What is the difference between honey and sugar and what about agave syrup? In this Honey vs Sugar Versus guide we’ll look at honey and at the different kinds of sugars to see just what the nutritional differences are, while also covering cost, availability, taste and more.
Honey vs Sugar: Basic
Sugar is a simple carbohydrate that is processed quickly by the body and is used as an energy source. Excessive consumption can lead to obesity and then diabetes and other problems, but sugar in small amounts is fine and even essential.
A lot of the fruits and vegetables we eat contains sugar. This is natural sugar in the form of glucose and fructose. It’s considered healthier than the sugar that you buy from the grocery store. This is highly processed and refined and just doesn’t sit as well with our bodies as natural sugars do.
Refined sugar comes from the sucrose found in sugarcane and sugar beet. These are not very sweet in their natural form. In fact, sugarcane is technically a grass, while sugar beet is closely related to chard. You wouldn’t put either on a cake, but once they chop, mince, squeeze, process and whiten, the end product is a crystalized sucrose that gives us the sweetness we all love.
Honey, on the other hand, is a natural product produced by bees from pollen taken from a host of flowers. The type of flower imparts a unique flavor to the honey, which is why there are so many different types out there.
Honey vs Sugar: Health Benefits
There are few nutritional benefits, if any, from consuming sugar. The same goes for high fructose corn syrup. These are highly processed sugars that provide refinde carbohydrates and nothing more. They will give you an energy boost, but we all know that refined sugars are no good for us and that, ideally, that energy boost should come from other sources.
Honey can be one such source. It’s also not ideal because it causes a fast spike and it is energy dense, but it’s considerably healthier than sugar and if an instant kick of energy is needed from a simple sugar (on the most basic level, it’s water and sugar), then you can’t do much better than honey.
Honey consists of around 2% vitamins and minerals, as well as bee pollen, which has attracted a lot of attention in recent years and is now considered to be a superfood. Some honey contains more vitamins and minerals than others. It all depends on the flower.
Honey is also rich in antioxidants, not as much as tea or coffee, but enough to give your daily intake of these healthy nutrients a boost.
Honey vs Sugar: Cost
Honey is obviously quite a bit more expensive than sugar. Sugar tends to cost around $.70 for a couple pounds, and you’ll pay a similar price (£0.70) in the UK and other countries. This will go a very long way and represents good value for money.
Honey can set you back a couple dollars for a small jar of basic, blended honey, about $5 to $10 for a higher quality honey produced from a single source, and upwards of $30 for honey like Manuka, which is produced in a single region and offers more medicinal qualities (not to mention a medicinal taste).
Honey vs Sugar: Varieties of Sugar
Below we will look at the best types of honey, offering our opinion on a number of big sellers and rare types. But what about sugar, do the other types offer something better and something more nutritious?
Well, yes and no. It’s still sugar. It still comes from beets and cane and it’s still a simple carb. However, dark and unrefined sugar is not processed as much and it doesn’t go through the whitening process either. Obviously, the less processing the better, so this is a good thing, but in terms of the consumption of simple carbs, it’s the same.
If you can afford it, we would recommend trying out different types and going for the least processed one. Really though, it all comes down to taste. Certain dark sugars work great for sauces like butterscotch, while the light, powdered sugars are better suited for decoration.
The Best Types of Honey
We usually keep opinions out of it here on Versus-All, looking only at the facts. But we feel like we should offer a little opinion here. We love honey and consider ourselves aficionados, having tried many types.
The basic honey is great and makes for a good addition to tea. If you want something strong and dark, we would recommend Greek Thyme honey over Black Forest Honey. The former is much more fragrant and also a little sweeter, while there is a certain pungent quality to the latter.
Manuka is probably the most expensive, but it has a medicinal taste that is not going to please most consumers. Heather honey is also somewhat of an acquired taste. Our personal favorite is Orange Blossom honey. This is a medium priced honey (unless you live near some big producers) and it has a light, fresh and fragrant citrus tang that makes it perfect for everything,
Agave vs Sugar
Agave is a natural source of sugar, just like honey. The fact that it is natural has helped to make this a big seller in recent years and it is being used to sweeten coffee, to bake and pretty much everything else where sugar is required.
However, it has now come full circle and is starting to receive a lot of bad press. The truth is that it is probably just as bad as high fructose corn syrup, because in many ways that’s basically what it is. There are healthy properties in the agave plant, but these don’t make it to the syrup and this is far from a healthy alternative.
Agave vs Honey
Honey is more natural, less refined and, quite frankly, tastier. It’s not as cheap as agave and it doesn’t seem to have a big rep right now. That’s because it has been around for a long time and isn’t “fad” enough for the health market. But don’t dismiss it. It’s not a superfood and we’re not saying you should start consuming it by the bucket-full, but by all means swap it out for sugar and agave here and there.