Honey vs. Pure Maple Syrup (Which Is The Better Natural Sweetener?)

    honey vs maple syrupWhen it comes to healthy alternatives to sweetening food, both honey and pure maple syrup often come up in the conversation.  But is one better than the other?  If using substantial quantities, we think so.

    For instance, per tablespoon, honey has 23% more calories than pure maple syrup.  Even more, honey contains 40% more sugar than pure maple syrup!

    While the two are often compared or thought of as equally healthy choices, it's pretty clear that they are anything but.

    Of course, depending on the taste profile you desire, you may find that one suits better than the other.  In that instance, rest assured, these are both great, natural alternatives to processed sugar and high fructose corn syrup any way you slice it!

    That said, we actually prefer and recommend low-calorie or non-calorie natural sweeteners, such as stevia and erythritol, over maple syrup and honey in most instances.  For baking recipes, we often find a combination of natural sweeteners like maple syrup or honey, plus a non-calorie or low calorie sweetener like stevia and erythritol is the best taste/calorie trade-off.

    Of course, too much sugar (even from natural sources) can be damaging to your gut health, brain function, memory, and blood sugar levels, which we've talked about extensively at the links below:

    ==> How sugar feeds and multiplies toxic bacteria in your gut

    ==> How sugar can create "brain fog", affect your memory, and damage your health

    To your success,

    Josh Bezoni

    Co-Founder, BioTrust Nutrition

     

    22 comments - Add Yours

    1. Hi, thank you for this information. I only use a pinch of sugar in my coffee. Would it make a difference if I replace that pinch with a drop of maple syrup or doesn’t it really matter when it comes to such small quantities. I drink 2 to 3 cups of coffee a day. I have tried Stevia but doesn’t like the taste of it.

      • Hi Amanda,

        Thanks so much for stopping by and for sharing your question with us. It is truly our privilege to be your resource for honest nutrition and health information.

        Generally speaking, we’re conditioned to think solely about calories, sugar, etc., but many foods offer additional nutrients, which may make them a better choice. This is a concept called dietary displacement, and we often talk about things existing along a continuum of Good >> Better >> Best. For example, Coach Brian does an excellent job of illustrating this concept in the following article:

        The Lowdown on: Nut/Seed Butters

        Along the lines of your specific question, beyond sweetness, calories, and carbohydrates (i.e., sugar), maple syrup may provide addition nutrients and health-conferring benefits. For example, pure maple syrup is an excellent source of manganese and a good source of zinc. In addition, researchers have recently found over 20 compounds in pure maple syrup that support health, 13 of which are first-time discoveries. Several of these new compounds exhibit anti-cancer, anti-bacterial, and anti-diabetic properties.

        According to lead researcher, Dr. Navindra Seeram, who specializes in medicinal plant research:

        “We know that plants must have strong antioxidant mechanisms because they are in the sun throughout their lives. We already know that berries, because of their bright colors, are high in antioxidants.”

        On the contrary, refined sugar is essentially void of any real nutritional value. With that being said, this is a classic example of dietary displacement. While we wouldn’t necessarily consider refined sugar “good,” we can say with confidence that pure maple syrup appears to be a better option.

        I hope this helps, Amanda!

        My best,

        Tim Skwiat
        Senior Nutrition and Exercise Coach

    2. Hi there,
      I was intially brought to your site as I was investigating, as the title of this thread suggests, honey v maple syrup..(I use maple syrup in my homemade granola, but my friend reckons it’s less healthy than honey) This thread seems to lean towards maple syrup being the better option but I am quite amazed that you would be advocating stevia over both honey and maple syrup, owing to the fact that it is highly processed even thigh it is marketed as being natural, is that not the case ??

      • Hi Antonia,

        Thanks so much for stopping by and for sharing feedback and question. We sincerely appreciate the opportunity to help!

        For more information about the maple syrup versus honey debate, please feel free to stop by our Online Community Forums, specifically the following thread:

        http://www.biotrustboard.com/showthread.php?36875-Honey-vs-Pure-Maple-Syrup-(which-is-the-better-natural-sweetener-)

        As far as your question about stevia, stevia-based sweeteners are derived from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant, which is native to South America and been used for centuries as a sugar substitute. Purportedly 300 times sweeter than sugar, steviol glycoside extracts have no caloric value and no effect on blood sugar levels, which makes it a highly attractive all-natural sweetener.

        In 2009, the FDA considered “Rebiana to be generally recognized as safe (GRAS).” The following two review studies found no health concerns with stevia or any of its sweetening extracts:

        http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.3109/09637480903193049

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20370653

        What’s more, the following 2009 review study found that stevia and related compounds have “anti-hyperglycemic, anti-hypertensive, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-diarrheal, diuretic, and immunomodulatory actions.”

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19000919

        Thus, stevia and stevia-based sweeteners provide a safe, all-natural, non-glycemic, zero-calorie alternative to artificial sweeteners and sugar.

        That being said, one of the things to look at in the stevia products are the “other” ingredients. Many stevia-based products contain stevia as well as some additional ingredients. For example, some of them also contain the all-natural sugar alcohol erythritol. Others contain inulin, which is an all-natural sweet fiber that we actually use in some of our products.

        Some of the other products out there, however, contain added ingredients like maltodextrin, glucose, and other carbohydrates that actually have an impact on blood sugar and have caloric value. While they may be in relatively small amounts, some would argue it compromises the integrity of the product..

        The stevia used in our products is made from the leaves of Stevia Rebaudiana.

        I hope this helps, Antonia!

        Sincerely,

        Tim Skwiat
        Senior Nutrition and Exercise Coach

    3. Honey is better 1 bacteriicidal
      2traditionally used as medicinal
      Not as sweet as Maple Syrup.h

      • Hi Cho,

        Thanks so much for sharing your feedback with us. We actually dive into the benefits of both honey and maple syrup further, here:

        I hope this helps!

        Sincerely,

        Brian Murray
        Nutrition and Exercise Coach

    4. I too use both. I prefer honey in my hot tea (I do not sweeten my coffee). We use natural honey from our area to reap the benefits to help my allergies. When I sweeten a dish, I use as light a hand as possible. I will mix Stevie with honey when the texture will not be compromised.

      • Hi Geralann,

        Thanks so much for sharing your feedback. It sounds like you’re doing a great job, especially incorporating local honey. If you’re interested, you may consider stopping by our Online Community Forums where we had a good discussion on this very topic:

        http://www.biotrustboard.com/showthread.php?36875-Honey-vs-Pure-Maple-Syrup-(which-is-the-better-natural-sweetener-)

        Keep up the great work, Geralann!

        Sincerely,

        Tim Skwiat
        Senior Nutrition and Exercise Coach

    5. Ok, I have found a VERY Sweet natural sweetener. It is Organic Blue Agave. Pure Agave Nectar. A Tablespoon is 60 calories, HOWEVER, I use only 1 Tsp to get the sweetness of 2 Tablespoons of Honey. It is thick, but not quite as thick as honey. This is also much less expensive than Honey or Stevia, which is what I like the most. Because I like it so much, I would like your opinion & advice about using it. THANKS!

      • Hi Katrina,

        Thank you so much for reaching out to us with this questions. It is truly our privilege to be your resource for honest nutrition and health information.

        As far as your question about agave, this is an interesting one. It seems to be all the rage, as it is touted as being an all-natural alternative to sugar. The fact of the matter is that it’s still essentially sugar, and a very concentrated source at that (i.e., about 60 calories per tablespoon, compared to 40 calories for the same amount of table sugar). What’s more, it is actually very high in fructose—significantly higher, in fact, than high-fructose corn syrup. Most of the variations found in stores are processed using high heats, which destroys some of its inherent health benefits (e.g., enzymes).

        While honey contains about 50% fructose and maple syrup around 42%, the amount of fructose in agave ranges from 70 – 97%, depending on the brand, region, etc.

        I don’t dislike it—it actually works great for margaritas and other cold drinks—but I do find it ironic that it seems to get such an awesome reputation but really provides no real health benefit over sugar. As a matter of fact, used in the same quantities, it may be worse! (Because of the high fructose content.) If you do choose agave, I would try to find a raw version that is processed at lower temperatures, which would then confer some health benefit.

        You’re talking about using a very small amount, so that is important to take into consideration as well. Generally speaking, when it comes to nutrition, there is a spectrum along which dietary choices can be made:

        Good >>> Better >>> Best

        We can even talk about dietary displacement in this conversation. Calorie for calorie, we’re bound to get more nutrient-density from a food like raw, local honey or pure maple syrup than we are from agave. It’s just something to consider.

        I hope this helps!

        Sincerely,

        Tim Skwiat
        Senior Nutrition and Exercise Coach

    6. How does blackstrap molasses compare – which I loooove!

      • Hello Ena,

        Thanks so much for reaching out to us!

        Blackstrap molasses is another great alternative, as it contains significant amounts of manganese, copper, iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Blackstrap molasses also has roughly 60 calories per tablespoon, so we actually still prefer and recommend low-calorie or non-calorie natural sweeteners, such as stevia and erythritol.

        I hope this helps, Ena.

        Sincerely,

        Brian Murray
        Nutrition and Exercise Coach

    7. I would like to see less overall use of stevia, as I can easily detect the off taste. Maybe cut it by half…I typically blend in a banana half, which easily covers the shortfall of added sweetener

      • Hi Warren,

        Thanks so much for your feedback. Are you talking about a specific product or food item? Or, are you just discussing stevia in general?

        As you’ve mentioned, individual tastes vary from person to person—they are as unique as our fingerprints. That’s a great idea about the banana. Have you tried blending a frozen banana into your smoothies? Not only will you enjoy the taste, it adds a very nice thick and creamy texture. Give it a shot and let us know what you think!

        Thanks, Warren. Keep up the great work!

        Sincerely,

        Tim Skwiat
        Senior Nutrition and Exercise Coach

    8. What is your opinion on xyitol?

      • Hi Pauline,

        Thank you so much for reaching out to us and for offering us the opportunity to help. Xylitol is a naturally-occurring food substance, found in the fibers of many fruits and vegetables. As a result, it is recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA. Although it is classified as a sugar alcohol, its chemical structure resembles both a sugar and an alcohol but isn’t a true form of either.

        At 2.4 calories per gram, it does contain caloric value. As a matter of fact, American Diabetes Association advises people with diabetes to count half of sugar alcohol grams as carbohydrates. Despite this, it does have a very low glycemic index score (i.e., 7 compared to sugar’s 100). Because it is not fully absorbed in the small intestine, it may cause digestive issues in some folks when used in larger quantities.

        In small amounts it may be fine, but we typically recommend a combination of stevia and erythritol. These all-natural sweeteners have zero calories, zero glycemic impact. What’s more, erythritol is fully absorbed, so it does not tend to pose any digestive issues.

        Don’t feed xylitol to your dogs: it can be toxic to our canine friends.

        I hope this helps!

        Sincerely,

        Tim Skwiat
        Senior Nutrition and Exercise Coach

    9. I am fond of raw honey, used in moderation, of course, but we have to keep in mind something, Raw Honey is the only natural sweetener, even Maple Syrup has to be processed because it is not the sap of the Maple Tree you are eating when you pour it at your food.
      Raw Honey, on the other hand, besides the great antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties also has enzymes, vitamins and minerals. If the only basis for the this comparative is number of calories, sure, the honey has more, but it is a real food, again, in moderation, as every one of the others sweeteners (except stevia, I guess).

      • Hi Javier,

        It’s great to see you over here on our website blog! Thanks so much for stopping by. :) I think you’d also love to join our Online Community, as I think you’d bring great knowledge and experience to the table. As a matter of fact, as I mentioned to Catherine in the comments section here, we’ve touched on some of the very same points that you’ve mentioned about honey in this thread:

        http://www.biotrustboard.com/showthread.php?36875-Honey-vs-Pure-Maple-Syrup-%28which-is-the-better-natural-sweetener-%29

        I think Coach Josh’s take-home point here is that if you’re using “substantial quantities” (e.g., a recipe), then maybe maple syrup is the better option, as it’s lower in calories, carbohydrates, and fructose for a given volume, or unit measure (not necessarily for a given level of sweetness). As you point out, however, when using in smaller quantities, the total health benefits conferred by honey—as well as its taste profile—may make it a more attractive option.

        Thanks, Javier!

        Sincerely,

        Tim Skwiat
        Senior Nutrition and Exercise Coach

        • As always, Tim, thank you for your nice reply.

          Javier

          • Camille burke

            You took the words out of my mouth Javier. Honey has many great properties that I believe outway any other sweeter.

    10. Yes, but did you know that honey is antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiviral and anti fungal? Honey is the one food that literally never spoils. It is also used in wound healing. Plus it is all very well to say it contains more sugar but the real test is how much do you need for a certain level of sweetness? And while I like maple syrup, I don’t want my tea to taste like maple syrup and the best maple syrups are pretty strongly flavored.

      • Hi Catherine,

        Thanks so much for sharing these great points about honey. As a matter of fact, we’ve discussed these very same health-promoting properties over at our Online Community:

        http://www.biotrustboard.com/showthread.php?36875-Honey-vs-Pure-Maple-Syrup-%28which-is-the-better-natural-sweetener-%29

        Coach Josh did make sure to point out that both options are “great, natural alternatives to processed sugar and high fructose corn syrup,” and “depending on the taste profile you desire, you may find that one suits better than the other.” I think he’d agree about maple syrup-flavored coffee. :)

        I think the take-home point here is that if you’re using “substantial quantities” (e.g., a recipe), then perhaps maple syrup should get the nod, as it’s lower in calories, carbohydrates, and fructose for a given volume, or unit measure (not necessarily for a given level of sweetness).

        Thanks, Catherine!

        Sincerely,

        Tim Skwiat
        Senior Nutrition and Exercise Coach

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