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Should you put honey or sugar in your coffee?

There’s truly nothing better than waking up with a full mug of coffee. Breathing in that sweet smell of java before you take your first sip is one of life’s great pleasures, as is downing that mug and feeling like a brand-new person. You may like your coffee dark or with milk, depending on how you roll. Or, you may prefer to add something to give it a sweet kick, which could be sugar or honey.

. Sugar is typically the more common addition, but honey is pretty popular, too. There are pros and cons to both, so it is important to know which one is healthier than the other. Set down that mug before your next sip and find out which is the better choice.

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Honey overview

Jar of honey with a serving stick
Eskay Lim/EyeEm/Getty Images

Honey is a natural sweetener. It begins as flower nectar collected by bees that gets broken down into simple sugars stored inside the bees’ honeycomb. It is typically harvested at bee farms that produce millions of pounds of honey each year. Nutritionally, 1 tablespoon of honey has 64 calories, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 17 grams of sugars, and no fat at all.

Pros of honey

  • Has more nutrients. Honey’s nutrients can depend on the type of nectar used to create it. It typically contains many nutrients like amino acids, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. Dark honey has been thought to have more antioxidants than light honey.
  • Less processed than sugar. Honey as a final product is much less processed than sugar. It typically only goes through a pasteurization process to ensure safe consumption.
  • Cough suppressant. Honey is a natural way to ease coughing or soreness in the throat. Mixed with a warm liquid, like coffee, it may help reduce irritation in the throat.
  • Allergy Relief. Honey has also shown signs of allergy relief. Honey has antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits that may help relieve your allergy symptoms.
  • Easier to digest. Honey is easier on the digestive system than sugar. It has many enzymes to help the digestion process.
  • Long shelf life. Honey has a shelf life of about two years, so you can keep it in your pantry for a long time.

Cons of honey

  • Higher calorie count than sugar. Honey contains 15 more calories in a tablespoon than sugar. This is something to consider when counting calories.
  • Risk of impact on blood sugar. The high levels of sugar in honey can affect your blood-sugar levels. It is important to keep track of your honey consumption, especially for those with diabetes or insulin problems.
  • May affect flavoring of coffee. If you love your coffee with a strong and intense flavor, honey can sometimes add a different note to the flavoring. However, it’s your palate, after all, so give it a try to see if it improves your java experience.

Sugar overview

Woman with coffee and spoonful of sugar
Summersky/Shutterstock

Sugar is formed in the leaves of the sugarcane plant. It is stored as a sweet juice in sugarcane stalks. For harvesting, the sugarcane is chopped down and sent to factories for processing. The sugarcane juice is extracted, filtered, and finally crystalized into raw sugar that you typically scoop into your coffee. Nutritionally, 1 tablespoon of sugar has 49 calories, 13 grams of carbohydrates, and 13 grams of sugars. It also includes no fat.

Pros of sugar

  • Lower calories. Sugar has a lower calorie count than honey does when compared to the same amount. This can help during dieting when you’re trying to keep your calories low.
  • Lower sugar levels. Sugar also has fewer grams of sugar than honey. This allows you to keep your sugar levels lower.
  • Lower cost. Sugar is a super-affordable way to sweeten your coffee. Sugar is a plentiful and easy-to-process product, which helps keep prices low.
  • Long shelf life. Just like honey, sugar can last in your kitchen for a long time. It has a shelf life of two years, too, just make sure it’s properly stored.

Cons of sugar

  • Higher on the glycemic index than honey. Sugar can spike blood glucose levels much faster than honey.
  • Increased risk of heart disease. Sugar consumption is associated with weight gain and obesity that can directly lead to heart disease.
  • Potentially more liver issues. Metabolizing such refined and processed sugar can be very tough on the liver, potentially creating issues.
  • Harder to digest than honey. Sugar doesn’t contain as many enzymes as honey because it is so processed, which ultimately makes sugar more difficult to digest.

How Sweet It is

There are benefits and disadvantages to both sugar and honey. However, if you load up your cup of coffee with too much of either, it can ultimately cause negative reactions for your body, so it is important to always consume either one in moderation. Honey is typically better for your bodily functions and organs even though it is higher in calories and sugar content. Sugar, however, is lower in calories and sugars, plus it costs less. Determining which one belongs in your coffee all comes down to what tastes better while factoring in the health benefits.

Need more information about coffee consumption? Read our guide on what you need to know about drinking coffee on the keto diet.

Couple drinking coffee
BublikHaus/Shutterstock

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Tom Warnick
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Tom has worked been a writer and editor for several years, working at the Starlog Group, Billboard, Bed Bath & Beyond…
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