Sweeteners are used for a lot of things. You will find them in edibles such as drinks, desserts, and chewing gums, and even in daily necessities such as toothpaste. But at the end of the day, its primary purpose is to replace sugar as an ingredient. The problem is, while sweeteners have their benefits, there are still some things to be wary of.
For starters, they can help lower your calorie intake and regulate blood sugar levels, making them somewhat healthy for diabetic patients. But on the other end of it, these benefits aren’t always consistent. Some even say they may “play a role in weight gain and obesity.”
That said, what’s a good substitute for sugar then? For a lot people, honey is the first thing that comes to mind.
What’s honey, anyway?
The shared perspectives aren’t exactly wrong. Honey does indeed come from honeybees. It’s a “sweet” two-way relationship between flowers and them. When bees collect nectar to produce honey, they cross-pollinate the flowers with plants. Meanwhile, the honey ends up sustaining the bees’ colonies.
There are different kinds of honey. We’re mostly familiar with just the yellowish kind, but there are dark brown ones, too. Nevertheless, the common denominator between them is that they’re still composed of two sugars, namely, fructose and glucose. The characteristics of the honey produced depend on the flowers that bees collect nectar from. You can only imagine the variety that gets produced all over the world.
The many uses of honey
Honey is extremely versatile and has been used for many things. On top of being a sweetener, it has been used to treat some chronic wounds, ulcers, and burns. It even has some “antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidants activities” that enables its use as treatment for some scalp diseases and dandruff. If you experience seasonal allergies or cough, it can also lessen their effects.
For this article, though, we’ll be focusing on the value of honey as an alternative sweetener to sugar. Would it do just fine as part of your diet?
Is it healthy as food?
As previously mentioned, the characteristics of honey depends on the flowers in which bees take nectar from. The same principle applies to nutritional content. But they do share various similarities with each other, as they contain trace amounts of certain amino acids, antioxidants, enzymes, minerals, and vitamins. On top of this, honey is generally more “natural” than sugar, as it undergoes less processing than the latter.
Most of the antioxidants present in honey are “flavonoids,” which are nutrients that have specific anti-inflammatory effects that help shield you from disease. According to WebMD, these nutrients can prevent the development of “cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.” Honey helps reduce the risk of cancer and other viral infections, too.
Therefore, the short answer to whether honey can be a healthy part of diets is yes. But just like everything else, it also has its downsides.
Taking food in moderation
The many benefits to gain from honey are tempting. But it’s always important to strike a middle ground with food intake. Honey has slightly more calories than sugar (sucrose), making it a poor choice for those suffering from diabetes, heart disease, or obesity. For healthy people, too much of it can increase the risk for weight gain, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
As a general rule, always remember that one tablespoon of sugar contains only 49 calories, while the same amount of honey contains 64. It’s a considerable increase in calorie intake that can still affect your overall health. Some will advertise it as some sort of energy booster, but it’s only because honey causes a spike in blood sugar levels pretty quickly. That energy will die down momentarily.
Despite the benefits of any kind of food, moderation is the best route to take.
Honey as a sugar alternative
All in all, how well can honey work as an alternative to good old sugar? While there are some differences between them, they are negligible at best. So the real answer to this question is that it works just as well. Therefore, we should avoid overconsumption of both sweeteners. They provide similar benefits, yes, but they could also cause similar health problems if taken at abnormal amounts.
Here are some tips to reduce your honey and sugar intake:
- Instead of filling whole spoons with them, try to cut the amount in half.
- If you like baking, cut down the amount of sweetener you use by one-third.
- Opt for spices such as ginger or cinnamon instead of the usual sweeteners. These spices can add that signature sweetness to food minus the calories.
- When craving for sweets, check if your local market has mangoes, bananas, berries, and other fruits that can serve as alternatives.
Other types of food that often include sweeteners are coffee and chocolates. If you’re curious about their benefits and risks as well, you can check out these articles: (1) What’s the “Right” Amount of Coffee? and (2) Chocolates: Sweet Benefits for a More Healthy You.