Honey vs. Sugar - Which is Healthier?

Are you trying to reduce or avoid refined sugar but need a sweet fix?
 Honey may 'bee' the answer!


We love our cakes, chocolates and biscuits – there really is nothing quite like enjoying or sharing a sugary treat is there?  Whether it’s to provide that hit of energy, mental stimulation, comfort or enhance our homemade culinary delights, often only something sweet will do!

Devouring a sweet snack tantalises our taste buds, lifts our spirits by releasing a heady dose of the ‘feel-good’ chemical dopamine into our bodies – I don’t know about you but I’m craving something sugary just writing this!

What’s Up Sugar?

However, it has been well documented that too much sugar in our diets can have damaging effects on our health…….not ideal for those of us harbouring a sweet tooth is it? 

Nonetheless, it’s not all bad news

Some sugars are better than others.  We all probably acknowledge that naturally occurring sugars such as those in fruits are undoubtedly to be favoured, but what about ‘added sugar?’ 

Added sugar is any type of sugar that we (or a manufacturer) add to food: that could be for example cane sugar, maple syrup, coconut sugar or honey - this added sugar is what we should endeavour to control in our diet.

However, opting for some of these sugars over others constitutes a wiser health choice.

Britain’s Sweet Seduction

The UK demand for cane sugar is currently around 2 million tonnes annually!

Did you know that the vast majority of UK consumer sugar consumption is in the form of refined granulated sugar which, containing virtually no vitamins, minerals, proteins, fat or fibre, has been widely condemned as the ‘worst’ form of sugar for our health?

So, what’s the alternative?

The pros and cons of different sugars make up such a vast topic to navigate that we thought we would focus on the advantages of using a natural sugar with which we are very familiar, as a alternative to Britain’s beloved granulated sugar.

Yep, you guessed it, honey of course! ;-)

So, read on to find out why honey makes a great alternative to sugar, discover some shocking facts about ‘supermarket’ honey and delve into some scrummy honey recipes along with our video demo to inspire some ‘bee-utiful’ honey cookery at home!

Honey V’s Sugar

Both Honey and sugar are carbohydrates composed primarily of glucose and fructose, but why should you reach for the honey pot rather than the sugar jar?

  1. More than just Sweetness

    Unlike sugar, which contains zero extra vitamins or nutrients, raw honey is a functional food known as a nutraceutical: a natural food with additional health gains.

    Raw honey contains a number of particles containing an immense wealth of health benefits – these include propolis, royal jelly and pollen which all provide honey with its antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties.

    Also present in raw honey and adding to it’s health credentials are:
  • Enzymes
  • Aminno acids
  • Vitamin B2, B3,B5,B6, and C
  • Minerals
  • Phytonutrients
  • Pollen
  • Antioxidants
  • Propolis
  • Magnesium, potassium, calcium, sulphur and phosphate
 Isn’t nature amazing?

2. The Perfect Balance

Honey generally has close to a 50:50 ratio of fructose to glucose, which is ideal for your liver. Without the balance of fructose, ingesting high levels of glucose prompts the body to respond by storing it as fat.

It has been acknowledged that replacing sugar with honey might help with weight management.

Researchers behind a 2011 study (www.medicalnewstoday.com) found that replacing sucrose with honey helped prevent weight gain and reported that honey can activate hormones that suppress appetite in humans.

3. Decreased Diabetes Risk

Honey has a lower glycemic index (rate of digestion and absorption into the blood stream) than sugar which means it won’t spike your blood sugar levels or wreak havoc with your insulin in the way that sugar will, therefore carrying less of a risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes when used in moderation.

Honey provides us with energy over a longer duration than sugar – researchers have in fact found that swapping sugar for raw honey is an effective way to keep blood sugar levels steady.

4.  Digestive Difference

Honey, thanks to the addition of enzymes by the bees, is easy to digest as the sugars are already partially broken.

This little pot of gold has been generally acclaimed to help ease digestive issues, proving a potent prebiotic by nourishing the good bacteria that live in our intestines.

Sugar, in comparison, is lacking in any enzymes and proves much harder for our body to digest.

5. Phytonutrient Powerhouse

Phytonutrients are amazingly clever compounds found in plants that help protect them from insects and ultraviolet radiation, promoting their life.

These phytonutrients are present in raw honey and widely considered  the reason honey has shown immune-boosting and anticancer benefits. 

Sugar on the other hand is defect of any phytonutrients.

6. Versatile Virtuosity

Not just delicious and nutritious,  you can count on your yummy honey to come to the rescue in your day-to-day life - it has been shown to help clear infections, act as an anti inflammatory, a natural cough remedy,  prove effective as an antiseptic wound dressing and help build natural immunity against allergies.

Oh, and of course, as nature’s naturally healing humectant (both attracting and retaining moisture)  it makes a great addition to skincare products, serving to moisturise, nourish and protect even the most sensitive and delicate of skins and hair and is used throughout our range

Or, your honey can simply be used alone to soothe red, sore or infected skin - simply smear a layer over the skin, leave for 20 minutes and rinse with warm water!

The Shocking Truth about ‘Supermarket’ Honey

However, not all honey is equal.

You would be forgiven for thinking that if you pick up a jar of honey at the shops you would be pretty certain of its ingredients, especially if it is labelled '100% honey’ right?

Shockingly this is not the case, despite labels promising pure honey, certain loopholes in international regulations mean that most of the honey on offer is either watered down or un ethically harvested – not good for us, not good for the bees.

Sweet but Suspect

The results of a 2020 study published in The Mail on Sunday  found evidence that honeys from Co-op, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda had been bulked out with cheap syrups made form rice and corn – possibly representing the UK’s biggest food fraud since the horse meat scandal in 2013.

Analysis commissioned by the Honey Authenticity Project found that certain honeys in these stores contained psicose - a sugar not normally occurring naturally in honey and a marker of syrup adulteration.

Doesn’t sound nice for us or beekeepers does it?

In fact, did you know that the UK imports 50,000 tons of honey each year – a third of this being from China?

More often than not, driven by greed to produce as much honey for as little expenditure as possible, this honey is harvested before it’s ready (‘unripe’) which means it is watery and thin. Not very yummy!

The ‘honey’ is then dried down to a resin, transported and then rehydrated - much like fruit juices from concentrate.

Suppliers also often add various sweet or sugary syrups  to stretch their honey supply – doesn’t sound very appealing does it and you won’t find the precise origin of the honey labelled on the jar so steer clear of anything marked ‘Non EU Honey’.

What about Quality Control?

Sadly these ‘honey fraudsters’ have many a trick up their sleeve and quality inspectors struggle to detect the ever changing syrupy ‘nasties’ introduced into the honey – much like doping in sports where the ever changing types of drugs become harder for authorities to detect.

Even more horrifying is the fact that, again out of financial incentive, certain suppliers will import this ‘non EU honey’, repackage it and export it as ‘EU honey!’

Again, this is challenging to detect as European pollen is often added to mask or confuse the honey’s true origin when tested.

The Brexit Bane

Thanks to Brexit discerning the origin and authenticity of your supermarket honey will become even harder due to new laws introduced form October 2022 whereby all British honey will be labelled ‘non EU Honey’ – so there will be zero labelling differentiation between this and the watered down, added sugar syrup ‘Chinese’ variety!

The Crystallisation Conundrum

Even when it does come to British Supermarket honey, you will find it to be ultra filtered, homogenised and heated in a process which removes its goodness, rendering it a sugary syrup rather than an authentic honey.

One of the reasons for this is to prevent the crystallisation process which, although completely non detrimental to your honey, is often incorrectly thought by consumers to be an unattractive aesthetic, an indication that that the honey is ‘bad’( honey never goes ‘off’!) or a sign that sugar has in fact been added to it.  All falsehoods.

The heating process which serves to delay crystallisation involves heating the honey up to 75C, therefore killing every naturally present beneficial nutrient and enzyme.

As a result  this ‘dead’ honey offers no health benefits and, just like refined sugar, serves to solely provide a sugar hit. This is not the type of honey we want as our sugar alternative!

Contrastingly, raw honey is never heated above the maximum temperature of the hive (37C-40C), thus preserving all it’s health giving nutritional benefits.

So, if you ever notice your raw honey crystallising (often in cooler temperatures) and wonder why it isn’t completely clear like the supermarket ones ,it’s just a sign that it is pure and untreated – it’s simply the result of glucose attaching to the natural pollen particles and has no impact on its quality or taste ! 

So honey, how can you ensure you are getting the real deal?

Lend a hand to your local pollinators, whilst ensuring your honey is pure, raw and ethically sourced, by buzzing down to your local independent beekeeper, farm shop, or market. 

Not only will you be ensuring your honey contains all of its natural raw goodness, you will also be supporting all those wonderful, small, honest honey stockists and beekeepers whilst reducing the demand for imported honey or sugar and the consequential carbon footprint.

Have you tried our Raw Welsh Honey?

Trust and transparency is important to us here at HBB, meaning you can rest assured that our honey is exactly that – pure, raw unfiltered, unadulterated, straight from the hive and this is the only honey that ever goes into our skincare products.

For us, the welfare of our bees is paramount, we work in harmony with them to harness the amazing benefits of their nectar – we even have some vegans amongst our ‘bee-utiful’ customers who have chosen us as a result of our thoughtful beekeeping. 

Also, did you know that by purchasing our honey as your sugar alternative you are personally contributing to helping our UK bees? As with all our products,  1p in every £1 you spend we donate to the Bumblebee Conservation Trust 

So, if you are local why not pop in and pick up a jar of our delectable Raw Welsh Honey? Or if not, support our British bees from the comfort of your sofa and order a pot from our online shop?  Click HERE for more details.

We promise you it’s a yummy sugar substitute – we may be biased, but have a peak at what our customers think HERE

The Precious Tradition of Gifting Honey for Christmas

Did you know that the tradition of gifting honey goes way back to Ancient Egyptian practices and has long been regarded as a valuable gift by nobles and royalty alike?

As it never goes ‘off’, raw honey was passed on as a precious offering through generations and over time many countries incorporated honey as part of their Christmas celebrations.

In Greece and Russia it has become a principal part of church practices and throughout Europe many families include honey as part of their Christmas Eve feasting.

A longstanding symbol of wealth, prosperity and health, of blessings and happiness, gifting raw honey represents more than just nutritional value.

A naturally delicious treat, like liquid gold warming the heart, it’s a ‘bee-utiful’ symbolic gift to show a friend or relative they are valued and how much you care for their health and well being.

Why not have a look at our honey gift boxes for £25 and hampers for inspiration on treating a loved one’s sweet tooth to the goodness of raw Welsh honey

For other inspiration for gifting this festive season have a look at our Gifts Collections with everything including Bath, Lips, Hands & Feet & Soaps

Hooray for Honey!
Scroll down for three amazing observations about this magical amber nectar: 
  • Did you know that raw honey is the only food made by an insect and eaten by both the insect itself and humans? How cool!
  • Honey is the only natural edible product that contains pinocembrin that improves brain functioning. In fact, in one study (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov) honey was found to improve the memory in menopausal and postmenopausal women – following honey treatments for several weeks the women saw as much improvement in their immediate memory as women given hormone therapy! 
  • Honey is the only natural edible product that consists of all the substances necessary to sustain life, including vitamins, enzymes, minerals and water – it’s certainly good enough for the bees! Certain schools of thought class it as a survival food and suggest that humans could even live on honey alone. We may not advocate trying this but instead why not shun the refined sugar and add some honey to your food instead for varied, interesting ways to enjoy this life sustaining nectar in your cookery read on………

Honey, what’s cooking?

So, healthier than sugar – why not use honey for sweetness in your cooking - and we just love the earthy sweetness it imparts to our baked treats and helps them stay moister for longer. Yum!

And what better way to substitute sugar for delicious raw honey than in some festive bakes to get us all in the Christmas spirit!

Have a peak at our recipes below, fire up your oven, grab your jar of raw honey, gather your other bits and bobs and come cook some delicious biscuits and chutney along with us!

Honey Cider Chutney (Able & Cole)

What I love about this recipe is that it's ingredients you are likely to already have and it's just chop and add all to pan then simmer - it's that easy!  

  • 400g apples, finely diced
  • 300g pears
  • 300g onions, finely chopped
  • 150ml cider vinegar
  • 50ml Dunkerton’s cider (plus a little extra, if needed)
  • 175g honey
  • 150g prunes, destoned and chopped
  • 3 fresh bay leaves
  • 2 tsp mixed spice
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 thumb of fresh ginger, peeled and finely diced

1.  Put all the ingredients into a large, heavy pan.
2.  Slowly bring to the boil. Lower heat. Simmer for 30 mins to 1 hr. Stir regularly. If it starts to dry out towards the end of cooking, trickle in a little more cider. (I added quite a bit more cider as it was simmering)
3. The chutney’s ready when it’s glossy, thick and nicely melded together, though you want to keep discernible pieces of fruit/veg throughout. To test it’s done; drag a wooden spoon through the pan. If it parts enough to reveal the base of the pan, it’s done.
4.  Place in sterilised jars with plastic-coated screw-top lids while it’s still warm.

Honey & Cinnamon Christmas Trees

These are so easy and delicious although my top tips if making these are to add more spice to the dough (ginger, nutmeg and all spice) and to shape your icing as you go along as the top starts to glaze within 5 minutes. If you like to see the recipe and method click HERE
Click on the video below and I will take you through making both recipes!

Additional Quick Hints and Tips when cooking with Honey

1. Use less Honey than Sugar
Honey is actually sweeter than sugar so you need less to get the same sweetness. For every 1 cup of sugar, substitute with ½ to 2/3 cup honey.

2. Reduce the liquids
Honey is made up of about 20% water so it’s a good idea to reduce the amount of liquid in the recipe by about a quarter to a third to counteract the extra liquid from the honey. Your delicious honey will keep your baked goods moister for longer.

3. Add baking soda
If the recipe doesn’t already call for it, try adding a little baking soda when cooking with honey to balance its natural acidity and help the rise.

4. Lower the oven temperature
Honey gives a beautiful caramelisation to your bakes but be careful as it does have a tendency to burn faster than granulated sugar.  Keep an eye on your goodies and consider reducing temperature of your oven by 25F.

Final Thought….

Wow, I wasn’t meaning for this blog to be quite this long but when I start talking about raw honey I find there is just so much to rejoice in.

I hope that you have found this read helpful in highlighting the advantages of pure, raw honey over sugar and some common disadvantages of ‘supermarket’ honey to be aware of.

Did you enjoy watching our honey baking session? Please, if you have any hints or tips on how you use your raw honey or any delicious must -try honey recipes then please share the nectar love by clicking reply and letting us know.

Happy festive baking and enjoy every mouthful of your precious honey!

Much love,

Cath, Trudy and the bees xx


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