Honey vs sugar in grain-free snacks

A company that makes grain-free bars and snacks claims on its website that honey has many benefits over sugar...

 

The labeling/marketing on the website claims, among other things, the following about honey:

more calories per gram than sugar, a fructose-to-glucose ratio of approximately 40:30 (vs 50:50 in refined cane sugar), "lower in fructose", easier for digestion, lower Glycemic Index when combined with fats in the snacks, more vitamins and minerals.

All of the above statements are either false or misleading.

Honey has FEWER calories per gram than granulated sugar, partly because it contains some moisture (which dilutes the sugars/calories in it... simple math): honey has 304 calories per 100 grams; granulated cane sugar has 387 per 100 g. That amount of honey is about 1/3 cup; the same weight of sugar is about 1/2 cup. Someone may have been comparing "one (FDA) serving" of each, which are not equivalent amounts by weight or volume (one serving of honey is 1 tablespoon; one serving of granulated sugar is 1 teaspoon).

Honey is not "lower" in fructose. In fact, its most predominant sugar is fructose, and the percentage of fructose to total sugar content in honey is about the same as that in an equal-calorie portion (removing the moisture weight from honey for a more meaningful/accurate comparison) of granulated cane sugar -- about 50%.

Fructose content is what slows the metabolic processing/digestion of mixed sugars, because it has to go through the liver. Since sugar and honey have almost equal amounts of fructose, they will not differ much in terms of how they are metabolized. 

The Glycemic Index of ANY food (including all sugars) will be lowered when combined with fats, fiber, protein. Honey is nothing special here.

As for "vitamins and minerals" in honey vs sugar, the amount of each claimed nutrient in one serving (1 Tbsp of honey) is way under 1% of the Daily Value, making them insignificant. The website is mistakenly using 100-gram portions of honey to show levels of up to 3% DV for certain nutrients. That amount is about 5 servings (more than 1/4 cup), so it is not a valid comparison, not to mention that even the 1-3% DV in 5 servings does not come close to being a "good source" of a nutrient.

The website goes on to claim health benefits from honey. This is not permitted in food labeling unless a claim meets criteria for any of a handful of FDA-accepted claims that have scientific backing and are relevant to a (very small in this case) standard serving size. The health claims mentioned on the website do not comply.

 

 

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