Is Honey Good For You? Is It Better For You Than Sugar?

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We all need a little sweetness in our lives. And by that we mean your body needs some sugar to function properly. Unfortunately, what our body needs and what we tend to give it are usually way out of whack when it comes to sugar, which is the main reason it has become public enemy number one of late.

As standard sugar’s stock has fallen, there has been a corresponding rise in the stock of other “good” sugars like honey. The bad news is that the sugar in honey, maple syrup, agave nectar and all other sources of sugar is still sugar, and it’s no better for you than the white granulated form of the sweet stuff. However, that is not to say that there are no benefits to switching your sugar for an alternative like honey, because the latter brings a lot more to your table than just sugar.

For more information about the health benefits of honey and whether it’s worth making the switch from traditional sugar, we spoke to dietitian Ro Huntriss.

What are the nutritional benefits of honey?

Honey naturally contains vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that can help to prevent damage to the cells in our body, and has been known for its medicinal properties since ancient times. Some experts have suggested that honey exhibits antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and could help to improve gut health due to its prebiotic qualities.

What are the downsides?

Honey is high in sugar and more specifically high in free sugars, which means the sugars that are added to food but also those that are present naturally in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juices. Consumption of free sugars increases energy (calorie) intake, which could lead to weight gain, and can increase risk of tooth decay. Honey can also raise blood sugar levels, which is an important consideration for people with diabetes or pre-diabetes.

Is honey different to other kinds of sugar? Are there any benefits to switching out white granulated sugar for honey?

Honey offers more potential nutritional benefits than sugar. However, honey still contains sugar and therefore calories, so its consumption could be counterproductive when you’re trying to manage your weight. If your weight is under control and you currently consume sugar, swapping this for a small amount of honey is a viable option – just ensure you are staying within the government’s recommendations of less than 30g of free sugars a day. One tablespoon of honey contains approximately 17g of sugar.

Some nutrition experts recommend manuka honey for its healthy properties. How is it different from other types of honey?

Manuka honey is derived from the manuka bush in New Zealand and its popularity has risen significantly in recent years. It is said to have anti-inflammatory effects, and has also been reported to have a unique antibacterial action which has been likened to the effect of traditional antibiotics. However, more research on this interesting topic is needed.

Ro Huntriss is a consultant dietitian and Expert for the TerriAnn 123 Diet Plan

Nick Harris-Fry
Senior writer

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.