A new study questions some honey claims…but it is natural, so it’s better, right?
First, I will admit I am a honey fan. For breakfast, snack or dessert, there are few things more satisfying than strained yoghurt drizzled with dark honey. My favorite honey is from a small farmer in southern Crete. I do have a package of table sugar on hand for baking special and rare treats, but other than that I don’t add sugar to my food. I just love the taste of my dark, thyme-y honey.
Besides liking honey for its taste, I like to support local farmers, and when we are in Greece that is especially important these days.
I’m sure you’ve heard, and may even make your sweetener choices, based on these statements:
• Honey is better for diabetics and glucose intolerant people because it doesn’t cause the spike in blood sugar that table sugar does
• Honey is “packed with micronutrients,” including antioxidants; table sugar lacks minerals and vitamins
• Honey is a ” natural” alternative to table sugar.
Let’s start with the first claim.
A study released earlier this month showed that honey, sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) may be similar in how our body metabolizes them.
When I first read the report’s summary, I was tempted to chalk this up to another industry-backed study intended to promote HFCS, which has come under scrutiny in the last couple of years. However, the study was partially funded by the National Honey Board, who have an interest in promoting honey as a “better” sweetener. However, the results of the study show that table sugar, HFCS and honey cause blood sugar to rise, which can be an issue for diabetics. Honey breaks down in the body “a little more slowly” than sugar, says Amanda Kirpitch, a nutritionist at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, but not enough to make a practical difference.
Now on to the nutrients. Here’s how honey and sugar compare:
Looking at the facts, you can see that honey does have “more” of some nutrients (e.g. Potassium, Vitamin C, Iron) than sugar. But, nutritionally its real advantages are insignificant, which I know will disappoint many of you. In fact, honey isn’t a good dietary source of any nutrient other than sugars! Five tablespoons will give you about 91% of your daily requirement for sugars. You’d have to suck down 750 spoonfuls of the stuff to get the recommended amount of Vitamin C (an important antioxidant). If you are eating a balanced diet, you’re likely getting all the antioxidants you need from fruits and vegetables that contain heaps more than honey.
Honey does contain trace elements . What and how much will depend on where the bees make the honey and how the honey is processed. Regardless, the fact is that the amounts are, as stated, “trace.”
So, nutritional superiority is a poor excuse to stuff yourself full of this fluid sugar. Honey is not “healthy”, it’s just “ever so slightly healthier” than refined sugar.
Honey is sugar. Despite possibly being less refined or processed (depending on how you choose it), honey is NOT vastly superior to sugar.
Nutritional sources: SDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference 27 Software v.2.2.6; Report Run at: September 15 2015 13:53 EDT; DRI – Daily Recommended Intake