Every now and then, I come across people who tell me that honey is just as unhealthy as sugar. They say sugar is sugar regardless of where it comes from. It’s unfortunate that such misconceptions exist, as many people are missing out on the health benefits of honey.
Honey is Not ALL Sugar
Nutritionist Keith Kantor, PhD who authored The Green Box League of Nutritious Justice, a children’s book, said that even though honey is made up of sugar, it’s not all sugar. Honey is 30% glucose and less than 40% fructose. Sugar, on the other hand, is 50% glucose and 50% fructose.
In addition, honey also contains fewer calories than sugar and it has trace elements like zinc and selenium which are beneficial to the body. And unlike table sugar, it does not contain additives and preservations since it doesn’t breakdown in nature.
A Closer Look at Sugar (Sucrose)
Saying that honey is just as unhealthy as sugar is wrong on so many levels. You won’t see any organic store selling white sugar or any product that contains white sugar for the simple reason that it’s not good for you. But you see lots of honey products in these stores, right?
Here are some facts about sugar vs. honey you should be aware of:
1. The high fructose content in sugar is harmful to your liver. While glucose is found on every living organism on Earth, fructose is different. It is not produced naturally in our body and it is only metabolized by the liver. Eating a small amount of it is not a problem because it can be turned into glycogen (energy) but repeatedly consuming sugar can lead to many liver problems such as fatty liver disease.
2. Sugar causes insulin resistance. Our body needs insulin to function properly but when you consume large amounts of sugar on a regular basis, it can cause the cells in the body to become resistant to insulin, leading to obesity, metabolic syndrome, and type 2 diabetes.
3. Sugar can give you cancer. Insulin is also responsible for regulating the growth and multiplication of cells. With high insulin levels, it may trigger the abnormal growth of cancer cells, thus leading to cancer. In addition, sugar consumption also causes many kinds of inflammatory metabolic problems, also another cause of cancer.
4. It’s the leading cause of obesity. Kids and adults alike are at risk of becoming obese if they keep eating foods and drinks with high sugar content. There have been many studies that link sugar consumption to obesity, and the effects are particularly evident in children. Kids who consume sugar-sweetened drinks every day have an increased risk of 60% for obesity.
The main problem with processed sugar is that it’s very addictive. Consuming it causes a release of dopamine in the brain, which is similar to when a person takes drugs. As a result, you become easily addicted to sugar without you even realizing it.
Honey is the Better Sugar Alternative
Some circles consider honey to be unhealthy mainly because of its sugar content. But people tend to forget that humans have been consuming honey throughout our evolutionary history. Honey bees collect nectar from plant liquids and its production takes place inside a beehive. Moreover, honey is not just all sugar. As I have mentioned earlier, it has vitamins and minerals (in trace amounts) and it also contains antioxidants which in general, are associated with lower risk of disease and better health.
Honey may raise blood sugar but the level is much, much less than the effects of dextrose and sucrose. It can also prevent inflammation in the body since it can lower the amount of C-Reactive Protein, lower LDL cholesterol, and increase HDL cholesterol.
Choose Dark Honey
Not all honey are created equal. The composition of honey varies depending on where it was harvested by the bees. Some types of honey have up to 20x more antioxidants than others. Darker honey is also much better than light-colored honey.
One study conducted by scientists from the University of Illinois evaluated 19 honey samples from 14 different sources. They found that honey from buckwheat flowers had twenty times more antioxidants than those from California sage flowers. For people looking to boost their body’s ability to fight illness, consuming dark honey may just be the answer.
The researchers also reiterated that even though the antioxidant content in buckwheat honey is equal to veggies and fruits, it should not replace them in your diet because fruits and veggies do have other things to offer aside from antioxidants.