Bee Clear on the Differences

Many of us like a sweetener of some sort in our drinks, and the most obvious ones are traditional sugar and artificial sweeteners but some have switched to honey believing it to be a healthier choice. Which one is really best for us out of these options? As stroke survivors, we are less mobile than most people and our immune systems possibly weaker too, so these are another couple of factors to have in mind when comparing.

Honey and sugar are both carbohydrates and consist of two sugar types glucose and fructose. Refined fructose which is in sweeteners is broken down (metabolised) by our liver and has been associated with diabetes and obesity so particularly important for us stroke survivors to perhaps keep in mind.

Fructose and glucose are both broken down quickly in our bodies and can cause our blood sugar levels to spike. The proportions of these two things are different in honey and sugar. Honey contains 40% fructose and 30% glucose whereas sugar contains 50% fructose and 50% glucose. The remainder of honey is pollen, water and minerals (magnesium and potassium) –  these possibly being responsible for some of the health benefits of honey – especially valuable to us as stroke survivors. Honey does have slightly more calories than sugar although it is also sweeter so we tend to eat less, however, too much of either will obviously lead to weight gain.

Honey has been used as both a sweetener and a medicine since ancient times. Some research identifies that it can be successful in easing coughs in children. Some studies suggest that locally produced honey can ease seasonal allergies,  however, this has not been substantiated consistently.

Honey has shown benefits in the natural and safe treatment of chronic wounds, ulcers, and burns. Raw honey has also been found to improve dermatitis and a weekly application of honey also reduced hair loss.

Honey is easier for us to digest than sugar, which has to be ingested before being broken down. Bees add enzymes to the honey meaning the sugars are already partially broken down, making it easier to digest. Too much of either can encourage weight gain but honey is higher in calories at 64 per tablespoon compared to sugar only being 49 calories. Honey does have a similar effect as sugar on blood sugar levels so could be problematic for people with diabetes.

Disadvantages of sugar are, that it can spike blood sugar levels quicker than honey, causing tiredness headaches and difficulty concentrating; as these can be things we already struggle with, I know I do, then it may make us consider rethinking things? Increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Possibly liver problems which, for some of us, is already working hard due to some of our medications. Other issues include dental decay and changes in gut bacteria, leading to chronic diseases.

In conclusion, I would like to say, honey wins for me, but equally only in moderation. So remain mindful of the amount consumed and if it is a case of wanting something sweet to eat, reach for fresh fruit.



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