Honey Vs Sugar:
A Comparison


Honey vs sugar: which is the best?

Is honey better than sugar, are there any health benefits of eating honey, and if so, should we try and substitute honey for sugar? 

Here is a comparison of honey and sugar based on nutritional values and calorie content expressed as a ‘Percentage of the Ideal Daily Value’ (% DV) and based on a typical daily calorie intake of 2000. I think this is the best way to put honey in perspective, so that we can really see where honey holds its value in our diet. 

In particular, in our comparison of honey vs sugar we'll take a look at:

  • calorie and carbohydrate comparison of honey vs sugar, including carbohydrate type
  • Vitamin Content
  • Protein and Amino Acids Content 
  • Mineral Content

I have compiled the results into separate nutritional tables (below).

Only when armed with the facts can we really consider whether honey is healthier than sugar!

In order to add further perspective, I added in a further food (although not in table form): actually an apple! 

Why an apple?  Well why not?  Especially where minerals are concerned, I thought it would be a good idea to compare honey with an additional every-day, healthy food.

However, honey is not just about nutrition

Nutrition is not the whole story with honey and its health benefits.

For one thing, honey contains specific anti-bacterial properties and has been found to assist in controlling MRSA in hospitals. You can read more about this on my page Is Honey Good For You?. The anti-bacterial and humectant (moisture preserving or retaining) properties of honey may also be a reason why some people try honey for acne, and honey facial masks.

Different honeys may have slightly different nutritional and anti-bacterial properties

Ordinary granulated sugar may hardly differ from one brand to the next, but honey can vary due to the differing properties of the flora from which the bees gather the honey.  For example, the properties of Manuka honey may be different from those of say, honey from bees that were foraging on garden flowers, orchards, oil seed rape, wildflowers, clover and so on.


Not only are there some variations  depending on where the bees have been foraging, but also, depending on how the honey has been processed. Raw honey may be different from soft set honey.

During my research, I have used several data sources, and those sources of information were obviously based on different batches of honey.

Finally, please do see my message at the bottom about buying honey ethically, and why it's important!

So.....honey vs sugar ........is honey better than sugar?

Nutritional Comparison of Honey and Granulated Sugar

Calorie and Carbohydrate Comparison

From the tables, you can see that 100g of granulated white sugar contains more calories versus 100g of honey. Remember that honey consists of about 17% water (water having no calories), whereas granulated white table sugar contains no water.

Per 100g, honey has 304 calories, whereas granulated sugar provides 387 calories per 100g.

Honey vs sugar: tables comparing calories

Honey: Calories (Per 100g)
%DV
Calories 304 (1237 kJ)
15%
From Carbohydrates
303 (1273 kJ)
From Fat
Nil
From Protein
1.0 (4.2 kJ)


Granulated Sugar: Calories (Per 100g)
%DV
Calories 387 (1620 kJ)
19%
From Carbohydrates
387 (1620 kJ)
From Fat
Nil
From Protein
Nil

Granulated sugar is 100% carbohydrate derived from sugars.

Honey carbohydrate is also comprised almost entirely of sugars, but with 1 calorie provided by protein. However, the types of sugars inside honey are entirely different from those found in granulated table sugar.

Granulated sugar consists of 100% sucrose.

Honey consists of only about 1.5g of sucrose, and the rest comprises other forms of sugar, especially fructose and glucose.

This is particularly relevant if you are an athlete or are engaging in sport, due to the provision of both short and sustained energy provision. This is because  Glucose is absorbed quickly by the body, giving the body an immediate boost of energy. 

Meanwhile, the Fructose is absorbed more slowly, providing energy over a longer period.

Therefore, because honey contains high levels of both glucose and fructose, it may provide both an immediate and sustained energy boost to those engaging in sports, in relatively small quantities.

You can read a little more about this on my page ‘Calories in Honey’ – there’s a link at the bottom of this page.

Honey vs sugar: tables comparing carbohydrate

Honey: Carbohydrate (Per 100g)
%DV
Total Carbohydrate
82.mg 27%
Dietry Fibre
0.2g 1%
Starch Nil
Sugars 82.1g
Sucrose 890mg
Glucose 85744mg
Fructose 4093mg
Maltose 1440mg
Galactose 3100mg


Granulated Sugar: Carbohydrates (Per 100g)
%DV
Total Carbohydrate
100g 33%
Dietry Fibre
0.0g
Starch Nil
Sugars 99.9g

If you are dieting and wish to substitute honey for sugar as part of a calorie controlled diet, then honey may help to sustain your energy levels, and in theory, you won't need quite as much, because honey is sweeter – but I do not advise you to eat a lot of it! 

When you look at how many calories are in honey, the advantage over sugar is a modest one where dieters are concerned!

At the end of the day, honey still contains a lot of calories.  Just because this website is about bees, I don't think it is a good thing to try and sell to readers ideas about honey and nutrition that could be misleading!

There’s more about the topic of honey and weight loss if you follow the link here, but first, why not read on as there's some interesting background on this page.


Vitamin Content Comparison of Honey vs White Sugar

Honey certainly contains some vitamins, whereas white granulated sugar contains no vitamins at all. 

Honey provides 1% of your recommended Vitamin C, Niacin (Vitamin B3), Folate (a water-soluble B vitamin) and Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5) requirement.

Honey vs sugar: comparing vitamins

Honey: Vitamins (Per 100g)
%DV
Vitamin C
0.5mg 1%
Niacin 0.1mg 1%
Folate 2.0mcg 0%
Pantothenic Acid
0.1mg 1%
Choline 2.2mg
Betaine 1.7mg


There are no vitamins in granulated sugar


However, it has to be said that the vitamin content in honey is not massive.

For example, as stated, the table shows that if you eat 100g of honey, you’ll only get 1% of your daily recommended amount of vitamin C – and you’ll get a lot of calories (over 300!).

On the other hand, I happened to look at the vitamin C content of an apple.  If you eat 100g of raw, fresh, unpeeled apple, you’ll get 8% of your daily requirement of vitamin C, and you’ll consume only 52 calories!

Of course, apples have other vitamins too, but if high energy is a priority, or you are needing to put on weight,  then honey is better for you.

……well, I said I wanted to put things in perspective! …… Now do read on!




Honey Vs Sugar For Protein and Amino Acids Content

Honey contains quality protein, albeit a very tiny amount, and 100g of honey gives you a score of 19.

The closer the score to 100, the better. In this respect, honey is significantly better than sugar. But what about that raw apple? Believe it or not, 100g of the humble apple gets a score of 31!

Sugar on the otherhand, gets a miserable zero!

Honey vs sugar: tables comparing protein and amino acids

Honey: Protein & Amino Acids (Per 100g)
%DV
Protein 0.3g 1%
Amino Acid Score
19


Granulated Sugar: Protein & Amino Acids (Per 100g)
%DV
Protein 0.0g 0%
Amino Acid Score
0





Honey Vs Sugar: Mineral Content Comparison

Sugar has very little mineral content.

100g of Honey is better, offering 1% of your daily calcium, potassium, zinc and selenium intake, 2% of your recommended daily iron  value, and 4% for manganese.   However, again these are small percentages of the daily recommended amount, and a lot of calories.

So yes, honey is healthier than white sugar in terms of minerals, but you will still need to find other sources of these minerals in additional foods. 

Honey vs sugar: tables comparing minerals

Honey: Minerals (Per 100g)
%DV
Calcium 6.0mg 1%
Iron 0.4mg 2%
Magnesium 2.0mg 0%
Phosphorus 4.0mg 0%
Potassium 52.0mg 1%
Sodium 4.0mg 0%
Zinc 0.2mg 1%
Manganese 0.1mg 4%
Selenium 0.8mcg 1%
Flouride 7.0mcg


Granulated Sugar: Minerals (Per 100g)
%DV
Calcium 1.0mg 0%
Potassium 2.0mg 0%
Selenium 0.6mcg 1%
Flouride 1.0mcg









So, Honey vs Sugar - What’s the Conclusion?  Is Honey Better For You Than Sugar?

It seems that honey is more nutritious than white granulated sugar. If you are engaging in sports, then honey has benefits. (Don't forget to see my link 'Calories in Honey' below).

However, if it's vitamins & minerals you're after, then you may be better off looking to fruits and vegetables, because honey is very high in calories, and in order to get your daily requirement you'd have to eat a lot of it (and no doubt put on weight). Get yourself a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables.

As an aside, I heartily recommend consulting nutritional guides for a fuller perspective of foods generally, for example, The Food Report Card: 12,000 Favorite Foods Including Brand-Name Products, Graded A,B,C, or D For Nutritional Value.

Balanced diet is key in my view!






Should I Substitute Honey for Sugar?

It depends, but my views are as follows:

- If you are engaging in sports and need the energy, honey could be beneficial.

- If you’re on a diet, you could substitute honey for sugar if we are talking about a teaspoon here or there. However, don’t eat lots of honey, because it is high in calories - substitute honey for sugar only as part of your calorie controlled diet - i.e. less than a teaspoon of honey instead of sugar. You may also be interested to read about the vinegar and honey diet!  And this page comparing carbs and calories in honey vs sugar vs maple syrup and other sweeteners.

- If you have diabetes, you should not eat honey.  Please see this link.

- Generally, I would say ‘everything in moderation’. If you are getting your full vitamins and minerals from a good balanced diet, there is no major need to use honey instead of sugar.

- Although sugar is made from plants and therefore starts off as a natural product, it is then refined and processed. However, there are organic, fairly traded versions available. There are also alternatives to honey, such as maple syrup.

- Most commonly, I think people replace sugar with honey in small quantities, not because of diet but because of taste!

- Of course, there are reputedly other health benefits of honey too, and many home remedies made from honey. Check this page to learn more.

Honey vs Sugar in Bee Diets!

Just one more thing before you go......

A honey bee only makes 1 twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in its life time.

In other words, honey is to be treasured and valued, and should never be a commodity.  In some countries, the product sold as honey may not be pure honey, but a combination of corn syrup and honey, or it may be contaminated honey imported cheaply from overseas.  See Buying Honey.

As you can see, humans don't actually NEED honey, so if you are going to buy it, please try to support sustainable practices.  If possible, support a small scale local beekeeper who you trust.





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Find out more about the calories in honey and its use as a high energy food.

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