Honey vs sugar; which is better?

Honey vs sugar; which is better?
  • PublishedApril 28, 2020

Sugar vs honey: When you prepare a cup of tea, do you use sugar or honey? Sugar and honey are both sweeteners.  They add sweetness to meals, snacks, and flavor to dishes. 

To some extent, some of you even think that honey and sugar are the same. But is it the case? The two have different tastes, texture, smell, and different nutritional values.

In this article honey vs sugar, we are going to know which is better and perhaps their differences and similarities. But before we delve into honey vs sugar, let us briefly talk about sugar and honey separately.

What is sugar?

Sugar is a soluble carbohydrate that tastes sweet; used in food like table sugar, granite sugar, or regular sugar. It can also be defined as sucrose, a disaccharide made of glucose and fructose.

What is honey?

Honey is a sweet natural thick substance or fluid that honey bees produce from the flower nectar of flowers used to nourish and sustain their colonies. 

The flavor and the color of the honey depend on flowers they visit while looking for nectar. The color can vary from pale yellow to dark brown.  For example, Manuka honey is obtained from the pollen of the Manuka tree.

The honey is collected from the honeycombs by beekeepers and it is cleaned to remove any solid particles or wax that is remaining.

What is the difference between honey and sugar?

With honey vs sugar, even though both sugar and honey are carbohydrates, and that they contain glucose and fructose, the two are very different from each other. Below are some of the differences between sugar and honey

1. Nutrient composition

Unlike honey, sugar has no nutrients it’s called empty calories. This is because, in the process of manufacturing, all the nutrients like proteins, vitamins, and enzymes are burnt out of the sugar cane. Sugar, therefore, depends on the body’s nutrients to be metabolized into the body. 

When it’s not sufficiently broken down, sugar is converted to fats and stores leading to higher cholesterol and obesity.

The process of honey production is subjected to minimal heating and therefore it will let the honey remain with its vitamins, nutrients, its antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties.

2. Calorie composition

Honey has more calories compared to sugar. One tablespoon of honey contains about 64 calories while one tablespoon of sugar contains 46 calories. This implies that you will need less amount of honey compared to table sugar for a given cup of tea.

3. The difference in the digestion. 

Honey has more minerals compared to table sugar. This means that digestion and absorption of honey will take more time compared to sugar. Therefore honey is better than sugar in regulating blood sugar because it is slowly absorbed in the bloodstream and will provide more lasting energy and less likely to hike the blood sugar levels.

What are the benefits of honey?

1. Nutrients.

Unlike the empty calories of sugar, honey contains a variety of minerals and nutrients essential for your body. These include; vitamin c, vitamin B3, calcium, potassium, zinc, iron, and manganese.

2. Honey has antibacterial and antiseptic effects

The healing property of honey is because it offers antibacterial activity. Due to the viscosity, for example, it keeps wounds moist and provides a protective barrier to infection. Honey also draws water from the tissue which reduces swelling and discomfort.

3. Honey alleviates allergies

honey vs sugar

Eating local honey with pollen can make the body less sensitive to pollen. This is in the sense that by repeated exposure to small amounts of allergens, the body can slowly become less sensitive.

4. Honey can help cough

Honey is one of the natural cough suppressants in children. It can cure cough more effectively compare to over-the-counter medicines. 

In one study where children between 2 to 18 yrs. with respiratory infections were subjected or treated to 2 teaspoons of honey at bedtime, it was observed that honey reduced night-time coughing and improved sleep.

5. Honey is easier to digest

Enzymes in honey from the bees partially break it down into fructose and glucose. This makes digestion of honey-smooth; unlike sugar which has to be ingested before breaking it down

6. Longer-lasting energy

The process of digestion and absorption of honey takes a longer time compared to sugar. This implies longer-lasting energy and fewer spikes in blood sugar.

Disadvantages/Downsides of using honey


1. Infant botulism

Honey may not be safe for infants below one year. The bacteria in honey can cause botulism. Botulism is a form of food poisoning caused by bacterium growing on improperly preserved foods. Signs of botulism among others include; constipation and general body weakness.

2. Honey is high in calories

Like we discussed above, honey is high in calories. One tablespoon of honey contains about 64 calories; which is high compared to the calories in sugar. If not cautiously used, it can lead to health challenges such as obesity, type 2diabetes, and cancer.

3. Pollen allergens

The pollen in the honey may lead to allergic reactions. Do not eat honey if you are allergic to pollen.

3. Toxins from rhododendrons

Honey from the nectar of rhododendrons contains a toxin that can lead to low blood pressure, chest pain, and heart problems.

What are the benefits of sugar over honey?

The benefits of sugar over honey include;

1. Low in calories

When you compare sugar with honey, sugar has lower calories compared to honey. The low calories per serving imply a reduced risk to diseases.

2. Low cost

Sugar is cheap and easily accessible, unlike honey.

3. Sugar provides an immediate burst of energy

Sucrose contains glucose which is a source of fuel to the body. Glucose converts to energy instantly when it reached the cells. This gives your body constant stamina.

4. Sugar has a longer shelf life

Because of the many processes and purifications that sugar is taken through, it gets the bacteria and impurities removed which may cause it to go bad. This gives it a longer shelf life compared to honey.

What are the downsides of sugar?

Image by Carina Chen from Pixabay

1. High glycemic index

Sugar has a higher glycemic index compared to honey. The Glycemic index is the rate at which a carbohydrate may affect blood sugar levels.  Carbs with high glycemic levels give a quick rise of energy followed by a sharp fall. This leads to tiredness, headaches, and concentration challenges.

2. Risk of chronic diseases

when the amount of sugar in the body is high, it is converted into fats and stored around internal organs such as liver and heart. too much fat is associated with heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.

3. Tooth decay

When we eat sugary foods, sugar particles remain in the cavities. This is what the bacteria in the mouth feed on; producing the acids that dissolve and damage the teeth.

4. Difficult indigestion

Unlike honey, sugar has no enzymes and nutrients. It depends on the enzymes of the body for digestion. Sugar has to first be ingested, absorbed, and thereafter digested this makes the process more complex.

5. The decrease in gut bacteria

Eating foods high in sugar decreases the number of good bacteria in the gut. This imbalance can cause sugar craving hence gut damage.

You may also want to know the different ways of cutting out sugar for weight loss. You can read more in the highlighted article.

Honey vs sugar; which is better?


Much as both are honey and sugars are carbohydrates, there are a few aspects that we think are giving honey an edge over sugar. These include;

Sugar is an empty calorie. This means that sugar has calories with zero nutritional value. This, however, is not the case with honey. Honey has calories and is packed with nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and enzymes.

Honey is sweeter compared to sugar. This means you will need less of it compared to sugar

Last but not least, honey has a lower glycemic index compared to sugar. This means that honey will not have your blood sugar level spike up immediately as it is digested slowly.

Is honey good for weight loss?

Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Honey helps weight loss in many different ways including digestion, metabolism, and appetite suppression. Let us look discuss these below.

1. Suppressing appetite

Honey is a combination of fructose, glucose, and a combination of nutrients. The digestion and absorption take place at a slow pace. This implies longer-lasting energy and fewer spikes of blood sugar. The low increases in blood sugar help to control the appetite so that you can stay for a longer period without eating again. This reduces food intake hence weight loss.

2. Improving metabolism

Honey has a variety of nutrients such as amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. All these benefit the metabolic process of the body. With regulated metabolism, food is digested and utilized efficiently and all the fat converted to usable energy hence weight loss. Always start with a mixture of lukewarm water, lemon juice, and honey for a healthy weight.

3. Hibernation diet

This is the diet that involves weight management while sleeping. You may be wondering how this works. Having a spoonful of honey before going to bed is very important. This fuels your liver to speed up the fat-burning process while asleep.

4. Improves digestion

Having about two spoons of honey after a large meal; helps to get rid of that static weight accumulated in the digestive system. This enhances a proper digestive system which is key to weight management.

Is honey ok for diabetics?

According to Mayo Clinic, there is no advantage of substituting honey for sugar in the diabetes eating plan. This is because both honey and sugar have the same effect on blood sugar levels. 

Important note:

Therefore, always take moderate amounts of honey if you are diabetic and always endeavor to count the carbs in honey as per the eating plan.

What are other healthy alternatives to sugar?

Try non-nutritive sweeteners

Non-nutritive sweeteners (NNSs) contain little or no calories at all. Some of the non-nutritive sweeteners approved by the Food and Drug Authority include; Neotame, sucralose, saccharin, and Advantame. 

Replace sugar with whole foods like fruits

 The digestion and absorption of sugar are very fast. this encourages craving and consequently overeating. Replacing chocolate, candies, and yogurt with whole foods like apples, pears may be one way of cutting back on sugars.

Coconut sugar

Coconut sugar is unrefined, so it retains all of the vitamins and minerals, and it does not lead to fluctuations in blood sugar. Still, diabetics should first consult the doctors before using coconut sugar.

Date paste

This is an easy alternative to sugar. it can be made at home with your blender.  Add 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract, one cup of warm pitted dates, a cup of water to a blender, and blend.

It can be used in smoothies, baked goods, salad dressings, and sauces. It is however sweeter than sugar; so be mindful of the amounts you add.

Agave nectar

It is a sweetener commercially produced from several species of agave including agave tequilana and agave salmiana. Agave is low on the glycemic index and does not lead to spikes in blood sugar.

however, agave contains a lot of fructose which can lead to weight gain. It should, therefore, be consumed moderately.

Is honey a healthier alternative to sugar?

As a matter of, sugar and honey are both carbohydrates. But honey has more calories compared to sugar. This means that you will need less honey to compare to sugar for a given amount cup of tea or glass of water.

Sugar has calories with zero nutritional value. Honey, on the other hand, has calories and a variety of nutrients that are important for your health. Therefore, when it comes to honey vs sugar, honey is healthier compared to sugar.

Bottom line

Although honey has more nutritional value compared to sugar, both affect the blood sugar levels. 

Honey is not good for children below one year. This is because the bacteria in honey may cause botulism 

Always get honey from the farmers’ markets where you can get in touch with the producers to make sure that you’re getting a high-quality product.


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