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How Does Honey Rank Among the Sugars?

How does honey rank among the sugars? It is a good sugar alternative in many ways. Here is the science behind the benefits of honey vs. sugar, and the nutrients in honey.

How does honey rank among sugarsThe corn lobbyists would love you to believe that all sugar is just sugar, but it is simply not true. Whether or not you buy into the sweetness ratings that are used for natural and artificial sweeteners, there is a distinct difference in how the molecules are processed in the body. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on honey compared with natural sugars.

A Sugar Primer

The simplest breakdown of sugars comes down to monosaccharides and disaccharides.1 Examples of monosaccharides include glucose (dextrose), fructose, galactose, xylose and ribose. Monosaccharides are the building blocks of disaccharides such as sucrose and polysaccharides such as cellulose and starch.

How Does Honey Rank Among the Sugars?

Fructose and the Glycemic Index

Much of our concern with sugars comes from refined sugars and the glycemic index. The glycemic index is a comparative measurement of the amount of glucose released by a particular food over a two to three-hour period. Foods that rapidly release glucose rate high on the glycemic index (GI). Foods that slowly release glucose are low on the glycemic index.

Pure fructose is 1.2-1.8 times sweeter than sucrose so less is needed for the same level of sweetness. It is low on the glycemic index, therefore it does not lead to peaks and dips in the body’s glucose levels. But fructose is processed in the liver. When too much fructose enters the liver at once, the liver can’t process fructose as a sugar. Instead, the liver turns excess fructose into fats. Additionally, glucose actually accelerates fructose absorption. So when glucose and fructose are combined, more fructose is absorbed than when fructose is consumed alone. On the flip-side, small amounts of fructose actually help your body process glucose. None of this implies that fruits are “bad” for you. What it does confirm is that any food in excess can have it’s consequences. Any concerned with blood sugar control or weight loss could benefit from the following table.

Fructose and the Glycemic Index

Much of our concern with sugars comes from refined sugars and the glycemic index. The glycemic index is a comparative measurement of the amount of glucose released by a particular food over a two to three-hour period. Foods that rapidly release glucose rate high on the glycemic index (GI). Foods that slowly release glucose are low on the glycemic index. Pure fructose is 1.2-1.8 times sweeter than sucrose so less is needed for the same level of sweetness. It is low on the glycemic index, therefore it does not lead to peaks and dips in the body’s glucose levels. But fructose is processed in the liver. When too much fructose enters the liver at once, the liver can’t process fructose as a sugar. Instead, the liver turns excess fructose into fats. Additionally, glucose actually accelerates fructose absorption. So when glucose and fructose are combined, more fructose is absorbed than when fructose is consumed alone. On the flip-side, small amounts of fructose actually help your body process glucose. None of this implies that fruits are “bad” for you. What it does confirm is that any food in excess can have it’s consequences. Any concerned with blood sugar control or weight loss could benefit from the following table.

Fructose and the Glycemic Index Much of our concern with sugars comes from refined sugars and the glycemic index.  The glycemic index is a comparative measurement of the amount of glucose released by a particular food over a two to three-hour period.  Foods that rapidly release glucose rate high on the glycemic index (GI). Foods that slowly release glucose are low on the glycemic index. Pure fructose is 1.2-1.8 times sweeter than sucrose so less is needed for the same level of sweetness. It is low on the glycemic index, therefore it does not lead to peaks and dips in the body's glucose levels. But fructose is processed in the liver. When too much fructose enters the liver at once, the liver can't process fructose as a sugar. Instead, the liver turns excess fructose into fats.  Additionally, glucose actually accelerates fructose absorption. So when glucose and fructose are combined, more fructose is absorbed than when fructose is consumed alone.  On the flip-side, small amounts of fructose actually help your body process glucose.  None of this implies that fruits are “bad” for you.  What it does confirm is that any food in excess can have it’s consequences.  Any concerned with blood sugar control or weight loss could benefit from the following table.
Honey is predominantly composed of fructose. Although its fructose content varies, it typically contains about the same amount as HFCS, or more. So even though honey contains many other beneficial nutrients, you’ll want to use honey very sparingly. Because fructose is absorbed into the bloodstream more slowly, honey scores well on the glycemic index.

Honey has the highest calorie content of all sugars with 64 calories per tablespoon, compared to the 49 calories found in table sugar.

Honey is predominantly composed of fructose. Although its fructose content varies, it typically contains about the same amount as HFCS, or more. So even though honey contains many other beneficial nutrients, you’ll want to use honey very sparingly.  Because fructose is absorbed into the bloodstream more slowly, honey scores well on the glycemic index. Honey has the highest calorie content of all sugars with 64 calories per tablespoon, compared to the 49 calories found in table sugar.  Honey is predominantly composed of fructose. Although its fructose content varies, it typically contains about the same amount as HFCS, or more. So even though honey contains many other beneficial nutrients, you’ll want to use honey very sparingly.  Because fructose is absorbed into the bloodstream more slowly, honey scores well on the glycemic index. Honey has the highest calorie content of all sugars with 64 calories per tablespoon, compared to the 49 calories found in table sugar.  Honey is predominantly composed of fructose. Although its fructose content varies, it typically contains about the same amount as HFCS, or more. So even though honey contains many other beneficial nutrients, you’ll want to use honey very sparingly.  Because fructose is absorbed into the bloodstream more slowly, honey scores well on the glycemic index. Honey has the highest calorie content of all sugars with 64 calories per tablespoon, compared to the 49 calories found in table sugar.  Honey is predominantly composed of fructose. Although its fructose content varies, it typically contains about the same amount as HFCS, or more. So even though honey contains many other beneficial nutrients, you’ll want to use honey very sparingly.  Because fructose is absorbed into the bloodstream more slowly, honey scores well on the glycemic index. Honey has the highest calorie content of all sugars with 64 calories per tablespoon, compared to the 49 calories found in table sugar.  What enzymes or nutrients raw honey contains are destroyed by manufacturers who heat it in order to give it a clear appearance. Some beekeepers feed their bees sugar water for enhanced production and flavor, while others add sugar syrup to the product for the same purpose.

  • Natural, raw honey is a source of carbohydrates, containing:2
  • 80% natural sugar — mostly fructose and glucose. Due to the high level of fructose, honey is sweeter than table sugar.
  • 18% water. The less water content the honey has, the better the quality of honey.
  • 2% minerals, vitamins, pollen and protein. (The vitamins present in honey are B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and certain amino acids. The minerals  found in honey include calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc. I learnt that “conductivity” is an indirect way of measuring the mineral content of a honey. Manuka honey has a higher than normal conductivity — about 4 times that of normal flower honeys. The higher the conductivity, the better the value of the honey.)
  • All honeys contain low-to-moderate levels of antioxidants, with the darker-colored honeys having higher levels.

Honey is Naturally Antibacterial

The effective antimicrobial agent in honey prohibits the growth of certain bacteria. It contains an enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide which is believed to be the main reason for the antimicrobial activity of honey. As such, honey is a useful treatment for wounds and scalds. Cuts, abrasions and scalds can be covered in honey to prevent bacteria from entering the wound and promote healing.

Conclusion

Honey in its natural, raw form (as a whole food) offers wonderful nutrients and other benefits. It definitely stands out as a healthy choice in comparison to any of the refined sweeteners, including refined honey! In cases where I might want to reduce the total amount of fructose, I like organic maple syrup. Sugars in general should be kept to a minimum and allowed to be a special treat.

Saccharide translates to sugar: mono means one, or singular, and di means two. Two additional classes of sugars include oligosaccharides and polysaccharides.

1 Saccharide translates to sugar: mono means one, or singular, and di means two. Two additional classes of sugars include oligosaccharides and polysaccharides.

2 Honey can be fatal to an infant whose immature digestive tracts are unable to deal effectively with Botulinum Spore growth.

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Comments

  1. Andy Myers says:

    Very helpful article… I am trying to find out how much fructose, or sugar in general, one should limit themselves to in a single sitting or time frame, to avoid seeing the fructose converted to fat. Can’t seem to find anything on it.

  2. The reason you cannot find a good answer is because a lot of that is based on ‘opinion’… although there is some science involved.

    Technically, your body does not need any amount of refined sugar. Despite the advertisements, “sugar” is not a universal truth. There are different chemical structures that make each type of sugar what they are.

    Fructose is a monosaccharide that occurs in smaller quantities in nature. From plant sources, fructose is found in honey, tree and vine fruits, flowers, berries and most root vegetables. The interesting thing about fructose is that your liver processes it differently than other sugars, particilarly in large (or unnatural) quantities. If your body is already struggling with how to handle sugars, you will probably want to limit your sugars even more than someone who processes sugars better.

    I had a teacher (Naturopathic doctor) tell us that refined sugar/sweeteners should be kept under 50 grams per day. When you look at the chart below, that doesn’t add up to a whole lot of sugar! Your body processes sugar first, so smaller amounts over the course of the day is better than one big hit.

    There are 39 grams of sugar in a 12 oz Coke
    There are 46 grams of sugar in a Snapple Lemon Iced Tea (16 oz)
    There are about 23 grams of sugar in a large apple
    There are 7 grams of sugar in a teaspoon of honey

    I understand that limiting sugars can be difficult, and going cold turkey is not always the best way to succeed if you are trying to make long-term changes. http://www.fitday.com is a great way of wrapping your hands around a plan for managing your sugars in and amongst the rest of your nutrients.

    I hope that helps!

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