- High glycemic index (GI) foods can spike blood sugar faster than those with a lower GI rating.
- Honey is lower on the glycemic index than table sugar, making it a good choice for those who need to manage and balance blood sugar levels.
- Manuka honey tests even lower on the GI scale than classic honey, making it an ideal energy source compared to other forms of sugar and carbs.
Have you ever wondered why your energy levels have suffered a slump with no obvious explanation at all? Or have you had a sudden spike in energy just after eating sweet foods?
We look a little further into how what we put into our bodies can make a difference in how we feel. Namely the difference between Manuka honey and sugar. Is it time to avoid sweet foods altogether, or is there a nutritional value that we hadn’t thought of?
Discover how and why Manuka honey is a healthier choice than sugar when it comes to blood sugar levels. Let’s dive into it!
First of All, What Is the Glycemic Index?
A glycemic index (GI) is defined as the rate at which carbohydrates are broken down into glucose and absorbed from the gut into the blood. In high GI foods, this occurs quickly, causing your blood glucose (sugar) level to rise or ‘spike’ rapidly.
In low-GI foods, carbs are digested slowly, resulting in a more gradual rise in blood glucose levels.
What does this mean in practice? Eating high-GI foods, you might experience a spike in energy as your blood sugar rises, followed by a serious drop or slump. This can result in feeling tired and sluggish. In some cases, a sudden blood sugar drop can fuel headaches, dizziness, and trouble concentrating.
With lower-GI foods, you can avoid the constant ups and downs, and get more of a slow and steady energy that carries you through the day.
The bottom line? Lower-GI foods can generally help with feelings of consistent, balanced energy throughout the day, while higher-GI foods tend to cause a spike of energy followed by a crash.
What’s the Glycemic Index of Honey Compared to Sugar?
Carbohydrate-based sweeteners like sugar and honey are not low-GI foods. However, sugar and honey are not equal in terms of their GI ratings.
Regular pure honey has a rating of 61 on the glycemic index, while table sugar comes in with a rating of 65.
For this reason, honey is generally thought to be better than sugar for keeping blood sugar levels balanced. However, understand that different honey and sugar products may have slight variances in their GI ratings. This is mostly because of differences in production.
For example, certain honey types may have a higher or lower GI rating based on location, what the bees forage on, and how the honey is processed.
But regardless of how it’s processed, honey is typically lower on the glycemic index than table sugar, resulting in a slower glycemic load.
Why Is Honey Lower on the Glycemic Index Than Sugar?
You might be wondering why honey scores lower on the glycemic index than sugar, and it’s an interesting question to examine. To help answer this question, we need to look at how sugar is made compared to honey and what’s in each product.
Sugar Is Half Glucose and Half Fructose
Simple sugar is typically made from sugar cane or sugar beets. Sweet juice is extracted from the plants, and the juice is boiled until it reaches crystallization.
Next, the sugar crystals are separated from the liquid and refined to their final form: table sugar, powdered sugar, or brown sugar.
There are generally only two substances in natural sugar: glucose (50 percent) and fructose (50 percent). They bond together to create sugar, also known as disaccharide sucrose.
Honey Is More Complex
Natural honey is made by honeybees who collect nectar from flowers and then turn that nectar into honey. The bees use a special enzyme in their digestive systems to help process the nectar, then place it into honeycombs and use their wings to create a breeze that dries and cures it, eventually resulting in honey.
This natural sweetener comprises more than 181 substances, mostly sugars and water.
Here’s the average makeup of honey:
82.5% sugars: This includes fructose (38.5%), glucose (31%), maltose (7%), trisaccharides (4%), and sucrose (1.5%).
17% water: Although the bees reduce honey’s water content significantly as they dry and cure it, there is still some water left in it, giving it its viscous consistency.
- 0.5% other substances: These include amino acids, enzymes, and essential vitamins and minerals like potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, Vitamin C, Vitamin B2, and more.
Is Honey Better Than Sugar?
So what does this all mean? As you can see, thanks to its higher water content, honey has less sugar overall compared with white sugar.
If you look at their nutritional facts, this becomes clear:
- Sugar: 100 grams of table sugar has 100g of sugar
- Honey: 100 grams of honey has around 82.5g of sugar
Plus, honey typically has a higher concentration of fructose over glucose. Why does this matter? Because fructose is much lower on the GI scale than glucose. Fructose is around 15 on the glycemic index, while glucose is 103.
But what about sweetness? Surely with its zero water and higher sugar content, you must be able to get away with using less table sugar than you would honey, right? Not exactly. Honey is about 25 percent sweeter than sugar, so you may be able to use less of it overall.
And that’s not to mention all those beneficial compounds you can get from raw honey, like antioxidants, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. You won’t get those added health benefits with sugar!
What About Manuka Honey?
Source: ScienceDirect 'The Glycemic Index of Manuka Honey'
We know that other types of honey have a relatively low glycemic index compared to sugar.
But what about Manuka honey, the prized honey exclusively authentic to New Zealand? Due to the special makeup of Manuka Honey, its glycemic index is even lower than regular honey, making it a healthier alternative to both glucose found in sugar and other kinds of honey.
When tested, different Manuka honey products were found to have a GI rating ranging from 54 to 59, even lower than regular honey’s rating of 61 and table sugar’s rating of 65.
For those looking for a way to sweeten their day-to-day with a lower-GI option, Manuka honey may be a preferable choice over sugar and even other honey varieties.
Can Manuka Honey Offer Longer-Lasting Energy Levels?
Manuka honey's capability to produce smaller fluctuations in your blood glucose and insulin levels means it can provide a slower release of energy and allows your body to sustain energy for longer.
This means you shouldn’t get a “sugar high” followed by a slump, helping to keep energy levels balanced so you can think/focus/feel better. In addition, the long-term health benefits of avoiding high-GI foods include a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, and one of the keys to maintaining weight loss.
The lower GI index of Manuka honey also means it can be taken at any time of the day. This is why Manuka honey is the perfect nutritional sweetener alternative to any of your morning, afternoon, or evening rituals.
Other Benefits of Manuka Honey
Manuka honey has so much more going for it than a lower GI rating. We like to think of it as Honey With Superpowers.
- Rare Antibacterial Compound: Manuka honey also benefits from naturally occurring Methylglyoxal (MGO). The MGO compound in Manuka Honey gives it unique antibacterial properties making it one of the most sought-after and rarest kinds of honey in the world. Learn more about MGO here.
Loads of Other Beneficial Compounds: This rare honey is made from the nectar of flowers that bloom on New Zealand’s Manuka tree. The nectar is packed full of health-supporting compounds like antioxidants, prebiotics, and much more. These properties and additional nutrients can support immune and digestive health, energy, and overall well-being.
- A Feel-Good Indulgence: Manuka honey is like no other honey. Its smooth, creamy texture and rich flavor (with just a hint of toffee) are an experience to savor. Have a spoonful on its own, sweeten your tea, or use it as a standout drizzle on your favorite foods. We recommend it on yogurt, toast, or even ice cream.
The versatility of Manuka honey is what makes it unique and why we choose it above other kinds of honey. There are a number of other amazing ways to use your Manuka honey. We’ve highlighted some of them in another blog post and you can read it here: “Manuka Honey - Benefits and Uses”
The glycemic index measures how much and how quickly different foods spike your blood sugar. Higher-GI foods tend to spike your blood sugar more, while lower-GI foods can help you maintain balanced blood sugar levels as part of an overall balanced diet.
Regular honey has a lower GI rating than table sugar. However, Manuka honey’s GI rating beats both of them:
- Table sugar: GI rating of 65
- Regular honey: GI rating of 61
- Manuka honey: GI rating of 55 to 59
When it comes to managing blood sugar, Manuka honey can be an ideal alternative to both regular honey and standard table sugar. Plus, Manuka honey has other unique benefits, like the naturally cleansing compound MGO and its naturally-occurring prebiotics.
Looking to learn more about Manuka honey? Explore Manukora’s blog here, or if you’re ready to try our authentic, unique Manuka honey for yourself, browse our different Manuka honey products here.
Original article The glycaemic index of Manuka honey | Science Direct
Glycemic index for 60+ foods | Harvard Health
Phenolic Compounds in Honey and Their Associated Health Benefits: A Review | PMC
Honey and Health: A Review of Recent Clinical Research | PMC