Honey along with other sweeteners like agave syrup and maple syrup have been perceived as healthy and natural sugars and substitute for processed sugar, however, it has been proven to be as bad as high fructose corn syrup!
The Journal of Nutrition found that honey basically has the same effect on the body as high fructose corn syrup and cane sugar. An experiment that was conducted at the University of Minnesota involved participants to eat daily doses of either honey OR corn syrup OR cane sugar for two weeks and in the end, all the sweeteners had the same effect on their health.
Basically, the body sees all sugars as the same, metabolically. That includes the sugars found in nature as fruit, sugar, and sugar beets as well as the’ healthy’ sounding sugars of brown sugar, honey, molasses, agave, and evaporated cane syrup. Like all these sugars, corn syrup which is found in a lot of packaged, highly processed foods is digested in the same way as all the other ‘natural’ sugars. According to data out there at the moment, corn syrup doesn’t actually seem to be worse for you than other sugars, like we once thought. Many companies have stopped using corn syrup due to consumer demand and replaced it with sugars that are perceived as healthy like honey and agave syrup- however, this tool has been used to mislead customers into thinking their buying ‘healthier’ foods. Yet they aren’t. They are still loaded with sugar! Things like agave contain up to 90% fructose!! (while table sugar is 50 fructose/50 glucose)
You’re wondering about the vitamins and minerals found in honey? Well yes, while there are some benefits to honey, you are still best sourcing those vitamins and minerals from far better and more nutrient dense vegetables, good quality meats and of course, fats. Same goes for fruits. Many people think that you have to have fruit because of the vitamins and that you can’t just cut fruit out. But you can! Because you replace eating fruit with veggie eating and you still get all the vitamins if not MORE!
But isn’t honey paleo?! Just because the cave man did eat something doesn’t mean we have to in 2015. While they would have eaten honey, they would have hunted ages for it and only ever been able to have a tiny bit at once as it was very rare. So naturally, they actually didn’t eat a lot of it, and when they did, it was stored directly to fat – for reserves.
What about this healthy ‘MANUKA HONEY’? While this honey delivers benefits like antibacterial and anti-inflammatory benefits which are great to use on your skin, it has been used for centuries to heal the internal body as well. However, this, like in the cave man days was never used in excess, and if we are talking fructose – it’s still the same as any other sugar and our liver won’t know the difference.
So what to use?
As described in why I chose to quit sugar rice malt syrup and stevia are the best option as they contain no fructose, therefore not dumping sugar onto the liver. However, I still don’t advocate eating a lot of sweet things because whether the sweetener is fake or natural or non-sugar derived, the sweet taste still releases the same triggers in your brain which can result in addiction issues. …. This is why when people ask me about quitting sugar, you really need to quit EVERYTHING that is sweet in order to ACTUALLY quit it (like Sarah Wilson recommends). This is important in actually breaking your addiction (we all have one, even I did – I was addicted to fruit and the sign for me was when I wanted that sweet orange after dinner before bed. I noticed this when I quit) or you won’t be able to ‘reset’ your body and change your taste buds.
So, to round-up : all sugar is processed the same in our bodies (i.e. dumped on the liver) , whether it is perceived natural or not –> not adding sugar and switching your food choices to savoury is the best option –> if you need sweeteners, go for rice malt syrup or stevia as they are the safest non-fructose options. However, working with less sweetness in your diet is the best option as it reduces the risk of relapsing or encouraging an addiction to sugar (if you’ve quit) or it will still release the same trigger in your brain as normal sugar – therefore you still will be addicted to sugar/sweetness as such.
My advice: just quit. Do it properly for two weeks and you’ll notice a change (even science says you will!). Your taste buds will adjust and you’ll actually never crave sweet things