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The Sweet Truth: Comparing Honey and Sugar

Updated: Mar 20, 2023


We all like a sweet treat in our lives, but if we want to maintain a healthy diet, is there a better choice for sweeteners than traditional white sugar? Many say honey is a better alterative, but is it really all it's cracked up to bee? We are going to break down the food facts about honey and sugar to see how they compare.


Is honey good for you?

Both honey and sugar cause spikes in blood sugar. However, honey does not raise the blood sugar as high in comparison to table sugar. Also, honey has beneficial properties that sugar does not. Studies have shown that honey can contain small amounts of essential vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, calcium, iron, zinc, vitamins C, as well as some B vitamins. On the flip side, there are some drawback to honey consumption. Some unpasteurized honey, or raw honey, could contain pollen and bee components, so people who are allergic to bee stings may want to avoid consuming raw honey, as it could cause anaphylaxis. Also, honey is sweeter than sugar and has more calories, therefore, you need less of it to achieve your desired sweetness. For this reason, being mindful of portion sizes is important. When it comes to the glycemic index of both sweeteners, honey ranks slightly lower than sugar.


What is a Glycemic Index?

The Glycemic index is a way to rank and categorize carbohydrates based on their effect on blood sugar. This is especially important for those with pre-diabetes, diabetes, or those who monitor their blood sugar levels. To give you a bit of perspective on the glycemic index, there are generally 3 categories: low GI, medium GI, and high GI foods. Low GI foods are 1-55, medium GI foods are 56-69, and high GI foods are 70+. Honey comes in at 63 whereas most honey’s will rank slightly lower around 57. This means that sugar will spike the blood sugar a bit more than honey would. Though, keep in mind that both honey and sugar are added sweeteners, therefore, they will both cause spikes in blood sugar, which is why portion

sizes are important to monitor.


What's so sweet about sugar?

Sugar is a simple carbohydrate which the brain and body use for a fast source of glucose for

energy and your body to function. Carbohydrates are the preferred source of energy for your

body because it is most easily broken down and converted to energy in comparison to protein

and fat. However, it is important to have a balance of all three macronutrients in your diet.

Unlike some honey, sugar does not contain any significant vitamins or minerals. Consuming an

excessive amount of sugar over time can lead to medical conditions and is should be used in

moderation.


The bottom line

Both honey and sugar are carbohydrates that break down in your body into their basic parts of fructose and glucose. These monosaccharides will spike your blood sugar after consumption. If taken in excess over time, added sugars have been linked to multiple health problems, including obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, dementia and Alzheimer’s. The USDA recommends eating less than 10% of your total daily calories in added sugars. Research suggests that honey may have more health benefits than other forms of regular sugar.

However, remember to watch portion sizes of both sweeteners, especially honey, since it

contains more calories than sugar.


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