NDSU Extension Service - Ramsey County


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Honey or Sugar

Honey or Sugar

“Is honey healthier than sugar?”  “How do I substitute honey for sugar in a recipe?” Both honey and sugar are carbohydrate, calorie-dense sweeteners but each has some very distinctive characteristics.

Honey and sugar are both made up of a combination of glucose and fructose. In sugar, glucose and fructose are bound together to form sucrose, which comes from sugar beets or sugar cane and is more commonly known as table sugar. In honey, fructose and glucose are primarily independent of each other. Honey does have more fructose than glucose. Additionally, about 25 different oligosaccharides have been detected in the composition of honey.  Oligosaccharides are carbohydrates which have 3-10 simple sugars linked together.

One tablespoon of white, granulated sugar contains 49 calories, while one tablespoon of honey has 68 calories, which is the cause of honey having a higher density and weight than sugar.  Honey offers minute amounts of vitamins and minerals that sugar does not have, but these amounts are too small to constitute an appreciable nutritional difference. A tablespoon of honey contains roughly 8 g of glucose, 9 g of fructose and 0.2 g of sucrose along with tiny amounts of minerals, vitamins and amino acids. The same amount of sugar contains almost 15 g of sucrose.

Honey can harbor botulism spores, so it should not be given to infants less than one year of age because their immune systems are immature.

The difference between how our bodies digest honey vs. sugar lies in the composition of enzymes in each of these products. Sucrose (table sugar) passes through the stomach without any digestion happening because of its disaccharide (a sugar composed of two monosaccharides) composition. This means that the enzymes in the stomach cannot break down the glucose-fructose structure of table sugar until it reaches the small intestine. Then the liver utilizes a few enzymes to convert the molecules into glucose that is able to enter the bloodstream for further use.

In cooking one (1) cup of sugar can be exchanged for one (1) cup of honey but other liquids in the recipes must be reduced by ¼ cup.  In baked goods, add ½ teaspoon of baking for each cup of honey substituted and lower baking temperatures 25 degrees.  In cookie recipes using eggs and no additional liquid, increase the flour by about two (2) tablespoons per cup of honey. Chill before shaping and baking. When making cakes or cookies, first mix the honey with the fat or the liquid, and then mix with other ingredients.  If this is not done, a soggy layer may form on top of the baked product.

Honey Mustard Chicken

About ½ lb – chicken breasts, boneless, skinless


2 teaspoon – Cornstarch

1 Egg white

Honey Mustard Sauce:

1 Tablespoon Honey

1 Tablespoon Mustard

¼ teaspoon – Soy sauce


Cut the chicken into bite sizes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and set aside.  Beat the egg white in a separate bowl, add cornstarch, and mix well.  Add the chicken to the beaten batter mix, tossing to coat.

Heat olive oil in frying pan over low to medium heat. Add the chicken and cook each side of the chicken until golden brown and fully cooked (no more pink showing around the edge).

Mix all the ingredients of honey mustard sauce in a small bowl.  Toss with the honey mustard sauce to coat the cooked chicken and serve!

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