A high rise in blood sugar after eating increases risk for obesity, diabetes and heart attacks (BMC Medicine, Feb 14, 2023;21 (34)). Glycemic index (GI), which measures how high blood sugar rises after you eat a food, is almost the same for honey and sugar: 55 for honey and 65 for table sugar, which is not a significant difference. Honey contains two sugars that are mostly-separated (glucose and fructose), while table sugar has the same two sugars but they are bound together to form a double sugar called sucrose. In your body, they end up being absorbed in exactly the same way. Once sucrose, the double sugar, reaches your intestines, it is broken down into the single sugars glucose and fructose. Honey and table sugar are processed in the same way by your body, and honey is not a quicker source of energy.

An advertisement for honey claims that “ounce for ounce, honey has fewer calories than refined sugar.” This is true but deceptive because honey contains water which has no calories and refined sugar does not. A tablespoon of table sugar has 64 calories while a tablespoon of honey contains water so that it has only 46, but that does not mean that using honey will give you fewer calories. You add sweeteners by taste, not by careful measurement, and you will use the same number of calories to obtain the same sweetness using either sugar or honey.

It is silly to claim that honey is an excellent source of minerals such as iron and calcium, while sugar is not, because the amount of minerals in honey is tiny. To meet your needs for iron, you would have to take in 10 cups of honey a day, and for calcium, you would need to eat 40 cups. By the same reasoning, your body handles white granulated table sugar in the same way that it processes brown sugar, turbinado sugar, maple syrup, corn syrup and all other sugars. Brown sugar is slightly less refined than white sugar, but the difference has no nutritional significance. It makes no difference to your body whether extracted sugar comes from beets, sugar cane, flowers, apples, grapes, dates or maple trees. If you are a diabetic, store fat primarily in your belly, have high blood triglyceride levels, have low blood levels of the good HDL cholesterol or are trying to lose weight, you should limit all added sugars, and that includes all sugars that have been extracted from their plant sources — even if “natural” bees did the extracting instead of machines.

Sugar Plus Fiber Slows Absorption
Fruits contain sugar that does not cause a high rise in blood sugar because they also contain soluble fiber that markedly slow the absorption of sugar. An apple that contains the same amount of sugar as a cookie may cause only half the rise in blood sugar (Nutrients, Dec 15, 2010;2(12):1266–1289). Replacing sugar-added foods and other refined carbohydrates with lots of high-fiber fruits, vegetables and whole grains (sources of fiber) helps to prevent high rises in blood sugar. Eating more fiber and limiting refined carbohydrates can help to prevent heart attacks (BMC Medicine, Feb 14, 2023;21 (34)).

My Recommendations
Honey is not “more healthful” than table sugar. The differences (water? minerals?) are so miniscule that it is silly to even mention them. All foods that cause a high rise in blood sugar are associated with increased risk for obesity, diabetes and heart attacks. That includes foods made with either table sugar or honey. See Hidden Sugars