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Food Storage Essentials: How does honey compare to sugar?

Published: Friday, Feb. 14 2014 5:00 a.m. MST

Which is better, honey or sugar?

Leslie Probert

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In planning to store a sweetener, which is more beneficial — honey or sugar? Each has its own advantages. Here are some things to keep in mind.

Nutrition

According to the University of Cincinnati and the Ohio State University, honey and sugar are simple carbohydrates that provide calories with very little nutrient value. They have a similar effect on blood sugar with a glycemic index rating that is about the same. Contrary to the belief held by some that honey is more nutritious, the actual amount of protein, vitamins and minerals in honey is so small that they make no significant contribution to a healthy diet. Some research indicates that honey may have minor antioxidant properties and contain prebiotics that help digestion.

The Mayo Clinic says that for those with diabetes, there is no advantage to substituting honey for sugar.

From a nutritional standpoint, there is very little difference between honey and sugar.

Warning for honey

The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that honey can contain spores that cause botulism in babies under 1 year old.

Raw honey

The honey available in stores has water added to keep it runny.

Raw honey crystallizes, causing it to become hard. After purchasing, it is simple to transfer the honey to pint canning jars or old jam jars. Crystals can then be quickly melted either in the microwave on high for 1-2 minutes, stirred and heated briefly again as needed, or honey can be heated in a pan of water on low heat.

Care should be taken not to overheat honey that causes it to become very thick when it cools. If this accidentally happens, add a little water to thin it down. Once honey crystals are melted, honey stays fluid for a while.

Raw honey is more easily found in the spring and fall after bees have had time in warm weather to pollinate flowers and subsequently make honey.

There has been some thinking that local honey, made from pollen from local plants, can help people with plant-based allergies. After being very dubious about this idea, I decided to try it on my husband, who was miserable with hay fever every spring. We were surprised to find that it actually worked. Since introducing a small amount of honey in our diet, he has not suffered from hay fever for many years.

Cost

Honey is definitely more expensive than sugar. It is easy to find sales on sugar, particularly at holidays.

Sweetness

Honey is sweeter than sugar, which makes it possible use less. Substitute approximately one-third less honey for sugar in bread recipes. When substituting honey for sugar in other recipes, reduce the liquid a little or, if there is no additional liquid in the recipe, add a little more flour to compensate for the viscosity of the honey. Cooks.com gives specifics on adjustments to be made.

Shelf life

Honey lasts for a very long time, but not indefinitely. Over time it will gradually darken and develop a stronger flavor and eventually turns black. It’s best to use it over time and replace it as it is used.

Sugar stores indefinitely, without the need to rotate it.

Measuring

Honey can be messy to measure. Here’s a nice little trick. When adding it to a recipe calling for oil, measure honey into the oil just before adding it to a recipe. The honey will slip out of the measuring container without sticking. It will also slip out of a container that is wet or has held an egg.

Sugar is very easy to measure without being messy.

Sugar has some definite advantages over honey when it comes to cost, ease of storing and using it. There is, however, nothing to compare with the mouth-watering taste of honey on a piece of warm bread, toast or muffin.

Leslie Probert, a graduate in home economics from Brigham Young University, has been a popular speaker and is co-author of "Emergency Food Storage in a Nutshell, 3rd Edition" with over 400 fast, creative recipes. Email: foodstoragechick@gmail.com

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