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So Sweet!

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

You may think that honey is healthier than sugar, but the debate is far from over. Take a look at some of the facts before you make a decision, says Shirley Mistry

Everyone seems to be switching to honey, thinking that it is a healthier alternative to sugar in cakes, desserts, drinks and tea or coffee. The basic premise for this lifestyle change is based on the theory that honey is healthier than sugar. Take a look at how the two ingredients fare in terms of factors such as calorific value and whether the two are starkly different.

Calorie Count
A teaspoon of honey contains 22 calories, while one teaspoon of sugar contains 16 calories. So, it won’t make much of a difference to use honey if your consumption is restricted to a spoon or two in your tea. But, if you are fond of desserts and prefer your beverages sweet, you are better off using sugar, rather than honey.

Storage of fat
Sugar is made up of 50% glucose and 50% fructose. Your body draws its energy from glucose and finds it easy to break down fructose, leading to a surge in your blood sugar levels. As a result, your body uses only the amount of sugar that it requires, and stores the rest of it as fat. On the other hand, honey is made up of roughly 30% glucose and less than 40% fructose. It also contains around 20 other sugars and fibre. This means that your body spends more energy trying to break these elements down into glucose and you end up storing a lower quantity of honey as fat in your body. However, the fructose and complex sugars that are present in honey are believed to drain minerals from your body and can also lead to problems such as obesity, heart problems and liver diseases.

Honey contains antioxidants (in a minute quantity when compared to antioxidant-rich foods such as blueberries and avocados) and also contains zinc and other minerals that bees may pick up on the way, before they deposit honey. Sugar on the other hand, contains no such nutritional benefits.

Health Benefits
Apart from providing you with antioxidants, honey is known to cure a common cold, cough and even improve your immunity when it is consumed on a daily basis. It is also anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and contains flavanoids, which reduce the risk of certain cancers.

The Finer Print
While honey beats sugar by a very small margin, once sugar enters your bloodstream (in any form), your body can’t tell the difference between the two. So, you can consume any kind of sugar, but make sure you do this in small amounts. Here’s how you can reduce your intake of sugar.

  • Switch from regular tea and coffee, to green tea, as it is more palatable if you are consuming it without sugar.
  • Instead of adding sugar to your cereal, add a few raisins to it, as they improve eye and dental health as well as bone density.
  • Instead of using corn syrup or golden syrup in your baking, substitute it with agave, a natural sweetener that is a healthier alternative.
  • If you are planning on switching from sugar to sugar substitutes, avoid ones that contain aspartame as they can damage your eyesight, cause migraines, dizziness, insomnia, depression and even result in death. Opt for Stevia instead, a naturally sweet, healthy plant, that does not have the bitter after-taste that most artificial sweeteners do.
  • Cut out condiments such as ketchup from your diet. They are packed with refined sugar and are extremely unhealthy.
  • Fruit yoghurt may seem like a healthy snack, but it contains large amounts of sugar, so opt for natural yoghurt instead.
  • Chewing on gum is believed to be a popular way to curb hunger pangs, but the sugar in them is lethal. Opt for a sugar-free snack bar instead. It will keep you full for longer and doesn’t contain heaps of processed sugar.
  • Lay off jams, juices that come in tetra-packs, frosty cereals, packaged sauces and beverages, as they are all saturated with sugar!
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