When food companies want to entice consumers to buy their sweetened products, they use terms such “Honey sweetened”. Sometimes they do this even when sugar is the main sweetener, and honey is barely present.
This is because in most people’s minds, honey is healthier than sugar.
But what does the science say? Is honey truly a healthier choice?
Honey is composed mostly of the monosaccharide molecules glucose and fructose, just like table sugar. It has a higher moisture content than table sugar, about 17% water. Small amounts of pollen, wax, and minerals are also found in honey.
One teaspoon of honey has 22 calories vs only 16 calories for sugar. This seems counter-intuitive because a teaspoon of honey contains only 82% sweeteners vs 99.98% for table sugar. The caloric difference can be explained by the higher density of honey in a teaspoon compared to table sugar. A tablespoon of honey weighs 28 grams almost twice the weight of a tablespoon of sugar – 16 grams.
In sugar, the fructose and glucose molecules are bound together chemically into a molecule called sucrose. Sugar is 100% sucrose.
In honey, the fructose and glucose molecules float around separately. There is slightly more fructose than glucose. Since fructose is sweeter than glucose, honey is a bit sweeter than sugar.
Bottom line: Both honey and sugar should be consumed in limited amounts. Honey may have a slight edge, but excess consumption of either is a more dangereous to your health than the advantage of choosing one over the other.