WHICH SWEETENER IS BEST?
Honey and maple syrup are two thick, sticky, amber-coloured liquids that are often used as natural alternatives to table sugar.
While they share several similarities, there are a number of key differences between the two sweeteners in terms of production process, taste, nutrition and potential health benefits.
Understanding these differences will help you get the most out of your cooking and allow you to make the right choices for your diet.
Maple syrup vs honey: source
Maple syrup is made by tapping maple trees during spring to extract their sap, and then boiling it down to remove excess water until it thickens. Honey, on the other hand, is made by honeybees, which collect nectar from flowers and then process it to form honey in a beehive.
While honey and maple syrup are both made through natural processes, the former is generally not considered vegan because it is an animal by-product. The good news for vegans is that pure maple syrup is 100% plant-based, and can therefore be enjoyed as part of a vegan diet.
Maple syrup vs honey: taste
The taste of maple syrup is refined and slightly nutty, with subtle hints of caramel and vanilla. Honey is somewhat sweeter and is generally described as having a more floral flavour.
Both sweeteners have several varieties, with each tasting slightly different. Honey varies depending on its nectar source, while the four grades of maple syrup are collected at different points of the tapping season.
When it comes to cooking and baking, honey’s thicker consistency lends itself to marinades, dipping sauces and salad dressings. Maple syrup offers greater versatility across a variety of drinks, dishes and bakes – check out our recipes with maple syrup for inspiration!
Can honey be substituted for maple syrup?
Because honey and maple syrup have a similar texture, they can generally be substituted in a 1:1 ratio, though the flavour will be slightly different. Canadian maple syrup, made solely from the sap of maple trees, is an excellent honey alternative for vegans and those looking for a richer flavour.
Maple syrup vs honey: nutrition
Maple syrup and honey are quite similar nutritionally, though there are some differences in calories, carbohydrates and fats as well as vitamins, minerals and glycaemic profile.
|20ml tbsp pure maple syrup (26.7g)||20ml tbsp honey (28.4g)|
Honey contains more calories than pure maple syrup, with one 20ml serving of honey providing 86 calories compared to 69 calories from the same quantity of maple syrup.
While this isn’t a huge difference, the calories can quickly add up when using larger quantities of honey or maple syrup for baking.
Honey also has more carbohydrates than maple syrup. The 23g of carbohydrates in a tablespoon serving of honey are mostly fructose, a complex sugar, while the 17.8g of carbohydrates in an equivalent serving of maple syrup contain around 16.1g of sucrose.
When it comes to fat, honey is completely free of the substance. Canadian maple syrup does have some fat, though the quantity is negligible at around 0.02g per tablespoon serving.
Vitamins and minerals
Honey and maple syrup both contain a number of vitamins and minerals. Pure maple syrup is noted as a source of riboflavin and manganese, while honey contains traces of vitamins B6 and C.
Maple syrup has a lower glycaemic index than honey – 54 compared to 58 – which means it raises blood sugar levels at a slower rate.
Maple syrup vs honey: health benefits
As natural ingredients, honey and maple syrup are often touted as having health benefits. A large amount of research into the two sweeteners has sought to substantiate these claims.
What we do know is that honey and maple syrup both contain polyphenols, a category of compounds considered by some researchers to have antioxidant properties.
Comparing pure maple syrup with refined sugar, Canadian researchers published a landmark study in 2023, finding that maple syrup provided better outcomes for cardiometabolic health, including reduced abdominal fat and decreased systolic blood pressure.
There have not yet been any studies into the impact of replacing maple syrup with honey or vice versa, however you can learn more about the potential health benefits of maple syrup by following the link below.
So, is maple syrup healthier than honey?
To definitively answer the question “is maple syrup healthier than honey?”, you need to consider your personal health.
The bottom line is that maple syrup and honey are both high in sugar, and should therefore be consumed in moderation. That said, they both offer a natural alternative to processed sweeteners like table sugar.