Simple Swaps: Honey for Processed Sugar


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Simple Swaps: Honey for Processed Sugar

Have you ever stopped to think how much sugar you consume in a day? Probably not. And if you did, the tally might scare you. Because sugar isn’t just about licorice, soda and M&M’s. Processed sugar is everywhere! Hidden in unlikely culprits like breads, sauces, yogurt and dressings. In fact, it’s added to virtually every packaged food product that exists.

The reason? Beyond it’s obvious sweet flavoring, sugar highly addictive. As much as nicotine, heroin or cocaine. Yep, sugar is a drug! And as you’ve probably guessed – food manufacturers know this. And boy do they want you coming back for more. So they add a sprinkle here and a few extra tablespoons there. Enough to get you hooked.

Now, before I get into why honey is a better alternative that processed sugar, I want to be very clear about one thing – ALL sugar consumption needs to be reduced. Even from natural sources. Sugar, whether it’s high-fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, honey or maple is still sugar.

But I find just the simple fact of swapping honey for sugar makes you aware. And awareness about what you’re putting in your mouth is always a good thing. So let’s hop to.

What’s bad about processed sugar?

Well first, let’s start with any redeeming qualities. Oh yeah, there are none. Processed sugar is simply empty calories with no nutrients. Any nutrients that did exist in the natural state of sugar cane have been stripped away during the manufacturing process.

Processed sugar is also high in fructose, which can bombard your liver. And when your liver becomes overwhelmed, it starts to convert fructose into fat. Not only does that affect your waistline, it can also lead to fatty liver disease, diabetes and other metabolic diseases.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, processed sugar is hugely inflammatory and toxic for both your body and brain. If you suffer from any autoimmune or chronic diseases, processed sugar could be doing massive harm to your body.

What’s good about honey?

As I mentioned at the beginning, we’re all consuming too much sugar. So the goal should be to reduce it across the board. But here’s where honey get’s bonus points over processed sugar.

First, it’s not processed. When you buy raw honey, it’s straight from the thousands of honey bee’s to you! Honey is a whole food, in the truest sense, that’s antioxidant rich and contains minerals, amino acids and vitamins. And while it’s still high in fructose, studies have shown that it does not impart the same negative effects as processed sugar. 

Honey is also a natural antibacterial and antifungal. So if you’re sick, eat a spoonful or add it to your tea. It’ll help soothe your cough and relieve irritation. Locally sourced honey can also help to reduce allergy symptoms, as it contains pollen spores from local plants.

The simple fact is that honey has been used for thousands of years for it’s healing properties. It’s good stuff, when consumed in moderation.

Swapping honey for processed sugar

You can swap honey for processed sugar 1:1 (or use less, as it’s naturally sweeter) in baked goods up to one cup. Make sure to buy raw, organic honey – and typically, the darker the color the more nutrients. If you’re looking for extra healing power, grab a jar of Manuka Honey.

What I use and recommend:

What are your thoughts on sugar? Are we eating too much of the sweet stuff? I’d love to hear your comments below!

About the author

Lisa Bryan

Lisa is a bestselling cookbook author, recipe developer, and YouTuber (with over 2.5 million subscribers) living in sunny Southern California. She started Downshiftology in 2014, and is passionate about making healthy food with fresh, simple and seasonal ingredients.

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  1. Hi Lisa!

    Thanks so much for this post. Do you consider maple syrup a whole food similar to honey? I notice that you use maple syrup in many recipes, and I was curious your philosophy around using it. I’m interested in reducing sugar intake and wondered what your thoughts might be about that in the context of using maple syrup.

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Gabrielle – yes, I do. I use unprocessed sugars in my recipes, which includes honey and maple syrup often.

  2. Dear Lisa,
    Firstly, thank you for sharing your wellness journey with us. I am, oh, so inspired by all of it!
    Secondly, I have a comment about honey usage. I know the benefits are there, if you use honey as it is. However, if you heat it, for example, add it to hot tea or a sauce for baking, the nutrition is gone and all that’s left is sugar. Regardless, I don’t use processed sugar and always use honey when a sweetener is needed (mostly because we have our own bees and get honey “straight from the oven” :)
    Looking forward to more posts, inspiring recipes and stories! Keep up the amazing work!