So, you’ve decided to cut down on using sugar in your cooking, baking, or diet. Maybe you’re interested in the nutritional benefits of natural sweeteners in your food, or maybe it’s simply a desire to try something new. You have a variety of options for cutting sugar down (or even out entirely), while still satisfying those sugar cravings, but the two main options available commercially are stevia leaf products or natural honey products. Both have benefits and taste deliciously sweet, but one has a few important advantages over the other. In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between these two natural sweetener alternatives.
Portability, Availability & Convenience: The Familiarity Of Natural Honey
Stevia leaf extracts come in mostly powder and granular format, though bulk packaging like multi-pound bags is more common to store shelves. While some restaurants or coffee houses may offer powdered or liquid stevia as a sweetener option, most of the natural sugar alternatives available are of the non-nutritive/chemical variety, such as sucralose or aspartame. Honey, on the other hand, is a common accompaniment to hot teas, and most businesses serving sweeteners have it on hand. While jarred honey is a familiar presence in markets, modern innovations like individually-packaged honeycomb pieces have made it easy to take along in a purse or bag.
Usefulness in Cooking: The Versatility Of Genuine Honey Products
A glance down any baking aisle tells the story: organic stevia has been processed, packaged, and marketed to be a toe-to-toe contender with granulated white sugar. Honey, on the other hand, is typically shelved alongside teas as an accompaniment or condiment, even though it’s very suitable for baking as well. The issue with granulated or powdered sweeteners like stevia or white sugar is that they generally need heat and agitation (stirring) to incorporate. As anyone who has ever tried to add a spoon of sugar to iced tea can tell you, this tends to be a bit labor-intensive.
Honey, on the other hand, stirs in easily at most temperatures – a large part of the reason why it pairs so beautifully with tea. Honeycomb, conversely, holds its shape for decorative uses, such as pastry decorations or incorporation into high-end chocolate bars. The dual-usage forms of honey and honeycomb make them a more versatile sweetener to keep on hand in the pantry. Available in sticks, jars, squeeze bottles, packaged chunks of honeycomb, and yes – even granules – honey can find a place in nearly every kitchen.
Processing: Why Honey May Be The Healthiest Sweetener For Your Family
Some of the biggest reasons people switch from using granulated sugar to natural sweeteners is an attempt to avoid over-processed food and additives, to maintain a healthy blood pressure, and avoid any possible weight gain. The act of heating, treating, and processing natural ingredients can damage or destroy vitamins, minerals, and trace elements, making it not much better than the sugar it’s attempting to replace. Stevia is treated with ethanol and other chemicals in its most common commercial forms and is considered part of the non-nutritive sweetener family because it offers no nutritional benefits or calories.
Conversely, honey does have calories, but it is a common and recommended source for energy and trace amounts of enzymes, minerals, nutrients, amino acids, and proteins. These bioavailable elements are even more present when the honey is consumed along with its natural honeycomb, which can be chewed after consuming the honey inside or simply eaten. While some honey varieties are processed, natural/raw honey and honey still in the comb are clearly labeled and offer the most health benefits. Just as with any sweetener, moderation is key – and with today’s single-serving options, it’s never been easier. Pre-packaged servings are a convenient method to consume your honey and honeycomb in a mindful way.
Taste: The Unique & Timeless Flavor Of Honey
Just as some individuals love the taste of cilantro and others swear it tastes like soap, stevia has both fans and detractors. The raw stevia leaf and extracts made without additives are frequently said to have a “licorice-like” bitter aftertaste that can overwhelm more delicate flavors in drinks and foods. Manufacturers attempting to mask or mitigate this aftertaste often pair stevia with other non-nutritive sweeteners and ingredients like aspartame, a move that can defeat the purpose for consumers looking to remove these chemicals and unhealthy additives from their diet.
Honey, like wine or chocolate, has subtle undertones and natural flavor profiles that shift, depending on where the bees that created it gathered nectar and pollen. Beekeepers can control some of these trends by offering bees specific areas and gardens to frequent, which is why honey remains predictably and consistently sweet. The surrounding honeycomb amplifies the flavors of the honey; it, too, is created from the local flora, so it’s always perfectly paired with its own honey. It’s no wonder honey has been one of the world’s favorite natural sweeteners for thousands of years.
Naturally Sweet: The Tried & True Virtues Of Honey
No matter how loyal you’ve been to sugar, don’t worry: there’s always room in the kitchen – and your diet – for a wide selection of natural sweetener alternatives. The next time you need to sweeten up a recipe, dish, or beverage, be sure to sample a variety to find the ones that work for your needs. Even if you’re a dedicated stevia fan, try some natural honey and honeycomb with your food to see if it’s a good fit for your palate as well as your healthy lifestyle.
So go ahead: indulge in genuine honey products, satisfy your sugar cravings, and gain some natural energy for those labor-intensive days at work, at the gym, or when tackling chores and errands. Whether you opt for a piece of honeycomb with your charcuterie plate or a spoonful of honey in your favorite hot beverage, you’ll be sure to enjoy the many healthful benefits and advantages this ancient sweetener has over any other.
- Thomson, Julie R. “How ‘Natural’ Is Stevia, Anyway?” Huffpost.com, August 17, 2017, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/is-stevia-natural_n_59931809e4b0091416402c45. Accessed July 28, 2019.
- Curinga, Karen. “How to Use Honey as a Natural Energy Snack.” SFGate.com, November 21, 2018, https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/use-honey-natural-energy-snack-8496.html. Accessed July 28, 2019.
- Jennings, Kate. “Here’s What The Stevia Sweetener Really Is – And Why Some People Think It Tastes Bad.” Business Insider.com, July 3, 2014, https://www.businessinsider.com/what-is-stevia-why-does-it-taste-bad-2014-7. Accessed July 28, 2019.