Why is Honey Better For You Than Sugar?
Honey is sugar, right?
While it's true that honey and refined sugar do share a similar make-up for the most part (both being largely made up of fructose and glucose sugars) there are some important differences. In the case of regular white sugar it's almost 100% these two sugars combined in an almost exactly 50/50 ratio with very little else other than a few tiny amounts of trace minerals. Honey made by bees from nectar typically contains around 40% fructose and 30-35% glucose sugar. Water, small amounts of other complex sugars, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants will be what largely makes up the remaining 25-30%. High quality unfiltered honey will also contain small particles of pollen, bee propolis and beeswax.
Natural honey contains flavonoids, phenolic acids, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), tocopherols and glutathione, among other compounds. Antioxidants occur naturally in honey due to its origins in flower nectar and the antioxidants present will depend on the type of flower the bees visited while collecting nectar.
Just Bee vitamin honey is also supercharged with important Vitamins and Echinacea. Each teaspoon of our honey contains 25% of your recommended daily allowance of Vitamin D, C, B6, B12 to help support your immune system. Along with honeys unique texture, health boosting nutrients, and antioxidants that are found naturally in honey, this makes our honey a very different product to sugar. Sugar has no added nutrients, while honey contains amino acids, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and antioxidants.
In simple terms, while honey is largely made up of the same fructose and glucose as sugar, it also contains other compounds that make it better choice for most people.
But does that make it healthier?
While honey clearly has benefits over refined white sugar, there is still a lot of sugar in honey, so as with any sugar it might be beneficial to limit your intake to some degree. We believe strongly that honey is the best alternative to sugar. A big benefit that honey has over sugar is that it tastes far sweeter while containing less fructose and glucose, so you can use less to get the same level of sweetness. Since using honey regularly I've gone from putting two heaped spoonfuls of sugar in my coffee to ½ a teaspoon of honey.
Many artificial sweetener products found in the supermarkets contain chemicals like aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose and are offered as a sugar substitute. But many of these products come with their own concerns including that they may increase our sugar cravings and can also cause disruption to gut bacteria. They also have zero nutritional value so are known as 'non-nutritive' sweeteners, meaning there is no nutritional benefit to consuming them. Compared to consuming a smaller amount of honey and the nutritional value we get from it, that seems like a far better and more natural choice to make.
Other ways to reduce sugar intake.
If you want to reduce your sugar intake try using honey and cutting your amounts in half. If you put a teaspoon of sugar in your porridge or cup of tea, try half a teaspoon of honey instead. Look for cookie recipes that use two tablespoons of honey (around 40g) instead of 100g of sugar. If you want to cut down on sugar by using honey instead, it's a tasty natural alternative with bonus benefits! We do not believe that artificial sweeteners are a good long term way to reduce sugar intake and there are other ways. You may have noticed that in our recipes we often use spices like ginger and cinnamon, as well as vanilla and almond. These are all great ways to add sweetness to a recipe without increasing the sugar levels at all. Combined with a minimal amount of honey you can create a very sweet tasting dish or bakery recipe without all that sugar.
Honey and our body.
It's also believed that honey may be easier than refined sugar on our digestive system. Regular refined sugar has to be ingested before being broken down. As bees already add enzymes to honey, the sugars are already partially broken down when we consume it and makes it easier to digest. Sugar obviously does not contain the enzymes that make this possible.
Our bodies do need sugar, it's our daily fuel for all the energy we use. Honey is made mostly of sugar, but importantly it's only about 30 percent glucose. Glucose is what our bodies break food down into to enable it to be used as this fuel we all need. The lower glucose amount in honey means that our bodies do more work and use more energy to break it down. So while it is true that a single tablespoon of honey contains 64 calories, which is higher than that of sugar at 49 calories, the extra energy to break it all down to glucose means we could actually accumulate less calories from honey.
It's easy to make the statement that honey is 'mainly' sugar, but that completely ignores the chemical diversity and complexity of honey.
In honey we find: proteins, amino acids, phenolic acids, ascorbic acid, folic acid, pollen, propolis and beeswax. Many types of flavonoids and enzymes. Minerals such as calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, phosphorous, magnesium, selenium, chromium and manganese. B vitamins riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid and vitamin B6.
There are too many different compounds in honey to go into full detail on each one in a blog like this but I'm sure some of them mentioned above will be familiar to you. For further reading I recommend this light-hearted article The Many Many Chemicals in Honey by Dr. Joe Schwarcz at the McGill Office for Science and Society.
If honey was 'just' sugar' then sugar would logically be 'basically honey' and it's clear that isn't. Other than a huge hit of glucose there isn't much else we get from sugar. By using honey as an alternative we can get the benefits of everything found in honey, we can use less of it to reduce our sugar intake overall and maybe just as importantly we can enjoy the amazing complex flavours in pure natural honey.