Honey vs maple syrup: Which is better for your health?

Honey vs maple syrup can be a tricky debate as both are sweet and are used to sweeten food items. However, both have different benefits.
Bottles of honey and maple syrup
Honey and maple syrup are both used as sweeteners and are healthier than refined sugar. Image courtesy : Freepik
Anjuri Nayar Singh Published: 15 May 2024, 14:29 pm IST
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Both honey and maple syrup are amazing as natural sweeteners and enhance the taste of a dish. While they both have a sweet taste, the way they are made, as well as their benefits, vary. The nutritional makeup of honey and maple syrup is very different as well. When it comes to calories, honey has slightly more than maple syrup. Read on to learn more about the two natural sweeteners and finally choose a side in this honey vs maple syrup argument.

What is maple syrup?

Maple syrup is a sweet natural syrup made from the sap of sugar maple trees, known for its rich flavour. Maple syrup is commonly used as a topping for pancakes and waffles or in cooking and baking. “It is a popular alternative to sugar or honey and is enjoyed for its taste and nutritional benefits,” explains dietician Kejal Shah. Maple syrup is very popular in North America, and there are different types of grades of maple syrup; Grade A and Grade B. Grade A is further divided based on colour – Light Amber, Medium Amber and Dark Amber; while the darkest syrup goes in Grade B, suggests the Plant Foods For Human Nutrition. The darker versions are stronger and are used for baking, while the lighter ones are those that we drizzle on our pancakes and waffles.

What is honey?

Honey is a sweet and sticky substance made by bees from the flower nectar that they collect. It is found in honeycombs and brought out by a process called beekeeping. It is a natural sweetener with various flavours and colours, used in cooking, baking, and as a topping. “Honey also has health benefits and is used in beauty products for its moisturizing properties,” says Shah. There are different types of honey, and their nutritional value depends on the plant source that the sector is derived from, the region is it found in as well as the season and the way it is presented. Some popular types of honey include clover honey, avocado honey, Eucalyptus honey and blueberry honey, states this study, published in Integrative Medicine Insights.

Honey vs maple syrup: Nutrition

The nutritional facts of honey, based on data from the Food Data Central, are as follows:

Honey: (100 g)
Calories: 304
Protein – 0.3 g
Fat- 0 g
Carbohydrate: 82.4 g
Fibre: 0.2 g
Sugars: 82.1 g

The nutritional facts of maple syrup, based on data from the Food Data Central, are as follows:

Maple Syrup: (100 g):
calories: 260
Protein – 0.04 g
Fat- 0.06 g
Carbohydrate: 67g
Fibre: 0 g
Sugars: 60.5 g

A bottle of honey with bread on a platter
Both honey and maple syrup can be used for baking and making desserts. Image courtesy: Freepik

Honey vs maple syrup: Similarities

Some similarities between maple syrup and honey include:

1. They are both natural Sweeteners

Both maple syrup and honey are natural sweeteners produced by animals – bees for honey, and sugar maple trees for maple syrup. A paper, published in The Science of Beverages, suggests that honey is the first natural sweetener used in the world. However, maple syrup is very popular in North America.

2. They are both used to cook

Not only can both honey and maple syrup be drizzled over pancakes and waffles, they can be cooked as well. They are commonly used as alternatives to refined sugar in cooking, and baking, and as toppings for various foods. This study, published in the International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science, states that when honey was used as a biscuit filling, it increased its antioxidant content.

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3. They have unique flavours and benefits

Both maple syrup and honey have unique flavours and aromas that can enhance the taste of dishes they are used in. Besides taste, maple syrup can also make a food item healthier by contributing to its metabolic health, states this study, published in Heliyon. The same is true for honey as well.

4. They work wonders as natural remedies

They can both be used as natural remedies for sore throats and coughs, due to their soothing properties. A study, published in Cureus, states that honey has an antimicrobial effect when it comes to treating cough and cold in children and can be used for kids, who are over one year old. While maple syrup is great for nocturnal cough, according to the US National Library for Medicine.

Honey vs maple syrup: Differences

Here are the differences between honey and maple syrup:

1. Calories

Honey and maple syrup are both high in calories. Honey typically has slightly more calories per serving than maple syrup.

2. Nutrition

Honey also has a higher amount of carbohydrates than maple syrup. Maple syrup contains a negligible amount of fat, while honey is completely devoid of the substance. “Both honey and maple syrup contain various vitamins and minerals. Pure maple syrup is recognised as a source of riboflavin and manganese, while honey contains traces of vitamins B6 and C,” says Shah. In fact, drinking warm water with honey has many benefits.

3. Usage

Honey is versatile and can be used in cooking, and baking, as a sweetener in beverages, and as a spread on foods like toast or yogurt. Maple syrup, on the other hand, is commonly used as a topping for pancakes, waffles, and French toast, as well as in baking, cooking, and as a sweetener in various dishes. It has a distinct flavour that is often appreciated in breakfast foods and dessert recipes.

A bowl of honey with a spoon.
There are many varities of honey based on how its been made, and what it contains. Image courtesy: Freepik

Honey vs maple syrup: Which one is healthier?

Both honey and maple syrup have health benefits and can be part of a healthy diet when consumed in moderation. “Honey has antibacterial properties and small amounts of vitamins, while maple syrup contains minerals and antioxidants. However, maple syrup has a lower glycemic index than honey,” says Shah. The choice between the two can depend on personal preferences and dietary needs.

Honey vs maple syrup: Which one lasts longer?

Both maple syrup and honey have long shelf lives when stored properly:

1. Maple Syrup

Pure maple syrup can last for several years if stored in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight and heat sources. Once opened, it should be refrigerated to maintain freshness and is typically best consumed within 6 to 12 months. It may crystalize over time but can be re-heated to return to a liquid state.

2. Honey

Honey is known for its long shelf life due to its high sugar content and low water content, which inhibit the growth of bacteria and spoilage. When stored in a cool, dry place and kept tightly sealed, honey can last indefinitely. Over time, honey may crystallize or solidify, but it is still safe to consume. To reliquify crystallized honey, it can be gently warmed in a warm water bath or microwave.

Are there side effects of eating too much honey and maple syrup?

There are potential downsides to consuming too much honey and maple syrup, mainly due to their high sugar content:

1. Weight gain

Both honey and maple syrup are high in natural sugars and calories. Consuming excessive amounts can contribute to weight gain and an increased risk of obesity, especially if not balanced with physical activity.

2. Blood glucose imbalance

Honey and maple syrup can cause spikes in blood glucose levels, leading to a rapid rise in energy followed by a crash. This can be particularly concerning for individuals with diabetes or insulin resistance.

3. Tooth decay

The sugar content in honey and maple syrup can contribute to tooth decay and cavities if these are consumed in excess, and proper oral hygiene is not practiced.

4. Inflammatory Response

Consuming large quantities of sugars, including those found in honey and maple syrup, can lead to chronic inflammation in the body. This may be associated with various health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis.

FAQs

Can diabetics eat honey and maple syrup?

When it comes to consuming honey or maple syrup for a diabetes patient, maple syrup emerges as the better option. Maple syrup has a low glycemic index, as compared to honey. However, all-natural sweeteners can cause blood sugar to rise and, hence, it is essential to discuss with a doctor before consumption.

Are honey and maple syrup healthier than sugar?

Yes, both honey and maple syrup are healthier than sugar as they have a lower glycemic index. They are also full of vitamins, minerals as well as antioxidants. However, these should also be used in moderation.

Summary

We can see that both honey, as well as maple syrup, come with their benefits, various tastes and types. While it is tough to declare one better than the other, the choice can be made based on the purpose of your consumption. However, it is important to consume honey and maple syrup in moderation as part of a balanced diet to enjoy their flavour and potential health benefits without experiencing negative consequences.

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About the Author

Anjuri Nayar Singh has over 12 years of experience in writing for various topics including lifestyle, films, television and OTT. She also writes on art and culture, education and human interest stories. ...Read More

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