Making the move away from refined sugar is becoming more popular, as we are becoming increasingly aware of what we are putting in our bodies, and trying to make healthier alternatives.
Two of the most popular alternatives to refined sugar are maple syrup and honey. You might lean towards the one more to keep in the pantry (especially for dripping over pancakes).
But what’s the difference between maple syrup and honey? Maple syrup and honey might look very similar, and have the same consistency, but the two have many differences, from their origins, their flavor profile, their nutritional content, and their health benefits.
To help you better understand which is better to include in your daily diet, to use to sweeten things up a bit, here are the differences between the two, and everything else you need to know in between!
What Is Maple Syrup?
Maple syrup is most famous for slathering over pancakes and waffles, but it can also be used to sweeten warm drinks and other foods. It is a sap that comes from maple trees, which is very much like a liquid sugary syrup.
Maple syrup can only come from a maple tree, and more than 80% of the world’s maple syrup comes from Canada.
It is a 100% natural sweetener and is more nutritious and generally healthier to use in place of white sugar.
Maple syrup comes in different grades, which relate to the color it holds, and the range can vary from light amber to dark amber. This one is considered Grade A.
1 tablespoon of maple syrup contains around 50 calories, but it does also contain some nutritional benefits, such as calcium, magnesium, manganese, iron, and phosphorus, and contains some antioxidants as well.
Warmer temperatures help maple trees turn stored starch into sugar, and then sap is created when the sugar is mixed with groundwater. This sap is collected when a hole is drilled into the maple tree using a tap.
Once collected, the sap, which is a sticky-sweet liquid, is boiled to remove any excess water and to transform it into the popular maple syrup. Around 40 gallons of sap makes 1 gallon of maple syrup, as the sap is only 2% sugar.
There are four different types of maple syrups under the popular classification:
- Grade A, Light Amber
- Grade A, Medium Amber
- Grade A, Dark Amber
- Grade B
These four grades of maple syrup all contain the same amount of sugar, but the difference comes in with how long the sap is boiled for. The darker the color of the maple syrup, the more intense the flavor.
Common Questions About Maple Syrup
Is maple syrup vegan?
Maple syrup is considered vegan as it is derived from trees and not from animals. There are no animal products or by-products added to the transformation of sap to maple syrup.
Is maple syrup considered paleo?
There is no straight answer to this. Some consider it paleo as it is a form of sugar, whereas others disagree as it is a natural food that comes from trees.
Does maple syrup need to be kept in the fridge?
Maple syrup only needs to be kept in the fridge once it has been opened. Unopened maple syrup can be stored in the pantry for quite a long time but needs to be refrigerated as soon as it is opened to prevent the growth of mold.
How long does maple syrup last before going bad?
Unopened maple syrup can be stored for years if it is in the right container, in proper storage conditions.
Stored in a glass container, maple syrup can last up to 50 years without going bad, however, stored in plastic, maple syrup will last up to 2 years, and tin containers up to 6 months.
Once opened, maple syrup can be kept in the fridge for up to 1 year.
What Is Honey?
We all know and love honey, it is one of the most popular alternatives to using sugars to sweeten drinks and to enjoy on so many other desserts and meals.
Honey is made up of mostly sugar, almost 80%, but it does contain some great nutrients and vitamins as well. It is full of antimicrobial and antiviral compounds and can be used to treat sores throats, skin wounds, and even the common cold.
Honey comes from bees, from all their hard work of foraging and collecting nectar from flowers.
Bees swallow this nectar and store it in their stomach, called a honey crop, which is separate from its digestive tract when it is then added to the honeycomb inside the hive.
The bees which remain in the hive begin to chew the nectar, which helps to break down the complex sugars into more simple, digestible sugars, using the bee’s own enzymes.
Along with the design of the honeycomb, the waxy interior walls of the hive’s honeycomb, and the fanning of the bee’s wings, the liquid evaporates which leaves behind the sweet honey liquid.
The taste and color of honey are influenced by the nectar that the bees collect to make it. This honey has been made with wildflower nectar.
You might also be wondering why bees make honey, the answer is that the honey provides them with a nutrient-rich food to enjoy during winter.
Common Questions About Honey
Is honey vegan?
This is quite a controversial topic, however, many vegans do not consider honey to be vegan as it is produced by bees, and is, therefore, an animal-derived food.
Is honey considered paleo?
Honey is considered paleo, particularly raw honey, but as it is high in sugar, it should be consumed in moderation.
Can honey go bad?
Honey can pretty much last forever, it is one of the only foods that does not spoil. Over time, honey will begin to crystalize, but this can be fixed by placing a glass jar of honey in a pot of heated water or a sink filled with hot water.
To keep honey from crystalizing too soon, you should store it at room temperature, as honey starts to crystalize if kept below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Differences Between Maple Syrup and Honey
The flavor of either maple syrup and honey will be one of the deciding factors on which you choose, so it is important to know the difference between the two.
Maple syrup contains some wonderful caramel notes, along with the very woodsy maple taste that you would expect from maple sap.
Different types of maple syrup can also include other flavor notes such as cinnamon, hazelnut, and vanilla.
The flavor profile of honey depends on the nectar used to make it, but the main flavor of honey is usually light, clean, pure and sometimes floral. The bees are master crafters, and the nectar they choose makes some really delicious honey!
Processing And Refinement
Honey and maple syrup are made very differently, even though they seem so similar. Real maple syrup comes straight from the maple tree. The sap is collected from a tapped maple tree, and the sap is then boiled into a concentrated syrup.
Honey is made from bees, who collect and store nectar in their hives. As the nectar is stored, it is broken down into simple sugars, and evaporation of the excess liquid is facilitated by the constant fanning of the bee’s wings, making the sticky honey that we know.
If you are wanting to use honey or maple syrup to replace refined sugar in your diet, the nutritional difference between the two will be most important.
The two sticky substances with very similar viscosity and texture have some substantial nutritional differences!
The below table shows the nutritional value for various sweeteners, per the % of recommended daily value per 60 ml portion.
When it comes to calorie content, honey comes in the last place. One tablespoon of honey contains around 64 calories, whereas maple syrup contains around 50 calories.
This might not seem like a huge difference if you’re having one or two cups of coffee or tea each day, it does start adding up when you are using larger quantities in baking or cooking.
Honey and maple syrup also contains different sugars.
Pure maple syrup contains around 13.5 grams of carbohydrates, with 12.4 grams being sucrose, which is complex sugar. Honey contains around 17.4 grams of carbohydrates, with about 17.3 of those grams made up of fructose.
Although both contain a significant sugar content, maple syrup does contain less fructose.
Fructose has been shown to have a negative effect on heart health, making maple syrup the better option regarding this. If you take the glycemic index into this, maple syrup comes out on top, as maple syrup has an index of 54, while honey has one of 58.
Maple syrup might seem to be winning in the nutritional differences, but honey does have some advantages, it contains no fat.
Maple syrup has very low-fat content, with just 0.1 grams of fat for each tablespoon.
Maple syrup, in its most pure form, contains more calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, zinc and manganese than honey.
These are all great minerals for your body, as they improve immune support, help with cell formation and maintain healthy red blood cells.
Honey and maple syrup both contain equal amounts of selenium and phosphorus, but maple syrup contains less sodium, which makes it more suitable for low-sodium diets.
Honey contains more vitamins than maple syrup. Honey remains a great source of Vitamin C, Vitamin B, Vitamin B-5, niacin, and folate. Vitamin B-5 helps to convert carbohydrates into glucose.
Maple syrup does also contains Vitamins B-5, but it also contains twenty times more riboflavin, which is also known as Vitamin B-12, which helps with energy production.
Maple syrup also contains thiamine (Vitamin B-1), and others such as Vitamins B-5, Vitamin B-2, folic acid, Vitamin B-6, and Vitamin A, which help with energy metabolism and improving vision.
Maple syrup is full of antioxidants that are anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory.
Honey is also famous for containing many different antioxidants, including phenols, which are linked to preventing blood clots and helping to increase blood flow.
The Benefits Of Maple Syrup
Maple syrup is considerably high in sugar, but it does have other benefits that refined sugar does not, such as its mineral and antioxidant content.
By only consuming 1/3 cup of maple syrup, you will be able to get 7% of your daily calcium requirement, as well as 7% of iron, 28% of zinc and 165% of manganese.
The Benefits Of Honey
Honey is high in sugar, but it is rich in antioxidants such as phenolic acids and flavonoids which help fight off free-radicals.
Honey is also antibacterial. It is a healthier substitute for white sugar, and honey has also been shown to aid in wound healing.
Substituting The Two
If you are baking or cooking with honey or maple syrup, can you use one in place of the other?
Honey and maple syrup can be replaced with one another in a recipe to a ratio of 1:1, but you need to remember that syrup is thinner than honey, and that might have an effect depending on the type of recipe you are using.
Their nutritional contents are different, but the sugars and consistency of both are fairly similar enough to be substituted for each other in most recipes. The tastes might be different, but once cooked, it should not be that noticeable.
Which Is Healthier?
Honey and maple syrup both have advantages and disadvantages, with both being fairly similar when it comes to fat and calorie content. Both also have the benefit of containing vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants.
The difference in taste is another factor, with honey being more floral and maple syrup being slightly more woodsy.
If it comes down to sugar content, and fructose content, maple syrup is the healthier of the two, being lower on the glycemic index as well.
Either is better than refined white sugar, but if you are looking for the healthiest, maple syrup is the better option.
Can you eat maple syrup straight from the tree?
Maple trees do not produce maple syrup, but they produce sap. If you had to lick maple sap straight from the tree, you would be surprised to find that it has a bitter taste.
The boiling refinement helps to evaporate most of the liquid and concentrates the sugar, which results in the sweet taste.
Is honey sweeter than sugar?
If you compare tablespoon to tablespoon, honey is sweeter than sugar, so you will have to reduce the amount of honey you are using to match the sweetness you would get from using white sugar when making your tea or coffee.
Honey Vs Maple Syrup
There are a few differences between honey and maple syrup, such as their flavor profiles, nutritional content and how they are made. Both are popularly used as an alternative to refined sugar, and both are a healthier option compared to sugar.
Not only can you use both honey and maple syrup to sweeten your tea and coffee in the morning, but they can be substituted for each other in cooking, baking and to be drizzled over waffles and pancakes.
If you are more concerned over which is healthier, you should opt for maple syrup, as it contains less sugar and fat, but both are a good option for a healthier sweetener.
Up Next: Does Mead Go Bad?