Honey vs Molasses - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison
Molasses is cheaper than honey. Molasses is also richer in vitamins and minerals.
Honey has better wound-healing effects than molasses. Honey is richer in carbohydrates but is lower in terms of the glycemic index compared to molasses.
Table of contents
Honey is a valued natural product made by insects from the nectar of flowers. The use of honey by different ancient populations began around 5500 years ago. It has been used as food as well as for therapeutic and medicinal purposes (1). The type of honey varies depending on the flower from which it is obtained.
On the other hand, molasses is an artificial concentrate of sugar beet or sugarcane juice (2). The type of molasses depends on the source and the degree of refinement or boiling (3). Molasses can be used as a food product, cattle feed, and soil fertilizer.
Both molasses and honey are linked with health benefits as well as potential side effects. In this article, the nutritional attributes of honey and molasses will be compared and contrasted.
Cooking and Use
Honey and molasses have more moisture than sugar. It would be best to be careful when adding an extra amount of liquid to the product during the substitution. Each of the food items will contribute a different taste and color to the recipe.
One study showed that the substitution of sugar with honey in baking dough improved its shelf life (4).
Research showed that heating honey produces high amounts of a chemical called 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), which may be toxic (5). A longer period of time and a higher temperature result in higher HMF content (6).
Both foods are sweet and are used as substitutes for sugar.
As the honey gets more and more refined, it gradually loses its natural taste. Honey is lighter tasting and fruitier as well. Honey is sweeter than molasses, especially if it is highly refined.
On the other hand, highly refined molasses has a heavier taste, almost approaching bitterness.
We will use the infographics below to compare the nutritional content of honey and molasses.
Mineral-wise, molasses is considered to be richer. Molasses is higher in iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, copper, zinc, and phosphorus.
On the other hand, honey contains around 89.2% less sodium than molasses. It is worth noting that molasses is significantly richer in magnesium (by 12000%) compared to honey.
Based on vitamin content, molasses is richer in vitamin B3 and vitamin B5. In contrast, honey is richer in vitamin B2.
Molasses contains vitamin B1, while honey lacks it. On the other hand, honey contains vitamin C and folate, while molasses lacks it.
Honey is higher in calories compared to molasses.
Honey is higher in carbohydrates. 300g serving of honey covers around 82% of our daily carbohydrate needs. In comparison, 300g of molasses cover around 75%. Moreover, honey is richer in sugars with a difference of 7.4 g.
Honey has a lower glycemic index compared to molasses.
Both foods contain almost no fats and no cholesterol.
Honey is slightly higher in proteins than molasses that is void of it.
Weight Loss and Diets
|Low Carb||Molasses is lower in carbohydrates and, therefore, more suitable than honey.|
|Vegan/ Vegetarian||Molasses is preferred over honey in the vegan diet as honey-making often involves bee exploitation and practices that may harm bees.|
|Low Calorie||Molasses is favored over honey in a low-calorie diet.|
|Low GI||Honey has a lower GI.|
Flavonoids are antioxidants found in honey that reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases (7). Flavonoids in honey have a beneficial role in protection against cardiovascular disease through mechanisms such as vasorelaxation, preventing LDL (low-density lipoprotein or bad cholesterol) oxidation, and decreasing the clotting ability of platelets (7).
On the other hand, molasses may also have a cardioprotective effect but through another mechanism: raising HDL (high-density lipoprotein or good cholesterol) levels (8). There is no direct evidence of this effect on humans, as this effect was only tested on rats and needs further research. However, this may serve as a potential indicator that molasses can raise good cholesterol levels in the blood (8).
A study showed that the consumption of sugarcane molasses concentrate along with breakfast leads to a decrease in after-meal insulin and glucose. The results show that this supplementation with filtered sugarcane molasses concentrate may decrease the pressure on pancreatic cells (9).
Meanwhile, honey has been shown to have a hypoglycemic effect. This effect is most probably due to the presence of fructose in honey, which enhances glucose uptake (10).
A study showed that in healthy individuals, honey increased serum iron and blood indices (11).
Another study concluded the preventive and curative effects of dark honey in rats having nutritional anemia (12). Light honey was less effective in terms of treatment and prevention of anemia (12).
In anemia caused by lack of dietary iron, molasses is a source of iron, as well as elements that enable iron absorption, such as copper (13). Although more research is needed, molasses may serve as a supplement for iron deficiency anemia (13).
Research has shown that honey has wound-healing effects (14, 15). A study showed that the bacteria-inhibiting effect of raw honey is higher than that of the antibiotic Cefotaxime and molasses against Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Escherichia coli (16). These bacteria cause wound contamination that ultimately results in the inflammation of the wound.
The exact mechanism behind the anti-cancer activity of honey is not yet known, but it may be due to its anti-tumor, antioxidant, and anti-mutagenic effects (17).
Honey induces programmed cell death in human breast and cervical cancer cell lines (18). Honey was also effective in inhibiting the growth of several cancer cell lines and tissues (19).
Antioxidants neutralize the free radicals that may damage cells and lead to cancer cell growth. Blackstrap molasses has the highest antioxidant capacity compared to honey and cane sugar (20). Sugar cane molasses had a higher antioxidant capacity than vitamin E (21). This may indicate that it has a stronger anti-cancer activity; however, more research is needed to confirm this.
Downsides and Risks
Allergies to honey may be due to the food item itself or the pollen and bee venom that it may contain (22).
Moderation is key when it comes to sources of sugar. Honey and molasses are rich in sugar and carbohydrates. Therefore, they should be used with caution in diabetic and pre-diabetic individuals.
Comparison summary table
|Lower in Sugar|
|Lower in price|
|Rich in minerals|
|Lower in Sodium|
|Lower in Saturated Fat|
|Lower in glycemic index|
|Lower in Cholesterol||Equal|
|Rich in vitamins||Equal|
All nutrients comparison - raw data values
Which food is preferable for your diet?
|Low Fats diet|
|Low Carbs diet|
|Low Calories diet|
|Low glycemic index diet|