For those of us who like our coffee a bit sweet, it can get tiresome to turn to simple white sugar day after day. Luckily, there are a handful of other options – and some of these offer health and taste benefits. Honey is one of these wonderful alternatives.
The good news is: yes, you can absolutely use honey to sweeten your coffee!
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Is Honey A Healthier Choice Than Sugar?
When considering the health effects of coffee sweeteners, there are two important factors: the amount of sugar that you’re putting into your body, and what your body can do with those sugars.
The first part of this question is a little complicated. You can measure the total amount of sugar you’re consuming by thinking about calories, which are units used to measure energy in foods. A comparison shows that honey actually does have more sugars. A teaspoon of white sugar contains 16 calories, while the same quantity of honey contains 23 calories.
At first glance, it may seem confusing to think that honey contains more sugar than sugar does… after all, isn’t sugar just straight sugar?
Types of Sugar
We commonly use refined white sugar, which is made from beet or cane sugar. The refining process turns it into sucrose, which is a combination of glucose and fructose.
So when you eat common white sugar (or drink it in your coffee), you’re ingesting something your body can then break down into sugar. Honey is made up of unrefined glucose and fructose, so it’s easier for your body to digest.
This is why when we compare the same quantity of honey and white sugar, it looks like the white sugar is the healthier option. But this isn’t the most useful of comparisons.
Which is sweeter?
Because honey is made up of more basic sugars (fructose and glucose), it actually tastes much sweeter than white sugar. To achieve the same sweetening effect in coffee, you need only add about 2/3 the amount of sugar. This is why you may notice tea drinkers dumping in three or four sugar packets at a café, but other tea drinkers only taking a tiny bit of honey on a spoon to swirl in – those different amounts of sweetener have the same effect.
This difference in sweetness means you’ll be able to use less honey than you would sugar – so much less, in fact, that you’ll be actually consuming fewer calories.
Honey also provides natural antioxidants, and it has antibacterial properties. These types of compounds are quite important to your health, and if you regularly consume them naturally – say, through honey – you shouldn’t need to take artificial dietary supplements.
How Does Honey Affect the Taste of Coffee?
Of course, health concerns aren’t everything. We also want coffee that tastes great.
This is one of those situations where everyone will have a slightly different opinion. While white sugar simply adds some sweetness to your coffee, honey can add some other flavors – some of which you may like, and some of which may make your coffee taste a bit strange.
In much the same way that different coffee beans grown in different regions carry subtly different taste profiles, so too do different honeys. It’s all about the specific bees, and, more importantly, the flowers the bees fed on. This is why, for example, clover honey tastes so different from tupelo honey.
It’s worth experimenting a bit. You may find that adding honey to your favorite coffee leads to a strange taste combination, but try mixing up your coffee or exploring new types of honey.
Honey in Coffee: Conclusion
Honey can be a delicious, healthy coffee sweetener. It’s made up of basic sugars that are easy for your body to digest. Though it contains more calories, it’s also sweeter than white sugar, so you can use less. Plus, honey contains antioxidants and has antibacterial properties. If you can adjust to the flavor difference, you just may find a new way to enjoy your coffee, and it’ll be great to know that you’re choosing the healthier option. Why not try a spoonful of honey in your next cup of coffee?
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