Honey and Sugar: Are They Really Dissimilar?
Honey and sugar – brief bio
Both honey and sugar consist of approximately similar amounts of glucose and fructose. Glucose and fructose are absorbed directly into the bloodstream. Sucrose is different from these 2 in that it must be broken down first before being absorbed into the blood stream. Glucose is used for energy or stored as glycogen. Fructose is converted to glucose or stored as fat.
However, one of the biggest differences is that with honey, the two molecules, glucose and fructose, are separate and not bound together. Honey is comprised of primarily monosaccharides. Mono means one, saccharide means sugar. On the other hand, sugar consists of primarily a disaccharide (di meaning two types of sugars, joined together), which is sucrose. Sucrose has the same glucose and fructose that one can find in honey, but the glucose and fructose are chemically bound together.
In summary, Glucose and Fructose are absorbed directly into the bloodstream whereas Sucrose must be broken down first before being absorbed into the blood stream.
Are they digested differently by the body?
Let’s consider what happens when we digest these types of carbohydrates? Both monosaccharides and disaccharides eventually become the same thing—that’s because disaccharides and polysaccharides (even more complex sugar chains) digest and break down into individual sugars, or monosaccharides. When we consume honey, we get glucose and fructose. When we eat sugar, we get sucrose. Ultimately, they both, honey and sugar, produce the same outcome saccharides, though the time taken to make both usable might vary little bit.
Both result in blood sugar surge in a similar fashion. They have glycemic indices that aren’t significantly different.
The sugars in honey and cane sugar are digested and metabolized in different areas of the body, though. The sucrose in sugar requires an enzyme located in the small intestine, to digest it and break down the bonded sugars into separate and more readily-available fructose and glucose. From there, the glucose can be released into the bloodstream to be used directly by your cells for energy, while the fructose must first be converted into glucose—some of that conversion happens in the small intestine, and some in the liver. In honey’s case, the fructose and glucose are already separated, and don’t require enzyme digestion, but the fructose still has to wait until it reaches the small intestine to be converted to glucose, or released to the liver for conversion. Therefore, someone who is an athlete might get a faster shot of readily usable energy from saccharides when he or she consumes honey compared to when sugar is consumed.
In summary, not really…they aren’t digested very differently by the body; they both, sugar and honey, produce the same output saccharides.
Is there an advantage of choosing honey over sugar?
Perhaps, yes; if we consider raw honey. To understand it further, let’s dwell on what else is present in honey that might elevate its status above sugar as something whose health benefits might surpass its other effects as a saccharide on saccharide metabolism system.
- Antibacterial and antiviral properties: It comes from bees. Nectar from flowers is ingested and processed using gut bacteria of the bees. The outcome of this is stored the honeycombs. This is what is harvested for use as honey, as we know it. Honey contains natural antibacterial enzymes, including one that actually produces hydrogen peroxide. That’s why honey is being studied for its ability to boost the immune system when dealing with bacterial or viral infections.
- Enzymes and probiotics: Bees themselves have been found to possess an impressive array of beneficial bacteria within their little bee guts, and these probiotic bacteria can also be found in honey and may help proliferate lactic acid bacteria found in human gut, along with various enzymes that may aid in digestion.
- Oligosaccharides and gut health: Though the sugars in honey are primarily monosaccharides glucose and fructose, there are also some more complex sugar chains known as oligosaccharides that are present in honey. These sugars may be responsible for some of honey’s benefits, as they have been shown to have prebiotic activity which may have an effect on gut health.
- Vitamins and minerals:A small number of vitamins and minerals are found in honey, though, their actual quantity may be quite small compared to what needs to be actually consumes as per recommended dietary allowance. This, however, is an added advantage.
- Antioxidant properties: Honey contains polyphenols, which are a class of antioxidants that are thought to reduce the risk of several chronic disorders by neutralizing free radicals that cause oxidative stress in the human body. Regular consumption of honey can potentially increase levels of beneficial polyphenols in the blood.
- Usefulness as a humectant/moisturizer upon topical use: Honey is an effective natural humectant – a natural moisturizing agent that has remarkable properties to promote skin glow and moisture levels.
In summary, other than taste, there are other potentially compelling health benefits of honey as well as discernible nutritional value that make it a great candidate as replacement of other processed and highly refined sugars.