Processed sugar can be toxic to the body. Other than the fact that it may increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, it may also accelerate the skin aging process. Plus, it’s highly addictive! Yes, sugar tastes good, but wouldn’t it be better if we didn’t have to worry about our health while we indulge in it?
Here’s the good news: there are a number of sugar substitutes that come with a surprising amount of benefits. This includes maple syrup, coconut sugar, date syrup, honey…the list is endless!
Today, we’re going to be discussing the two best sugar substitutes readily available in every store: coconut sugar and honey. But when we compare coconut sugar vs. honey, which alternative is better for you? Let’s find out.
Nutritional Facts and Benefits
To understand the difference between coconut sugar vs. honey, we first need to understand the composition of bad sugars and better sugars.
Better sugars, or healthy sugars, score extremely low on the glycemic index. Consumption of high-GI sugar causes the body’s insulin levels to spike, whereas low-GI sugar results in a lower blood glucose concentration. Therefore, the lower the GI, the healthier it is for our blood.
Table sugar, those that are made with sucrose, have a glucose level of 63 per 2 teaspoons. In comparison, pure honey only has 58 per 1 tablespoon. Coconut sugar, on the other hand, has a glycemic index of only 35 per 2 teaspoons.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s look into the individual values of coconut sugar vs. honey:
Benefits of Coconut Sugar
For many years, coconut sugar is regarded as a better alternative to refined sugar. Here are of the reasons why:
High Levels of Nutrients
Regular sugar doesn’t have any vital nutrients that will benefit our bodies, therefore supplying us with “empty calories.”
When we look at the chemical compounds of coconut sugar, however, it’s found that it does retain some of the nutrients seen in coconut palms. The most notable minerals being iron, zinc, calcium, and potassium.
Low Glycemic Index Levels
Another reason coconut sugar is widely used by nutritional foodies is because of its low glycemic index levels.
As we discussed, coconut sugar only has a GI count of 35, which is almost half of what’s found in regular sugar. This is primarily because coconut sugar contains a fiber called inulin, which is said to slow down glucose absorption.
Coconut sugar is one of the most sought after natural sweeteners. Regular table sugar goes through an extensive refining process before it’s sold. Coconut sugar, however, once dehydrated, can be used straight away.
This natural sugar is extracted in 2 simple steps: first, a cut is made of the blossom of the coconut palm to collect the liquid sap trapped inside it. It is then placed under relatively high heat until most of the water has evaporated, leaving brown granules of sugar. Thus, coconut sugar comes from the dehydrated sap of the coconut palm.
Benefits of Honey
Honey has been used as both sweetener and medicine for centuries, dating back to ancient times. Bees collect honey from the nectar of flowers, mix it with different enzymes, before storing it in individual honeycombs to keep it fresh.
We, in turn, gradually collect the honey, remove impurities such as wax, and consume it. Similar to coconut sugar, it doesn’t go through a refining process and is 100% natural.
Both honey and sugar are relatively high in calories and carbs. In fact, because honey is sweeter than sugar, it has more calories per gram. However, the makeup of those calories are what counts.
The nutritional components of honey is based on the origin of the nectar used to make it. Along with trace amounts of local pollen, a serving of honey contains small amounts of substances such as amino acids, vitamins B and C. It also has antioxidants, calcium, potassium, zinc, selenium, iron, and manganese.
Contains Digestive Enzymes and Probiotics
During its creation, bees add enzymes to honey, thus already partially breaking it down. Compared to regular sugar, where it has to be ingested before being broken down, honey is easier to digest than sugar.
Furthermore, the probiotic bacteria found in honey may help support the lactic acid bacteria in the human gut, which further aids in digestion.
Antiseptic Healing Properties
If you’ve ever had a sore throat, the typical remedy is to drink hot water with lemon and honey. This is because honey helps kill germs due to its antimicrobial properties. It also helps draw water off of tissue, which in turn alleviates swelling and discomfort.
Application of Coconut and Honey in Recipes
Coconut sugar and honey can both be used as sugar substitutes in recipes and drinks. Application, however, may differ. Read on if you’re planning to replace sugar with either.
Coconut Sugar in Recipes
When it comes to coconut sugar vs. honey consistency, coconut sugar behaves quite similarly to regular sugar. Therefore, it’s one of the best natural sweetener to use to replace white sugar in recipes.
It’s just as sweet as regular sugar, as well, so when substituting white sugar with coconut sugar, you’ll be using just about the same measurements (eg; 1 tbsp white sugar = 1 tbsp coconut sugar.)
Honey in Recipes
Honey, on the other hand, is different. Because of its thick, syrup-like consistency, you may need to change some of the measurements you’ll use when baking.
For example, when the recipe calls for 2 tbsp sugar (30 mL), you’re only going to use about 1 tbsp + 1 tsp of honey (25 mL).
If you’re going to use honey in large quantities, you may need to reduce your liquid. For every cup of honey, you’ll need to decrease the liquid in your recipe by 1/4 cup. As honey retains more moisture than sugar, you don’t have to add extra milk or water.
It’s also important to note that honey browns faster than sugar does. Therefore, you may need to lower your oven temperature by 25°F if you want your baked goods perfectly brown.
Regardless, while coconut sugar can be used to replace sugar in recipes as is, honey may not make for the ideal texture in certain recipes no matter how much you measure it.
If you’re planning to substitute coconut sugar or honey in your recipes, here are the primary differences:
Coconut Sugar Taste
Despite its name, coconut sugar doesn’t taste like coconut. Rather, it has a flavor similar to that of brown sugar but slightly fuller, with a caramel-like aftertaste. It’s also moderately earthy, with appealing smoky and musky qualities.
If you use coconut sugar in tea or coffee, the difference in taste is more apparent. However, when used as a substitute in baked goods, it pairs quite well. It also gives it a unique scent and taste. It’s sort of like a “secret ingredient”, the taste is there, but no one can quite figure it out.
Some people find coconut sugar to be slightly less sweet than white sugar, while others believe it tastes about the same. The difference in sweetness depends on the coconut nectar that’s used. Regardless, the taste shouldn’t affect your baking measurements.
Raw, unpasteurized honey tastes different to store-bought honey. As we discussed, honey is sweeter than both regular sugar and coconut sugar. Alongside its sweetness, it also comes with underlying floral notes that differ from honey to honey, therefore it’s a little difficult to describe.
Some are fruity and fragrant, with tones of violet, rose, and honeysuckle. Others are warm and smoky, similar to slightly burnt sugar: caramel, marshmallow, and butterscotch, and deep flavors of vanilla and maybe even chocolate. You’ll also find a selection of honey made with cedar, oak, clove, and nutmeg.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the high yield of coconut palms can produce up to 100 years of production. Therefore, coconut sugar has a relatively low environmental impact when harvested using traditional techniques.
When it comes to honey production, it requires little space and is beneficial for the surrounding ecosystems. Honey bee hives also have positive effects on the crops that surround it.
Regardless, many people, particularly those who are vegan, believe that collecting honey from bees is a form of animal exploitation. Unfortunately, some beekeepers, especially those who partake in large-scale beekeeping operations, use cruel methods to collect honey, thus causing harm to bees.
Although bees aren’t endangered, bee populations have been declining globally, making honey an unsustainable resource.
So if you’re purchasing honey, it’s best to buy from your local beekeepers. It won’t only support them, it’ll also give you raw, unfiltered honey, void of any chemicals or toxic byproducts.
When it comes to cost, coconut sugar is slightly more expensive than regular sugar. They typically cost around $4 to $15 per pound, depending on the retailer.
Honey, on the other hand, can be more expensive than coconut sugar, especially if they’re fresh. The price, once again, depends on the beekeeper and may cost from $10 per jar to up to $6000 dollars for rare Elvish honey.
Coconut sugar vs. honey, which substitute is the best? Both come with their own benefits and nutritional values, but when it comes to baking, coconut sugar is the best option.
However, the overall best substitute is certainly honey, primarily because it’s beneficial in even small doses.
But regardless of what type of sugar substitute you use, it’s important to remember that anything is dangerous when consumed in large amounts, so use both in moderation.