for both of these. If you consume too much of any of these two, you might face weight/fat gain, increased risk of illness, your blood sugar will go up and down like crazy and of course an increased risk of tooth decay.
So what is the verdict? Is honey better than sugar?
If it is not clear enough, both of these should be consumed in moderation or maybe even be avoided. Why avoid them? Well, why would you consume them in the first place? Honey has several health benefits… Get out of here. Yes, honey has several health benefits, but these health benefits are tied to particular issues like cough and allergies and few health benefits when it is applied topically. But as far as cough treatment or even allergies treatment, there are far better substitutes for honey. And the same applies for its topical use, yes it can help, but unless you live in the middle of nowhere and you have only access to honey, don’t use it, there are again far better things for these issues.
And sugar, we all know that sugar is not the best choice. But again, as I said earlier, it depends. If you are overweight or obese, and you need to have honey or sugar in your diet. Choose one of these two of which you consume fewer calories for the same satisfaction. And for most people, it is sugar, in which they consume fewer calories. Because most people tend to overuse honey because first of all it is more caloric dense and also they think that it is good for their health…
Most health benefits come from losing weight and to do that you need to be in a caloric deficit. How to get into caloric deficit or how to achieve one? Well, lower your calories input and increase your output. Hopefully, now you finally see my argument for sugar in this debate. I am not saying that sugar is better than honey by any means. But in some cases, it might be wiser to use sugar, and I believe I have made a great example here. Also if you are going to decide for sugar over honey, there are two options to make, either get the cheapest one, because the pricy sugars are in fact scam. Or choose dark brown sugar, but make sure that it has enzymes and antioxidants because not all brown sugars have enzymes and antioxidants. Because if the brown sugar does not have these, it is quite the same as white sugar, the only difference is that it cost 3 or 4 times more.
For example, if I wanted t buy sugar, I would pick this one. It is high quality dark brown sugar, and what is most important, it also contains molasses, which contains minerals and enzymes. Plus the taste of this one is fantastic. You can buy it here.
My Last Thoughts
Now we are over, this is the end of the article, please ask yourself “is honey better than sugar”? And send your answer in a comment below. I would like to know, what is your opinion on this debate sugar vs. honey after reading this. And I am also curious if you agree with my example, where I inclined to use of sugar.