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Ask A Scientist: Is Honey Healthier Than Sugar?

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HONEY
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By YouBeauty.com editors

The Scientist: Keith Kantor, Ph.D., a nutritionist and author of the children's book The Green Box League of Nutritious Justice

The Answer: Sugar is sugar. And honey is (mostly) sugar. But if you're choosing between the two from a health perspective, err on the side of the sticky stuff.

Your body breaks food down into glucose in order to use it for fuel. The more complex a food -- namely a carbohydrate -- is, the more work it takes to break it down. Sugar is made of 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose, the sugar typically found in fruits, and is broken down very easily, leading to a surge of blood glucose. What your body doesn't use right away gets stored as fat. Honey is also made mostly of sugar, but it's only about 30 percent glucose and less than 40 percent fructose. And there are also about 20 other sugars in the mix, many of which are much more complex, and dextrin, a type of starchy fiber. This means that your body expends more energy to break it all down to glucose. Therefore, you end up accumulating fewer calories from it.

Honey also has trace elements in it -- stuff that bees picked up while going from plant to plant. These will depend on region, so depending on the source of your honey it could have varying small amounts of minerals like zinc and selenium, as well as some vitamins. And because honey doesn't break down in nature, it doesn't contain preservatives or other additives.

As with anything sweet, you can overdo it, but if you're going to use a spoonful of something in your tea, go for honey over sugar.

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