Whether you are stirring it into your coffee, tea, oatmeal, or making cookies with it, sugar is one food we can all agree that we need to limit. Americans consume 19.5 teaspoons of sugar per day, which is equal to 2 cans of Coke per day. In a gesture to make healthier choices, we switch to natural sweeteners, like honey, but are we actually choosing a nutritious alternative?
Sucrose (table sugar) is extracted and refined from either sugarcane or beet sugar by bleaching and crystallization to produce a white, odorless, crystalline powder with a sweet taste. 1 Tbsp of table sugar has 48 calories which comes from 12.6 grams of carbohydrate. Table sugar has no protein, fat, fiber, or vitamins and minerals. Table sugar is often called "empty calories" because although it has calories to fuel your body, it is quick energy with no other health benefits.
Honey is a supersaturated sugar solution with approximately 17.1% water (which can make baking with honey a bit tricky!), 38.5% fructose and 31% glucose. 1 Tbsp of honey has 64 calories which comes from 17 grams of carbohydrate. Honey has no fat, fiber, negligible amounts of protein (0.1 grams per 1 tablespoon), and contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals.
Honey does contain varying amounts of antioxidants but this varies based on type and amount of processing. Despite that, darker honey, like buckwheat honey, has been shown to have more antioxidants than lighter honeys, such as clover honey.
Buckwheat honey packs an equal amount of vitamin C, antioxidant power as at tomato but I'm not sure you want to eat a tomato's weight-worth of honey.
Honey does have some health benefits but you have to eat large amounts to get the same amount as you would from fruits and vegetables. At the end of the day sugar is sugar. We should limit added sugar to 37.5 grams (men) and 25 grams (women) and that includes table sugar, honey, agave, and raw sugar.
Until next time,
Amanda Rosenberg RDN