Sugar is sugar, right? Don’t be so sure. Packaging matters, and we’re not talking about 45-calorie packets from Starbucks. White sugar is so processed and refined that almost no nutritional value is left by the time it hits your tea or yogurt.
You have options, though. Forget the synthetic sugar substitutes. For the best nutritional bang for your buck, look to honey.
Watch Your Sugar
No one is saying an excess of sugar is good for you. In fact, overconsumption of sugar (especially added sugar, as opposed to sugar found naturally in foods) is one of the biggest public health risks of the 21st century. The average American consumes more than 150 pounds of sugar per year.
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
It is important to cut sugar where you can. But, if you like things sweet, honey is one of the best choices available.
Types of Sugar
Gram for gram, all types of sugar have the same number of calories: 4 calories. That doesn’t mean all sugars are created equal, as we mentioned earlier. Honey’s main advantage here is its chemical structure.
Honey and white granulated sugar both contain glucose and fructose (two forms of sugar), but while white sugar has them both hooked together, in honey they are in separate molecular packets.
Glucose fuels cells. Insulin brings it into the cells where it is used for energy. When it is not immediately used, glucose is converted to glycogen and stored in the liver or muscles. Fructose, on the other hand, has to be converted into a useable form by the liver, and if it is not used immediately, it gets stored as cholesterol and triglycerides, both of which can be harmful to the heart in excess quantities.
Honey having both glucose and fructose present is a clear advantage over regular sugar.
Health Benefits of Honey
Honey is easier on the body than sugar, but the benefits don’t stop there. Because it is less processed, honey can often have more beneficial compounds taken from the plants from which it is made, which are called phytochemicals. Some types of honey can have more than 70 phytochemicals.
These phytochemicals, especially the ones known as antioxidants, may provide a range of benefits. Antioxidants such as polyphenols fight against free radicals, which cause a process called oxidation that destroys cells’ DNA.
Although definitive scientific evidence is hard to come by when discussing the medicinal effects of food, some studies have suggested that honey can cut the risk of certain dangerous diseases. A 2008 study in Scientific World Journal examined data from 55 obese or overweight people, some of whom took 70 grams of honey a day for 30 days.
The patients in the study who took honey saw a slight reduction in weight and body fat. They also had reductions of total cholesterol levels and LDL cholesterol levels (the “bad” kind of cholesterol), and an increase in HDL cholesterol (the “good” kind).
Another study, this one published in 2016 in Journal of Food Biochemistry, identifies a number of phytochemicals in honey that may protect against colon cancer, and concluded that honey may decrease colon cancer cells’ tendency to reproduce. A 2018 study in Food and Function suggests honey may induce cell death in colon cancer cells.
What Type of Honey Is Best?
You want your honey to be as minimally processed and as fresh as you can get it, and it doesn’t get any fresher than straight from the hive. Watch as our own Dr. Trivedi sets up his new beehive!