Sometimes, trying to work out what our diet should include can be more than a little confusing. Some of the advice out there can be pretty contradictory. When we’re trying to make sensible dietary choices, however, one option is often to look at reducing our sugar intake.
For a time, fats were the “bad guys” but now the guidance is that fats (in moderation) are an essential part of our dietary needs. Now, the “baddie” appears to be sugar, particularly refined sugar.
So, if you can’t bear to drink your coffee without sweetening it, what are the alternatives to sugar? Many lab-designed options, like saccharin, have health issues associated with them, while other options, like stevia or monk fruit, aren’t always all that easy to find. There is, however, a gloriously natural alternative: honey. When you buy honey, particularly raw honey, it’s pretty much as nature intended.
How Honey Is Made
Don’t be deceived: whenever you see a bee merrily enjoying what looks like a rest for a couple of seconds on a flower, in fact, it’s hard at work. Its long, tube-like tongue is collecting as much nectar as possible. (While apian tongues are generally long, in recent years some bees have started to develop shorter tongues.)
Once it has collected the nectar, the bee stores it in its extra stomach. Yes, you read that right; bees have two stomachs. The crop is where nectar is stored and mixed with various enzymes, making it easier to store long-term. Back in the hive, the nectar is then passed from one bee to another. The partially digested nectar is then deposited in a honeycomb.
The sealed honeycomb provides a perfect source of food and energy for the bees during winter. Of course, it isn’t only bees who find honey irresistible. In fact, until around the 16th century, honey was the primary sweetener for drinks and food. So, although on the surface, honey and coffee might not be an obvious pairing, they’re actually well-matched.
Are There Any Benefits To Adding Honey In Coffee?
Compared to refined sugar, honey is packed with nutrition. Honey is still a sugar, however, even if it’s a natural one. You’ll be adding around 12mg of sugar to your daily intake for every two teaspoonfuls of honey in coffee.
Honey does, however, contain vitamins and minerals that are very beneficial. Natural honey contains amino acids, inhibin, micronutrients, phenol antioxidants, and proteins. Adding the right honey to coffee means you can benefit from all of these.
Sugar vs Honey: Higher Calories, The Better Choice?
One topic that often comes up in the honey vs sugar debate is how many calories in a teaspoon of honey compared to sugar. Well, the answer is that there are around 20 calories in a teaspoon of honey, so two spoonfuls will add around 40 calories to your coffee. There are more calories in honey than there are in sugar.
A level teaspoonful of sugar typically has around 16 calories. If you’re wondering about the ideal honey to sugar ratio, try an amount of honey of about 20% less than you would add if you’re still using sugar. Then adjust for taste, bearing in mind the calorie count.
Both honey and sugar are carbohydrates; sugar raises your blood sugar that little bit faster than honey. Sugar is made up of fifty percent glucose and fifty percent fructose, whereas honey is around 40 percent fructose and 30 percent glucose.
The remainder of the honey is made up of pollen, water, and those micronutrients we mentioned, particularly magnesium and potassium. So, despite the fact that honey has more calories than sugar, you’re likely to get more benefit from a spoonful of honey in your coffee.
Other Benefits of Using Honey
So, what are the benefits of using honey, anyway? Well, honey has been in use for thousands of years, and not just as a sweetener. It’s used in medicinal and beauty preparations too. Is honey good for you? The answer is yes, in many different ways.
You might already know how effective honey is at soothing a sore throat, with a little lemon and hot water added, but did you know it’s also sometimes used, very effectively, to help heal wounds? Clinical trials have shown that it can effectively kill certain types of bacteria including MSSA and MRSA. Evidence shows that raw honey can also help with allergies.
Honey takes a little longer to raise your blood sugar, compared to refined sugar. It takes a little longer to digest too. Your body doesn’t, however, have to work quite as hard to store the natural sugars in honey as it does for refined sugar.
Should You Add Honey To Your Coffee?
Apart from the health benefits, when you’re trying to decide if you should substitute honey for sugar in your cup of joe, one major consideration is the taste. Some types of honey do have a stronger flavor than others. If you’ve ever tried honey straight from the comb, you’ll know how deep and rich the taste can be.
So it depends on whether you like your coffee straight-up, or whether you’re happy to add in extra flavors. As with so many decisions relating to coffee, it all comes back to the blend you choose. Honey goes well with nutty, robust coffee blends, but it also works well with light, fruity coffees. And we have to confess to enjoying manuka honey, as well as honey made from clover and lavender pollen.
It’s wise to use honey in moderation: it is healthier than sugar, overall, but it is still sugar. Official dietary guidelines are to have no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day in our diets or around 5% of our overall daily intake.
Honey And Heat
Heat does, however, affect honey. If you’re using honey that has already been pasteurized, some nutrients may have already been denatured or reduced by the heating process. If you’re using raw honey to sweeten your coffee, the brewing temperature can affect the benefits.
The typical brewing temperature for a cup of coffee is around 212 Fahrenheit. For the maximum benefits from adding honey to your drink, we suggest waiting until it’s cooled down by a few degrees. If you’re adding honey to iced coffee, then the temperature does not affect the result, although you might need to make sure you stir well for the best coffee with honey.
Is Coffee With Honey Safe?
While honey has been used as a sweetener for thousands of years, recently there have been some safety concerns. And while for most people, it is perfectly safe, for a small number of individuals, and some age groups, it is not recommended.
It is certainly not recommended, for example, for babies and young children due to the risk of botulism. And it’s not entirely clear whether regular honey can provide the same level of nutrients and benefits as raw honey.
Bee Healthy And Try Honey In Your Coffee
Would we recommend adding honey to your coffee? That’s a resounding yes. We just love milk and honey coffee now and then – the two flavors complement one another perfectly. Add a splash of vanilla essence or a sprinkle of cinnamon to make it even more divine.
And, after all, when one of the world’s leading “coffee compliments/complements” firms features a creamer product that incorporates honey, you know you’re in pretty good company! So, why not “bee healthy” and try adding a drop of honey to your coffee?
Hi my name is Larry, a coffee aficionado from the US. I have already visited Colombia, Sumatra, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ethiopia and Jamaica in my pursuit of finding the best-tasting coffee beans. I currently write from Bali and enjoy the relaxed life that you can find only in Indonesia. Welcome to my coffee world!