A quick google search will bring us to a variety of articles, all with different conclusions if honey is better than sugar.
Corey Whelan, with review from Natalie Butler, breaks the two sweeteners down to simple pro’s and con’s, but their sprawling multi-page article fails to come to any meaningful conclusion, writing:
These two widely used sweeteners have very different tastes and textures. You may find that you enjoy the molasses taste and moisture of brown sugar for baking, yet prefer the gentleness of honey on your morning toast. Experimenting with each while keeping an eye on the amount you use can help you decide which is best for you.
Honey Isn’t Necessarily Better
Dr. Mike Roussell comes to the following conclusion:
Per teaspoon, honey contains slightly more calories than sugar does (22 compared to 16). The types of sugar in each are slightly different as well. Honey contains fructose, glucose, and a little sucrose, while sugar is pure sucrose. When it hits your mouth, fructose is sweeter than sucrose, which is why honey tastes sweeter and thus you’ll probably use less of it, making the calorie difference a wash.
A wash refers to a tie, Dr Roussell is essentially saying that while honey is more calorie dense, it is also sweeter, thus claiming if calorie intake is the primary factor, there is little difference.
Honey could be one of the most pesticide-laden products in our foodstuffs. A 2010 study found that 98 percent of bees wax extracted from apiaries (e.g. bee hangouts) contained pesticides.
For those who are worried about pesticides, Honey may not be a safe option. The pesticides come from the plants the bees are pollinating. Your honey supplier might disclose to you were the beehive was located (which will be some commercial agricultural application) which would be where the bees were primarily pollinating but I wouldn’t count on it. If you could get that information you could then speak to the farm/orchard about pesticide practices.
Honey is the More Effective Sweetener
Reviewed by Keith Kantor, Ph.D, Huffington Post argues that honey is more effective sweetener from a caloric perspective.
Your body breaks food down into glucose in order to use it for fuel. The more complex a food — namely a carbohydrate — is, the more work it takes to break it down. Sugar is made of 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose, the sugar typically found in fruits, and is broken down very easily, leading to a surge of blood glucose. What your body doesn’t use right away gets stored as fat. Honey is also made mostly of sugar, but it’s only about 30 percent glucose and less than 40 percent fructose. And there are also about 20 other sugars in the mix, many of which are much more complex, and dextrin, a type of starchy fiber. This means that your body expends more energy to break it all down to glucose. Therefore, you end up accumulating fewer calories from it.
Which is Better Might Depend on Your Total Overall Diet
There is at least some evidence of people flourishing (heart health and longevity) on a bonkers diet – the Hadza eat large amounts of honey and (sorry, vegetarians) also animals including monkeys – which has something to say about the hazards or otherwise of eating animals with similar biochemistry to ours. Mind you they also eat lots of fiber and take a great deal of exercise.
Honey and sugar are composed of a similar combination of fructose and glucose. If one is trying to avoid unnecessary calories neither should be consumed, but honey seems to be the slightly better option from a caloric and nutritional standpoint.
It’s worth noting that honey most likely also contain more pesticides, and should be taken into consideration if that’s important to you.