If you're looking for an all-natural sweetener alternative, you've likely stumbled upon articles suggesting the use of sweeteners like coconut sugar, cocoa, maple syrup and blackstrap molasses. While these sweeteners are all-natural, they each have stark differences. Due to the variations in both taste and texture, it's unlikely that someone would confuse pure maple syrup for cacao and vice versa. However, when it comes to agave nectar and honey, the two types of natural sugar are so similar that they can often be used interchangeably in most recipes without fail.
When deciding between agave vs honey, it’s important to consider how they are made, their structure, and other benefits. While agave and honey can look and feel similar, it's essential to know the differences between each so that you can determine which to keep room for in your pantry. Continue reading to discover the differences between honey vs. agave and their potential health benefits.
How Agave and Honey Are Made
Knowing what honey and agave are and how they are made can help you further understand their health benefits.
How Agave Is Made
Agave, derived from the agave plant, is a succulent native to the Americas. It produces a sweet sap at its core, which is what agave nectar is built from. When harvested, agave plants are taken to a facility where the sap is extracted through a pressure cooking method. Once the agave syrup is removed, it is then bottled and delivered to a grocery store near you.
How Honey Is Made
Honey, on the other hand, is made by a very different process. Honey begins as flower nectar, which is harvested by bees and taken to the hive. Once arriving at the hive, bees turn the honey into simple sugar, then take it and store it in the honeycomb to preserve its freshness and protect it from outside irritants. Beekeepers extract the excess raw honey from the honeycomb and strain it to remove any pollen or outside particles. Without bees, honey cannot be made, and because of their crucial role in the honey harvesting process, unlike agave, honey is not considered a vegan food item.
Honey vs. Agave
Honey is ultimately the healthier choice if you are deciding between honey vs agave. Honey is primarily made up of fructose, whereas agave has more significant amounts of glucose. Honey offers a wide variety of health benefits not found in any other natural sweetener. Although both honey and agave are similar to table sugar, honey is structurally more like table sugar than agave. While honey is the healthier choice, a small amount of agave may be more beneficial than table sugar like white sugar or brown sugar.
Health Benefits of Honey
Honey's incredible nutritional value is responsible for several health benefits, including:
- Immune system strengthening and support
- Helps soothe a sore throat
- Healthier sugar alternative to sports drinks with lots of added sugar
Keep scrolling to learn more about what honey can do for you.
Honey Can Strengthen Your Immune System
Do you suffer from seasonal allergies? If that's the case, then you might want to invest in some local honey. When producing honey, bees gather nectar from flowers in the area. The honey produced contains trace amounts of pollen from those flowers. Consuming local honey will boost your antioxidant intake, and also help strengthen your immune system to allergens in your area and provide relief from the symptoms.
For an immune boosting recipe try out this Honey Lime Millet Salad!
Honey Can Soothe a Sore Throat
If you have a cough that you can't get rid of, honey may be able to help! Gargling honey can provide relief from a sore throat, and help calm an aggressive cough. If you're not keen on the taste of honey, instead of rinsing it straight, try adding it to a warm cup of tea. Or, for maximum relief, many store-bought cough drops use honey as the main ingredient. By doing your research, you can find a cough drop to relieve your symptoms and boost your immune system simultaneously.
Honey Is a Healthier Alternative to Sugary Sports Drinks
In need of an afternoon pick me up or a quick energy boost? Opt for honey instead of sports drinks. Many sports drinks are filled with unnecessary processed sugar, and instead of receiving long-lasting energy, we're hit with a quick sugar rush, followed by an energy crash. For a more natural way to boost your carb intake and increase your energy levels, enjoy honey as a pre or post-workout treat. It's full of easily digestible carbs released into your body at a steady pace and work to balance your energy levels actively.
For a quick energy boosting treat, make these Honey Tahini No-Bake Cookies!
Honey Inspired Recipes
Searching for fun ways to sneak honey into your favorite meals? Whether you like to enjoy honey in your tea, or you like to include it as an ingredient in your baked good, check out these tasty honey-inspired recipes:
Honey Oat Granola Pancakes
Pancakes are a hit in nearly every household. Kids and adults enjoy them! For a healthy breakfast that is out-of-this-world delicious, make these Honey Oat Granola Pancakes. Mouthwatering, gluten free and loaded with fiber, these pancakes use honey as an all-natural sweetener. They are a healthy way to satisfy your sugar cravings, and the perfect breakfast or brunch recipe to share with your loved ones.
Chamomile Caramelized Honey Macarons
What's better than honey for breakfast? Honey for dessert! These Chamomile and Caramelized Honey Macarons are the perfect desserts for all of your summer gatherings. In this dish, the macaron shells' delicate chamomile flavor is filled with a lightly salted caramelized honey buttercream for a taste that is out-of-this-world delicious.
Health Benefits of Agave
Wondering how agave's health benefits stack up next to honey? Check out some of the agave's top health benefits:
Agave Contains Phytonutrients
The juice of an agave plant contains a wide array of healthy phytonutrients that can have an antioxidant effect when consumed. Though these nutrients are found in trace amounts, they are present in agave, presenting it with a higher nutrient content than table sugar.
Agave Is Sweet, Really Sweet
Are you a fan of sweets? If so, you likely use some sweetener when creating your favorite meals and desserts. Adding sweetener to your morning cup of joe or afternoon smoothie might not seem like a big deal, the calories in processed sugar can quickly add up turning your healthy treat into a sugar-filled indulgence. Because agave is much sweeter than sugar, you can use less of it to achieve the same sweet flavor. By consuming less sugar, you'll also be ditching unwanted carbohydrates and calories.
For an indulgent dessert sweetened with agave, make these Raspberry Coconut and Oatmeal Macaroons.
Agave Is Free of Common Allergens
If you're allergic to certain plant-based foods, then agave is here to save the day. As a low allergy food, very few people experience an allergic reaction when consuming agave. This makes agave an excellent sweetener to use in recipes where you're accommodating for those with food allergies. Aside from being a low allergen, agave is also gluten free, nut-free and vegan.
Agave Inspired Recipes
Blueberry Chia Jam
For a healthy and naturally sweetened jam recipe, make this Blueberry Chia Jam. Made with just five wholesome ingredients, it's an easy-to-make sweet treat that can be used to boost the flavor or several different recipes. Add this jam to a fresh slice of sourdough bread, or use it to sweeten a large bowl of oats. No matter how you choose to enjoy this jam, it's sure to be delicious.
Vanilla Seed High Protein Granola
Simple, flavorful and the perfect on-the-go treat, this Vanilla See High Protein Granola is the perfect blend of plant-based protein and probiotics. It is also vegan, gluten free and naturally sweetened with agave nectar making it a guilt-free snack that you can feel good eating!
Agave vs. Honey: Which Should You Choose?
Now to answer the burning question: which one should I buy? While both syrups are a natural alternative to table sugar and any other artificial sweetener, honey has one thing that the rest of the sugar alternative options don't—incredible health benefits! Because of honey's health-boosting superpowers, it comes out on top as the healthier choice over agave. However, it's important to remember that both honey and agave are sugars and should be eaten in moderation.
Because both of these syrups are sweeter than regular sugar, less is more. Using smaller amounts of honey and agave can achieve the same level of sweetness of table sugar. Taste-wise, the taste of honey depends on the region it was produced in. Each region grows different flowers, and because the nectar to make honey is collected from flowers in the area, they have a significant impact on the taste. Like clover honey, lighter honey usually has a more mild taste while amber honey, like orange blossom honey, produces a more robust flavor.
That being said, choosing to use agave or honey depends on the taste profile you're looking for and how the syrups will be worked into the recipe. In general, when it comes to the battle of agave vs. honey, honey usually comes out on top. Unless you're vegan, then you'll want to stick to agave. From all of us at Bob's Red Mill, have a healthy and sweet day!
Hope that helps