I’ve been on the fence about how to present this seemingly delicate subject matter, and the most comfortable platform is obviously writing on my blog where only a small limited number of people will actually see it to dispute or argue with me. For some reason, the topic of sugar versus honey is very touchy. It’s not really controversial on the environmental side (although, wouldn’t you know, my research into the subject matter shows there are some shady things going on with honey that I’ll talk about in a little bit). But open your mouth about an opinion on honey or sugar in the fitness realm, and you best have ALL your facts straight, because there are definitely strong opinions and harsh criticisms for both sugary substances.
My stance on sugar is to try to cut as much of it out as possible. Unless it’s totally vegan day, I try not to eat any sugar whatsoever. Most of the time, I use honey to sweeten my tea or yogurt, or when cooking meals (okay, I also use maple syrup, dates, and bananas, but this isn’t a blog about those food items, it’s about honey, so bear with me).
Let me interject myself by saying, yes, honey is a simple carbohydrate, and is 55% fructose. It’s sugar, folks, plain and simple. When consumed in excess, just like sugar, it can lead to an array of health issues such as diabetes, obesity, and even heart problems. One could argue, if you are going to advocate consuming a sugary substance, why should it be honey? Why not support the vegan option of cane sugar? And that is what the rest of this blog is ultimately about- why I choose honey as my sweetener over other options.
When I talk about honey, I am referring to the real deal- not the sugary sticky substance that is called honey found in mainstream supermarkets. Those cute little bears don’t really contain honey. Unless it’s raw, local, and organic, your purchase of honey is probably nothing but a highly processed honey-flavored corn syrup. As you can imagine, this honey does absolutely nothing for you but add calories to your diet. It’s not healthy. It’s not sustainable. It’s not natural. It’s not organic. It probably contains GMOs. It’s not helping the environment. Sometimes I think this is the honey anti-sugar advocates are thinking of when they deny anyone consuming the sweetener. If so, I don’t blame them. This stuff is absolute crap- for you and for the planet. It tastes damn good. I’ll give them that. They tricked me for years with their cutesy bear holding wildflowers. Not anymore. I go for the real stuff. Sure, it’s more expensive, but the benefits outweigh any criticism.
Honey is sweeter and more dense than sugar. This attribute may also explain why advocates to cut all sugar are so adamant against it. Often when people substitute honey for sugar, they are doing it ounce for ounce. That is completely unnecessary, and does negate the healthier properties honey can offer. Honey has more calories per serving than sugar. Basically, you use a lot less honey to achieve the same level of sweetness. Using less honey allows one to satisfy their sweet tooth, reap the benefits of honey, and maintain a healthier diet than by using sugar.
Honey does offer an assortment of benefits. Most interesting to me is its ability to help with allergies. Real honey contains particles of pollen in it. This small amount of pollen actually acts as an allergy vaccine. You body will jump start its immune system to fight the pollen you eat, and this action makes it stronger against the real deal. There are also antioxidants in honey to help memory and brain functions, which is kind of cool. Of course, pro-honey advocates are going to tell us it is a fantastic energy booster. No duh! It’s a sugar! Keep in mind, just like sugar, honey hits your bloodstream quickly, but you will crash just the same as when using sugar to boost your energy.
The most powerful benefit of consuming honey though isn’t what it does for you, it’s what it does for the environment and their producers. Real, organic honey comes from, are you ready for this? HONEYBEES (I know, it’s a shocker! Wait until I tell you how it’s actually made)! Honeybees work very diligently to produce honey, so one may ask how stealing a product made from bee spit (yup, bee spit! Incredible, right?) can help save them and the environment? HOW DOES BEE SPIT SAVE THE ENVIRONMENT?
Honeybees are among the most vitally important pollinators in the world. Without bees, almost 90% of our fruits and vegetables wouldn’t get produced. Say goodbye to avocados, strawberries, watermelon, peppers, citrus, coffee, the list goes on and on. When we save honeybees, we are saving so much more than just “one little insect”. Reading the book 50 Ways to Save Honeybees (and Change the World) by J Scott Donahue opened my eyes to the importance of small actions to save these important creatures. Planting throughout the year helps nourish and strengthen the worker bees. Planting your own produce in your own garden, whether it’s a container garden on your deck or a whole field of veggies, doesn’t just feed you in a healthy and sustainable way, it promotes pollinators, especially honeybees. And we could all use a little more honeybees in our lives.
Honeybees are becoming an endangered species. Why are they endangered? An event called Colony Collapse Disorder is occurring across the world. In 2014, American commercial beekeepers lost 40% of their hives. While losing some hives in the winter is expected, beekeepers are reporting they are starting to lose more bees in the summer than in the colder months. This is a small, but important fact the pesticide and big agri-business companies don’t want you to know. The number one cause for Colony Collapse Disorder is neonicotinoids, a pesticide that shuts down the nervous system of all insects, including honeybees.
How does eating honey help? The more raw, organic, local honey we buy, the more business local beekeepers are able to do. When we eat real honey, we are promoting not just bees, but organic produce for them to pollinate. It really is a win-win situation. You can feel good about eating something sweet, not just for the benefits to your body, which are always a huge reinforcer, but you are helping the planet by keeping our honeybees happily employed.
Satisfy your sweet tooth! And help save honeybees!