Is Honey A Good Sugar Substitute?

Hi friends, happy Friday!

How are you all?

Last to last post was about jaggery vs sugar (read here if you missed the post) and we saw that in terms of calories and sugar content, there isn’t much difference. For a non-diabetic healthy person, switching over to jaggery from white refined sugar might be okay but for rest, jaggery is and should be treated as a sugar only, especially if you are watching your weight or sugar level spikes.

Oh and make sure to find good, unprocessed jaggery to get real benefits out of it! Adulterated jaggery, highly bleached and full of toxic chemicals – from certain parts of India is a big news these days. The worst part of this adulteration it is that we consume something thinking it is beneficial for us when it is actually doing more harm than good.

Anyways, let’s evaluate another sugar substitute today. Now that we know where jaggery and sugar stand, the next question is “and what about honey”?

First, What Is Honey

Honey is made by honeybees from the nectar of flowers. Sweet and syrupy, it ranges from golden colour to a much darker shade of yellowish-brown.

Today, the market is full of all kinds of honey. The difference could lie in the plant-source, the way it is extracted or even in how it is processed. It could be raw, it could be pasteurized. Our choices are vast – from wild honey to acacia honey to clover honey to even neem honey! Not to mention blended honey, now.

Nutrition & Calories

Let me share a personal experience with you. There was a time long back when I decided to try warm honey-lemon water first thing in morning – for weight loss. Well, that was the prevalent wisdom then and a very famous brand was actively promoting its honey for the same purpose.

Did it work for me? A big NO! That got me thinking how it could even? If you are trying to lose weight, the first general step is to reduce sugar intake. Was honey-lemon water in morning helping with it? No. It just added to my sugar intake and the logic was so simple to me that I refused to listen to all the “weight-loss wisdom” after that till it fitted my basic, simple logics of nutrition and calories.

I never got to examine the detox part of it as I stopped consuming it altogether after that whole weight-loss debacle.

Before we come to the nutrition part, let’s clear the calories part. Did you know, honey has more calories than white sugar? Oh yes, 1 tbsp of honey contains 64 calories versus 1 tbsp of sugar with 46 calories. This means swapping sugar for jaggery or honey would not be a safe bet for weight-watchers!

It also means that for diabetics, honey isn’t a good alternative to sugar, just like jaggery. Though it has a relatively less glycemic index (61 against 65 of sugar) but it still causes sugar spikes and still adds up on calories for weight-watchers.

Much sweeter than sugar, honey is about 35% glucose, 40% fructose, 9% sucrose and rest other simple carbohydrates. Though this could also mean that you use it in lesser quantities!

Having said that, a dash of honey in your herbal tea is fine if it increases the flavour or makes it slightly less bitter. At least you know/understand why you are having it and what exactly would it be doing!

Honey does contain several micronutrients like iron, zinc and potassium but in minute quantities. However, high-quality honey:

  • is rich in flavonoids and other antioxidants (such as phenolic acids)
  • helps in wound-healing and anti-inflammatory purposes
  • can also help with heart health and other chronic diseases

Doctors strongly advise against giving a baby of less than 1 year any sort of honey as it contains pollen spores and might result in botulism, a kind of serious toxicity caused by bacteria Clostridium botulinum.

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Which Honey Is The Best?

That’s an important question!  Choose raw, unprocessed, unpasteurized honey always. Preferably an organic one and definitely without any added sugars or chemicals/preservatives!

The Bottomline

For normal healthy people, swapping sugar with high-quality honey might make sense. Even then, consume only high-quality honey and in moderation.  If it fits into your daily healthy diet, no harm taking it and it would be best to consume it with other nutritious foods.

If you are a weight-watcher/diabetic and your doctor/nutritionist allowed you some honey, make sure it’s high-quality and you add it with some other foods with fibre/protein/fat etc so that the sugar-spikes are regulated.

That is all for today, friends. Hope you found the post useful 🙂

Till next Friday!

Love, Health & Peace

Jaggery vs Sugar

Hi friends, happy Friday!

How are you all? Hope all good. Spring is here and in Mumbai where I live, it has already become quite hot. Make sure you keep hydrated!

Do limit your intake of sugary sodas and other sugary beverages this summer (and always, actually) because one thing that our body can absolutely do without, is added sugars. Almost everything that we consume, has some amount of sugar in it and any extra added refined sugar that we eat, does us more harm than good. Eat fresh fruits a lot instead. High on fibre and other nutrients, juicy fruits can quench our thirst equally well.

Whenever I tell my clients to limit their sugar intake, I am almost always asked, “and what about jaggery?”

Hmm…that is a tricky question and the answer depends from one person to another. I personally, do avoid added sugar as much as I can. However, some days when I feel like having sweet milk-ginger tea, I put in half a spoon of jaggery powder instead of white sugar. But then, my sugar intake is low anyways and I do not have high blood-sugar levels either.

If you are a healthy person with limited sugar-intake, it is alright for you to make the switch from sugar to jaggery or jaggery powder. Jaggery is less processed after all.

However, if you have excess weight and/or high sugar level already and/or looking to lose some weight, consider jaggery as a sugar only. Why? Let’s just see what jaggery is and you would get your answer on its own.

What is Jaggery?

Jaggery or gur in Hindi, is generally made out of sugarcane or date palm. The sugarcane/palms are pressed to extract their sweet juice which is then allowed to stay in large containers for long so that the sediments settle down and can be filtered easily. The strained juice then is boiled, cleaned and the remaining paste is put in moulds ending up in big/small blocks of gur/jaggery.

Interestingly, darker the jaggery is, the more trace minerals it would contain and hence better. However unattractive it might look!

But, somehow we believe (and it’s true, industrial grading-wise) that brown means it is higher in impurities and golden-yellow means that it is relatively pure. Due to this grading scale, artificial colours are sometimes added to jaggery, to give it the golden/red colour.

The way jaggery is made also gave it the name ‘non-centrifugal’ sugar because sugar-mix is spun while it is getting cleaned and in the process of getting clean/refined sugar, the nutritious molasses are separated from the mix. With jaggery however, this process is not needed hence the nutritious molasses stay in it. This molasses is what makes jaggery more nutritious than sugar!

Now, Jaggery vs Sugar

Compared to sugar, jaggery is more nutritious (due to trace minerals) but it is still essentially sugar. As simple as that. All the extra nutrients that come from jaggery, come with lots of sugar too. And you have to consume a lot of jaggery to get any tangible benefit out of it. With the calories and sugar attached, is it worth it? Not if you are already struggling with diabetes, high sugar-levels and weight issues, for sure.

With a high glycemic index of 84.1, jaggery can raise blood sugar levels, it just takes a tiny bit longer. Though, jaggery:

  • being a more complex carb than sugar, breaks down slowly in our body
  • has relatively lower glycemic index than white sugar
  • if consumed in completely unprocessed version which is made in traditional way with no chemical additives, believed to be alkaline. I am still looking for that one though, if you know where to get it from, please let me know too!
  • contains trace minerals such as potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorous and calcium
  • due to these trace minerals, is said to improve digestive health, prevent anemia and improve immunity, if one is deficient in them otherwise

The Bottomline

If you are a diabetic, have blood sugar issues or struggle with weight concerns, best to avoid sugar and jaggery both. They both are sugars -spike up insulin levels and add up to the calories.

If you are healthy and a non-diabetic, you would still do best to reduce any sort of sugar-intake all together. With overall reduction of sugar-intake, replacing your white-refined sugar with jaggery is alright. Try to get organic and unprocessed jaggery for the purpose, to maximize any benefits out of trace minerals etc.

There are many foods and fresh produce available that would help better with many benefits associated with jaggery though. Where sugar cannot be quit completely, replacing it with jaggery makes sense but only if you are non-diabetic and enjoy a normal health/weight.

Hope you found today’s post useful. Don’t forget to join me on Instagram on the link below:

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Till next Friday,

Love, Health & Peace