The Food and Drug Administration issued new guidelines Tuesday that will require companies to label any honey that is not pure, or even food containing this honey, with "blend of sugar and honey" or "blend of honey and corn syrup," depending on the ingredients. This policy change is the result of organizations like the American Beekeeping Federation and other honey associations petitioning against the common food industry practice of misrepresenting "pure honey."
So why do we care?
Calorically, honey and sugar have approximately the same amount of calories if you compare teaspoons, said Alicia Romano, a clinical registered dietitian at the Frances Stern Nutrition Center at Tufts Medical Center. "But with raw honey you might get more vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties. Ultimately, though, the way our bodies break down the two is the same."
Pure honey is part sugar (glucose and fructose) and part minerals (iron, calcium, phosphate, potassium, magnesium, and sodium chlorine). While many of the medicinal properties attributed to honey require further research, the natural process of honey gives it anti-inflammatory properties that you may miss out on in a sugary substitute.
For example, a 2012 randomized, placebo-controlled study published in the journal Pediatrics found that natural honey (recommended by the World Health Organization as a cough medication) was superior to a placebo in alleviating a night-time cough associated with upper respiratory infections for children older than one year.
But don't go honey-crazy yet. Sugar (glucose and fructose) still makes up the majority of pure honey.
"Sugar is sugar and should be treated that way," said Romano. "There's still a lot of research that needs to be done to compare sugars and additives, but for people who are trying to get away from table sugar and sugar substitutes such as Stevia or Splenda, a teaspoon or two of natural honey added to unsweetened Greek yogurt, on top of oatmeal, and added to smoothies with berries, greens, and yogurt is a way to use honey that's porton controlled and not adding extra sugar or calories."
Image: Dripping honey, via Shutterstock