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Food Myths Debunked: Honey is Better than White Sugar Because it is Natural

Jul 22, 2010

It’s no secret that white sugar is a food you should consume sparingly, but is honey a healthier sweet option? Honey may be less refined and more natural than white sugar, but honey is still high in calories. Overall, honey is perhaps only slightly healthier than white sugar.

Most nutritionists recommend only part of your diet be made up of foods that are high in sugar. Sugar packs many calories and lacks the vitamins and minerals that your body needs to function normally. The big problem with honey is that it contains roughly 55% fructose, a type of sugar found mainly in fruits. Studies suggest high consumption of fructose could lead to several health problems, including obesity, heart disease and liver disease. Some studies have even shown that fructose actually drains minerals from your body.

Calories in Honey

Honey contains sugar and calories just like every other sweetener. One teaspoon of commercial natural honey contains 22 calories. Honey actually contains more calories than sugar, as one teaspoon of sugar contains 16 calories. However, honey isn’t truly more fattening than sugar, considering the fact that honey is sweeter than sugar. Overall, honey contains about the same amount of calories as white sugar. 

Benefits of Honey

Although honey is a fattening food, it does provide some nutritional benefits lacking in white sugar. Honey does contain vitamins including niacin, riboflavin, thiamin and vitamin B6. But honey contains only traces of these minerals, and honey alone won’t help you meet the USDA’s recommended daily standards. These trace vitamins might make honey a slightly better choice than white sugar, but it’s still not a health food. Although numerous websites claim honey to be some kind of miracle food, most of these claims are mythical and unfounded. Remember, honey  only contains 2% vitamins.

Honey’s Medicinal Purposes

Honey might help you deal with a few common health ailments. For example, honey might alleviate cold symptoms, especially sore throats. When swallowed, honey coats the surface of your throat and soothes throat pain. Honey might also suppress a cough. In addition, if you suffer form chronic sinus infections you may find honey to be more effective than prescription medicines at combating their symptoms. Honey’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties give it a leg up over white sugar, which scientists haven’t found to treat any illnesses.

Natural Does Not Mean Healthy

Honey is indeed a natural product. But so is sugar. Most manufacturers make white sugar by refining sugar beets and sugar cane, making white sugar a natural product. Clearly, natural is not always synonymous with healthy.

Your stomach doesn’t care whether you ingest white sugar or honey once it enters your bloodstream. To your body, sugar is sugar. All types of sugar should be consumed sparingly, even if it's honey. At the same time, honey contains a few trace vitamins and minerals and helps alleviate some health problems. While it might not be smart to consume too much honey, it is not a food you must completely avoid either.

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