I was grabbing lunch with a friend the other day, and she was telling me about how she’s trying to eat a more healthful diet, and her main focus is on unprocessed foods and to eat more organically. This diet she has put herself on includes staying away from refined sugar, but sugars such as honey, molasses, and raw sugars are ok. Let’s look at the sugary details:
Is honey the healthy option?
Many in the media are saying that eating organically is the way to go, but are they telling the truth? Are all sugars created equal? Or, is honey better than molasses which is better than table sugar, because of its natural, unprocessed, nature?
Are all sugars the same, or are some better than others?
Sucrose, the form of sugar that we find in vegetables, fruits, honey, maple syrup, as well as table/baking sugars, is a disaccharide composed of one glucose molecule and one fructose molecule. Therefore, from a chemical perspective, the make-up of honey and table sugar is almost identical. They both are made of the same components, in the same amounts. But, what about the different look between the two? Honey gets its distinctive syrup quality and coloring from the enzymes in bees’ stomachs, as well as the humidity process created by bee’s wings in the actual honey comb.
Nutritionally, honey does not contain any more nutrients than any other sugar source. In fact, in a comparison, honey has more energy/calories per tablespoon than table sugar (a comparison chart between some common sugars are at the bottom). Once again, this is attributed to the unique structure of honey vs. table sugar.
Also, it is important to note, that because of the process that creates the product, honey commonly contains bacteria that can cause fatal food poisoning in infants. This fatal poisoning lessens with a maturing digestive system, but children under the age of 12 months should never be given honey because of this reason.
Well, what about raw sugar (Sugar in the Raw) or molasses? Are these more healthful alternatives then table sugar?
Raw sugar that is available in the US is a misconception. There is not an actual “raw sugar” available to American citizens because of our health codes. True raw sugar is made up of the first crystals obtained when sugar is gathered, but in this form the sugar contains dirt, insects, and other by-products that would not be a delicious addition to your morning coffee.
Products such as “Sugar in the Raw” have actually gone through more than half of the same steps in the refining process used to make regular table sugar. The main difference between raw sugar and table sugar is essentially the course texture and its unbleached quality, which allows the product to have a heftier price tag. In all actuality, there is very little difference between the two.
Molasses can be a slightly healthier option, in the fact that molasses does frequently contain iron. However, this is an addition that is not natural, the iron comes from the machines that process the sugarcane, and it is in very small amounts. Also, blackstrap molasses does contain more minerals due to a third boiling process, but it contains less sugar, and therefore is not commonly seen on the market place.
The moral of the story? Your body cannot tell a difference between these sugars, and process all the same way. The health value of all of these items boils down to the same thing: a sugar source that will up your blood-glucose levels and, in turn, stimulate the release of insulin, a powerful hormone that signals your body to store fat and can put you at a greater risk for diseases such as diabetes and obesity if used in excess. Don’t let the absence of fat confuse you, sugar tells your body to store fat, regardless if it’s in the sugar itself or not. All sugars should be seen as food sources to use sparingly when at all possible, and, when used, should be treated as a yummy treat.
Nutrition// Energy 49 calories, Carbs 12.6g, Protein 0g, Fat 0g, Sodium 0mg, Calcium 0g, Iron 0g
Nutrition// Energy 49 calories, Carbs 12.6g, Protein 0g, Fat 0g, Sodium 0mg, Calcium 0.042g, Iron 0g
Nutrition// Energy 64 calories, Carbs 17.3g, Protein 0.06g, Fat 0g, Sodium 1mg, Calcium 1g, Iron 0.09g
Nutrition// Energy 58 calories, Carbs 14.95g, Protein 0g, Fat 0g, Sodium 7mg, Calcium 41g, Iron 0.94g
*All figures are for one tablespoon of each substance.
Knowledge is power readers, know what you are putting into your body, and your body will thank you for it!
About Petra Lusche
I am a reformed graphic designer and advertiser, I have always had a passion for cooking and good nutrition. As a marketer, I have seen our society and the way it manipulates what is true health and true beauty. I have seen my friends, family and even myself feel inadequate for a large part, if not all, of their life as a result. Not wanting to live my life in this way, I made a change; I wanted to start living free and to the best of my abilities, in essence, to live “happi”. This change has affected me in many blessed ways, so much it even encouraged a career change on my part. I am now a personal trainer and nutritionist, and have yet to look back. My website is happilives.com Happi Lives is a reflection of what’s missing in the health field. We’re not a quick fix, a list of dos and don’ts, eat this not that, but a process that, given the time, will sprout into a lifelong change accompanied with happiness. I hope it inspires you as much as it does me.