IS HONEY A GOOD ALTERNATIVE TO SUGAR?
Well yes, 80% of honey is made up of sugars, but not the refined type of sugar used in baking, to sweeten our tea etc.. The sugars in honey come from the nectars that the bees collect and are made up mainly of two simple sugars: glucose (the sugar that gives us energy to keep going) and fructose (the sugar that gives the sweetness and is the sugar found in fruit).
Then there are smaller quantities of more complex sugars such as sucrose (a combination of fructose and glucose) and others that have been formed by up to 10 sugars joining together. It’s the complexity of these sugars that make honey a better source of energy and sweetness than refined sugar does.
It's these very complicated sugars in honey that make it a good prebiotic: these sugars are too complex for our digestive system to break down before they get to our gut, and so they become food for the good bacteria in our tummies - and weirdly don’t seem to be eaten by the bad ones. As a result a spoonful of honey can encourage good gut health.
Combined with it’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties this may well explain why honey has been in people’s medicine cabinets since the Ancient Egyptians.
The Glycemic Index (GI) measures how quickly the sugars in a food are absorbed in the body. To avoid those sugar rushes and then lows we’re all familiar with after binging on sugary things we need to eat foods that release their sugars more slowly and so give us energy for longer and without the peaks and troughs we get as sugar races through our system.
Honey’s GI is lower than sugar as it’s more complex so our bodies are slower to break it down and absorb it. As a result athletes use honey as a good source of slower releasing energy to keep them cycling and running for longer - and I use it as a pick me up if my energy levels are flagging mid afternoon. Just a spoonful mind as it is still a sugar!
Honey is sweeter than refined sugar because of the fructose in it, which refined sugar doesn’t have. It means you can get away with using less to achieve the same affect and help to cut down on your sugar consumption - so half a teaspoon in your tea, rather than a heaped teaspoon of sugar
In baking you can replace sugar with half the amount of honey - or if you don't want to go the whole hog, then replace some of the sugar with honey. Not only will you still get the sweetness but unlike sugar honey holds moisture so it will keep your cake moist for much than when you bake with just sugar. Nothing beats a squidgy sponge!