Raw Honey vs Sugar

Most articles comparing raw honey vs sugar will point to differences in either macronutrients or micronutrients. Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are the macronutrients you receive from food, while micronutrients are the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and various other compounds that foods provide in varying quantities. Below, we compare raw honey to sugar through both a macronutrient and micronutrient lens - and declare one the more nutritionally superior

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Macronutrient Comparison  

A thorough comparison of honey and sugar requires data. We’ll look at the nutrition facts of each (sourced via nutritiondata.self.com) side by side.

raw honey vs sugar macronutrients

For all intents and purposes, there is very little macronutrient difference between honey and sugar.
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Low-carb diet subscribers beware: while honey has a very small amount of protein not present in sugar, both are nearly 100% carbohydrates, as you might expect.
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While honey is more caloric if eaten at a 1:1 ratio with sugar, many who substitute honey when baking claim you can use much less...and end up saving calories as a result.

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Macronutrient Result: Push. Both raw honey and sugar are very similar from a macronutrient perspective.

Micronutrient Comparison

Raw honey, relative to sugar, really shines when comparing micronutrients, and the reason is relatively simple: processing. Sugar, as most know it - granulated table sugar - loses nearly all of its micronutrients during the refinement process. Conversely, raw honey, by definition, has not been processed. However, unless specifically labeled as raw, most honey in large grocery stores has been processed and is also devoid of all micronutrients.
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raw honey before extraction
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Note: If you plan to cook/heat raw honey, it will lose some of its micronutrients. To get the most nutritional benefits from raw honey, we recommend eating it without heating it or to heat it as little as possible.

Vitamins & Minerals

The amount of vitamins and minerals in raw honey should lead you to the conclusion that raw honey shouldn’t be viewed as your multivitamin replacement, but where sugar offers no vitamin or mineral content, raw honey does.

raw honey vs sugar nutrition facts vitamins comparison

raw honey vs sugar nutrition facts minerals comparison

Antioxidants & Enzymes

Sugar has very minimal antioxidant activity and contains no enzymes. So below we'll focus specifically on the antioxidant properties and enzymes often found in raw honey...

Antioxidants are agents that prevent free radicals from oxidizing (causing damage) to cells in your body. Researchers believe there is a strong link between these damage causing free radicals and many diseases, such as heart disease and cancer.
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Raw honey contains polyphenols which are linked with strong antioxidant activity. While the amount of polyphenols can vary quite a bit by type of honey (determined by the type of plants bees collect nectar from), scientists have determined that darker colored honeys typically yield higher activity levels of antioxidants. In fact, Dr. May Berenbaum, head of the University of Illinois’ entomology department says “Gram for gram, antioxidants in buckwheat honey equals those of fruits and vegetables.”
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Enzymes are biological molecules present in all living things, that serve a purpose of speeding up chemical reactions, like digestion. The following three enzymes are the most commonly found in raw honey: diastase (amylase), invertase, and glucose oxidase.
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  • Diastase speeds up the process of transforming starches into maltose and, ultimately, glucose. With a lack of diastase in your system, you might suffer from partial digestion, which can prohibit your body from extracting all the nutritional value out of consumed food and leave you feeling bloated. As you age, the body begins to slow the natural production of enzymes, therefore the elderly and people who consume a lot of processed foods can greatly benefit from a bump in the amount of diastase in their diet.
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  • Invertase assists in the breakdown of sucrose (table sugar) into its components of glucose and fructose. Invertase is critical to the prevention of toxic fermentation, ulcers, and other digestive diseases by reducing the stomach toxicity by quickly creating pre-digested simple sugars from sucrose which prevents the fermentation process from occurring. Fermentation in your stomach can often result in the fostering of bacteria and disease in the digestive tract.
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  • Glucose oxidase assists in the breakdown of glucose into hydrogen peroxide and gluconolactone. The production of hydrogen peroxide within the body is critical, as hydrogen peroxide is often the first weapon the white blood cells (immune system) in your body will deploy to fight parasite, bacteria, toxins, and viruses.

Micronutrient Result: Raw honey. Raw honey simply has more micronutrient activity than sugar.

Conclusion

Similar from a macronutrient point of view, but quite different when viewed through a micronutrient lens, we believe that the health benefits of raw honey prove it to be a much superior sweetener than sugar. Not to be confused with much of the highly processed honey you’ll find in a large grocery store, honey should be raw to ensure its powerful micronutrients are preserved.

If you're looking for a reliable source for raw honey, we're proud to partner directly with beekeepers across the US to offer several varieties of raw honey for sale in our online store. This includes single nectar source varietals, like our raw orange blossom honey or raw sage honey, as well as regional varieties of raw honey like our California wildflower honey or Texas wildflower honey.

Finally, while artificial sweeteners offer the lowest calorie option to satiate a sweet tooth; they have been linked with potential side effects, so tread cautiously when considering a zero calorie substitute.