Honey vs. Sugar

November 2, 2014

In our house, honey is king, or I should say queen given that it comes from our beloved bees. People sometimes ask me whether honey is better for them than granulated sugar, and I have to tell them that, “Sugar is sugar and honey is mostly sugar.” However, if you are deciding whether to stir in a teaspoon of honey or white sugar into your tea; make pumpkin bread with a cup of honey or white sugar; or drizzle honey or sprinkle white sugar over cereal—chose the honey.

The reason is that from a health perspective, honey is the smarter choice. Honey has a more sophisticated sugar profile than granulated sugar. The more complex the carbohydrates are in the food you consume, the more work your body exerts to break them down. To put it simply, you expend more energy (i.e., calories) digesting honey than white sugar. White sugar is about one-half glucose and one-half fructose and your body can readily break these types of sugars down, which can lead to rapid spikes in blood glucose levels. What fuel isn’t used immediately by your body gets stored as…you guessed it—fat.

In contrast, honey has much lower levels of both glucose and fructose and contains many other types of sugars.  It also is composed of dextrin, which is a type of starchy fiber, and protein. This nutritional mix makes honey more “energy-intensive” to digest and therefore, your body ends up storing less honey calories upon consumption.

And that’s not all the good news. Honey has micronutrients that the bees pick-up from the nectar they collect, which provide trace elements and vitamins that your body needs to stay healthy. These micronutrients vary by the source, making each honey’s nutritional profile unique. They give honey its distinctive terroir that reflects the time and the place the flowers grew. What could be sweeter?