Sugar is the most popular sweetener used in coffee, but it’s hardly the only one. People use a number of different types of sweeteners in their coffee, including both artificial and natural ones. One alternative sweetener that’s sometimes mentioned, especially by tea drinkers and those looking for a healthier alternative to sugar, is honey. Of course, you can put honey in coffee, but should you? Here’s a look at the pros and cons of using honey instead of sugar in coffee.
Honey Has More Calories — But Is the Better Choice
Honey technically has more calories than sugar. A teaspoon of honey has about 21 calories, while one of white sugar contains around 16 calories. Whether you’ll consume more calories by using honey or sugar, however, isn’t as clear-cut as this comparison might make it seem.
There are other considerations to take into account that arise from the molecular differences between honey and sugar.
- Honey consists mostly both glucose and fructose. Glucose, in particular, is a basic sugar that’s easy to burn. Fructose doesn’t burn quite as quickly and is more likely to be turned into fat, but it still can be used fairly readily by the body.
- White table sugar contains disaccharides, which are more complex sugars. Although the disaccharides in sugar are broken down into glucose and fructose by the body, they take longer to process and aren’t as immediately burned.
These molecular differences have three significant effects that impact how many calories stay in your body when using honey or white sugar:
- The sugars in honey taste sweeter than those in white sugar, so you may use less honey than sugar when sweetening your coffee.
- Because the sugars in honey are processed faster, they’re less likely to be converted into fats and stored in your body.
- The sugars in honey have a lower glycemic index than those in white sugar, which means honey will have less of an effect on blood-glucose levels.
In short, although honey has more calories than table sugar, the sugars in honey are preferable to those in table sugar.
Honey Has Other Benefits
Because honey is less processed than white sugar, it has other trace nutrients that have additional health benefits. For instance, honey often contains:
- Antibacterial properties
- Minerals (including calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphate, potassium, sodium chlorine and sulphur)
- Vitamins (including vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and C)
Table sugar has none of these additional benefits.
(Many honeys also have a high concentration of pesticides, according to an article in Shape. You can get honey with less pesticide residue by using organic honey.)
Honey Affects the Taste of Coffee
If you’re only concerned with health, honey is the better coffee sweetener. Its sugars are easier to process, and it provides you with other important nutrients.
Health, however, isn’t the only concern for coffee drinkers. After all, if it was the only consideration, you’d drink your coffee black — or you might drink water instead of coffee. Taste also is a major consideration.
When it comes to taste, sugar has a clear advantage over honey — and that’s why most people use sugar instead of honey to sweeten their coffee. Honey has a strong flavor that doesn’t always go well with coffee. While a few people like the taste of honey in their coffee, many find that honey’s flavors clash with coffee’s.
If you’re looking for a healthy alternative to processed sugar, try sweetening your coffee with honey. In fact, try a few different honeys in a few different coffees. Maybe there will be a combination you like. Likely, you’ll come back to table sugar or search for a different way to sweeten your coffee. You’ll never know until you try honey, though.
Let Us Know How You Sweeten Your Coffee
Do you have a favorite coffee sweetener? If so, let us know on Twitter. We’re always excited to hear how our customers are enjoying the coffees we roast.