Is Honey Better Than Sugar?

The honey and the sugar. 

Refined Sugar usually comes from sugarcane. It is heavily processed to extract all the sugar. Refined sugar contains nothing but sugar, and it doesn’t provide any vitamins, fiber or any other beneficial nutrients. 

Honey is made mostly, between 95% to 99%, of sugar. But raw honey contains about 200 additional substances including amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. But the question is, does sugar offer any health benefits, or is it really just another type of sugar?

I did some research on Google, but most of the articles I found say the same thing without much scientific evidence. So, I had to dig into the studies to discover the truth about honey.

The information I will share in this article is all based on studies which will be mentioned. 

The Use of Honey

Stone Age paintings show that we have been using honey for more than 8000 years. Ancient Egyptians, Chinese, Greeks, and Romans all used honey to treat wounds and to fight diseases of the gut.

Recently, there’s been an increase in interest in honey:  

1st Antibiotic resistance is a reality and so new types of antibacterial medicines are needed.

2nd – The increase of reliable studies reporting that certain types of honey are very effective for wound treatment.

3rd – Honey is big business. The USA is the 3rd biggest honey producer in the world. The production value in the US in 2016 was $343 million (source National Agricultural Statistics Service).

But It’s not easy to find unbiased studies:

1st – It’s hard to find scientific evidence when the complex chemical composition of honey varies depending on the plants on which the bee feeds (which we will see in a second).

2nd – Therapeutic Honeys have a premium price, and the honey industry is actively sponsoring studies to capitalize on this.

Next, let’s discuss bees, honey, and honey bees.

The Honey Bees

Honey bees are a very specific type of bee. They produce beeswax, royal jelly, and propolis.

Bees have evolved to the highest level of socialization in animal societies. Their hierarchy is composed of queens, male drones, and worker bees.

The queen is the mother of all the bees in the beehive. Her sole function is to serve as the reproducer. Her job is to lay eggs, and she can produce as many as 1500 per day. 

“The queen bee is able to control the sex of the eggs she lays, according to the width of the cell.”

source wikipedia

The drones are the male bees. They do not have stingers and can’t gather nectar or pollen. The function of the drone is to mate with the fertile queen.

They can mate 7 to 10 times and then they die soon after. 

Workers bees are the labor force. They protect the hive, and gather nectar and pollen to provide food for the queen, the male drones, and the new bees.

The Honey

The honey bees gather nectar and pollen (and pollinize plants) from all the trees and plants around the hive. The nectar is processed inside the bee’s stomach with enzymes and gastric acids, and then regurgitated for the other bees to use. 

The same nectar is processed by different bees until it’s ready to be stored. 

Afterward, the honey is placed inside one of the cells of the hive. Bees use their wings to help evaporate any excess of water, drying the honey to prevent fermentation.

Honey can be stored for a long time, despite not having any preservatives or additives.

Honey is the bee’s food and is stored in the hive as a long-term food supply to support the colony, especially in wintertime when food is scarce.

Types of Honey 

Beekeepers, if they are doing an ethical job, take the hive frames and scrape only part of the honey. This leaves some honey behind so the bees have enough food for the winter. 

Some companies remove all the honey and fill the hive with a mix of water and sugar as food for the bees, while others savagely kill all the bees.

Note: It’s always good to know how a company or local producer treats their bees and which process is used before placing the honey in the jars.

The part of the honey gathered from the hive frames is called Raw Honey. 

After gathering, the honey is then strained to remove wax, propolis, and other any other defects.

The honey may then be filtered and heated to remove more defects and to produce a clearer honey with a more liquid texture. The heating process reduces enzyme levels, lowers anti-bacterial activity, and changes other properties. 

Pasteurized Honey – heated to remove all the bacteria but also removes all the beneficial microorganisms. Pasteurized honey is basically the same as sugar, and is NOT the same as raw honey. 

In the United States, pure honey means that it contains no other substances such as water and sweeteners. But there is no mention of the process used.

Raw honey is not processed or heated, keeping all the nutrients and natural properties of honey.

Now finally comes the question: Is Honey Good For You?

Very Important Note: Never give honey to a child who’s under one-year-old. 

“Good for you” can mean a lot of things. Let’s look at the scientifically proven benefits.

  • Healing Wounds

This is the most studied and documented honey property (one of the studies here). More and more reliable studies are reporting that certain types of honey are very effective for the treatment of wounds. 

“Studies revealed that the healing effect of honey could be classified by its antibacterial, antiviral, anti- inflammatory and antioxidant properties of its components”

Local honey, or Manuka or Tualang honey, have a great potential to be an alternative treatment for chronic wound infections that do not respond to antibiotic therapy.

Due to the use and abuse of antibiotics, some people are developing an immunity to antibiotics so honey could be a natural solution to this problem. This is great news!

“Microbial resistance to honey has never been reported, which makes it a very promising topical antimicrobial agent against the infection of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (e.g., MDR S. maltophilia) and in the treatment of chronic wound infections that do not respond to antibiotic therapy”

Study source here

  • Cough Relief

A study of 139 children (study source here), aged from 2 to 5 years old, and all suffering from coughing were divided into four groups. The first group received honey, the second group received dextromethorphan, the third group received diphenhydramine, and the fourth was the group control.

After 24 hours the four groups were reexamined, and their coughing frequency assessed. The study revealed that taking honey before sleep had more a better cough-alleviating effect than dextromethorphan and diphenhydramine. This resulted in less coughing and a better night’s for the children and their parents.

  • Antibacterial

Honey can have an antibacterial effect that partially inhibits bacterial growth in over 60 species of bacteria. This is especially true for gastroenteritis and salmonella (study source here).  

The honey with most antibacterial activity are Medihoney and Manuka, but the locally produced honey was also shown to have a similar inhibitory activity for some bacteria.

  • Inhibition of Fungal Growth

Pure honey has been reported to have an inhibitory effect on fungal growth, especially of candida, ringworm, and athletes foot. 

“Pure honey inhibits fungal growth and diluted honey appears capable of inhibiting toxin production”

Is Honey Healthier Than Refined Sugar?

Yes; refined sugar is processed by man, removing all the fiber, nutrients and amino acids. In contrast, honey is processed naturally by bees (using enzymes and gastric acids).

Refined sugar is in most processed food, soft drinks, breakfast cereals, chocolates, cookies, and candies. 

Too much refined sugar will make you sick. If you are constantly hungry and have never-ending sugar cravings, you may have a sugar addiction caused by a worldwide high-sugar diet. 

We have a free 20 No-Sugar Days challenge to help people to get rid of sugar addiction. You can find more about it here.

Honey is also high in sugar, although the sugar contained in honey is not absorbed in the same way as refined sugar in your body. We should not have honey everyday (unless you’re following a specific honey treatment) as too much honey is not good for you (continue reading). 

Is Replacing Added Sugar with Honey Healthier?

Yes, but it also depends…

If you usually have four cups of coffee per day and you always add some refined sugar to your coffee, you’re probably having too much sugar in your diet and replacing it with honey will not “make it healthier” or solve the problem. 

The best solution here is to reduce your sugar intake and stop adding sugar to your coffee.

A high honey diet is not a healthy alternative to a high sugar diet. 

If you are baking a cake and you replace the refined sugar with honey, that is a healthier alternative. 

Or you can prepare a raw dessert recipe like these delicious brownies made with no added sugar.  And yes, they are sweet because they contain whole dates. Whole dates are high in sugar, but also high in fiber and other nutrients so the sugar is absorbed slowly into the blood stream and will not cause high blood sugar levels. You can find the recipe here – “Raw Vegan Brownies – 6 Ingredients”.

I Am On a No Sugar Diet; Can I Have Honey?

A lot of people following the 20 No Sugar Days Challenge have asked me this question. You can find the challenge here.

The goal of the challenge is to avoid added/refined sugar and artificial sweeteners for 20 days. The idea is to break your sugar addiction, and that means keeping your sugar intake to a minimum. 

Fruit is always welcome because fruit is also high in fiber which completely changes the way sugar enters the bloodstream.

Honey is not processed sugar, so it should be ok, and if you only have a tablespoon now and then it shouldn’t be a problem. 

But, if you have a tablespoon every day, it sounds to me that you’re not really ditching the sugar and, instead, you’re using honey to replace and to continually feed your sugar cravings.

Bottom line: It’s only 20 days so try to avoid honey for 20 days so you can cleanse sugar from your body. After you complete the challenge you can freely enjoy honey because then you will easily and naturally control your sugar intake. Your body will let you know when enough is enough.

How Honey Helps Me?

Ok, so this is based on my personal experience, and not on studies. I’m not a doctor and I’m not trying to give any kind of medical advice here.

Coughing

Especially in the winter, if I have a flu, I take a spoon of raw local honey before going to bed. This stops me coughing so I can get a good night’s sleep. 

Low immune defenses

When I feel my immune defenses are low, I have a spoon of honey mixed with ginger tea. I can’t really tell if it definitely helps but, because of its antibacterial properties, it may be beneficial. 

Sugar cravings

I broke my sugar addiction a couple years ago, but I still get occasional cravings. A spoon of honey is so sweet that it makes my sugar cravings go away.

Sore Throat 

Based on my experience, if I have a sore throat, using a tablespoon of honey before going to bed helps to relieve the discomfort.  

What Honey do I use?

Different studies have found that Manuka honey (from New Zealand) and Tualang honey (from South East Asia) possess excellent antibacterial properties compared to commercial honeys.

But, some studies have found that locally-produced honey is as good as Manuka and Tualang.

I prefer to buy and use local raw honey.

Is Honey a Vegan Product?

Honey is produced in the honeybee’s stomach with enzymes and gastro acids. Honey is not derived from animals but is processed inside a bee’s stomach. Because of this I would not say it’s vegan.

Does Honey help with weight loss?

I’ve read a lot of first page Google results that say honey can help you lose weight because it is not refined and is not an empty calorie food since it contains fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients.

That’s all true although the fiber content is very VERY low. But none of these things will help you to lose weight. After all, honey (just like sugar) still contains calories. 

Replacing your added sugar intake with honey is not a guarantee to lose weight. If you have a lot of added sugar in your diet, reduce or avoid it and then you will lose weight. 

You’ll also experience many other benefits including more energy, less bloating, and a better mood – all within the first week. Join my 20 No-Sugar days challenge and ditch the sugar from your diet here.

What happens if you eat too much honey?

Because honey contains a lot of sugar, even though it’s natural and contains healthy nutrients, that’s still a high dose of sugar. If you eat too much honey, you’ll get the same symptoms as you would if you ate a lot of food that’s high in sugar:

  • Bloated sensation
  • Stomach cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Tired
  • Sleepy

More about Honey

Do you have any questions or comments about honey? Do you use honey instead of sugar? Let me know by leaving a comment.

References

The proven health benefits of honey source here

20 No-Sugar Days Diet Challenge

I had a sugar addiction. Constantly tired, constantly hungry and constantly snacking. I gain weight, I felt sleepy and constantly in a bad mood due to headaches.  Until I started to investigate about sugar and how a high sugar diet causes all those symptoms and some serious diseases. I got rid of my sugar addiction and my energy levels were back, I lost weight and my end of the day headaches were gone. It’s not magic or expensive, simply remove sugar out of your diet. It’s a challenge for 20 days and everybody can do it. It’s free and easy. Start here.

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About Author

Diogo has lived and worked in many places around the world including Madrid, Berlin, São Vicente (Cape Verde), Indonesia and Macau. Traveling, he says, is the best way to learn about himself and the people he has met along the way. With his degree in IT, and after seven years working as a web programmer, Diogo has stepped out of his comfort zone and used the experiences he gained during his travels to move into web design, SEO, and content creation. He loves to tell stories and inspire people to follow their dreams, but he knows that to do this effectively, he must first live those stories himself first  

"There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that's your own self"

Aldous Huxley

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