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Honey vs Molasses - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Honey
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Molasses

INTRODUCTION

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 is used as food as well as for therapeutic and medicinal purposes (1). The type of honey varies depending on the flower source it is obtained from. On the other hand, molasses are man-made 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 are used as food product, cattle feed, and soil fertilizer (3). 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.

HONEY VS MOLASSES IN BAKING

Honey and molasses have more moisture than sugar. Care should be taken to the extra amount of liquid that should be added to the product during the substitution. Each of the food items will contribute a different taste and color to the recipe. A study showed that the substitution of sugar with honey in baking dough improved its shelf life (4).

A study showed that heating honey produces high amounts of a chemical called 5-hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF) which may be toxic (5). The higher the time and temperature result in higher HMF content (6).

TASTE

Both foods are sweet and are used as substitutes of sugar. As the honey gets more and more refined, it loses its natural taste gradually. 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 have a heavier taste almost approaching bitterness.

NUTRITION

We will use the infographics to compare the nutritional content of honey and molasses. Mineral-wise, molasses are considered to be richer. Molasses are higher in iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, copper, zinc, and phosphorus. On the other hand, honey contains around 89.2% less sodium than molasses do. It is worthy of noting that molasses are significantly richer in magnesium (by 12000%) compared to honey. Based on vitamin content, molasses are richer in vitamin B3, and vitamin B5. In contrast, honey is richer in vitamin B2. Molasses contain vitamin B1 while honey lacks it. On the other hand, honey contains vitamin C and folate while molasses lack it.

CALORIES

Honey is higher in calories compared to molasses.

CARBOHYDRATES

Honey is higher in carbohydrates. 300 g of honey covers around 82% of our daily carbohydrate needs. In comparison, 300 g of molasses covers around 75%.  Moreover, honey is richer in sugars with a difference of 7.4 g.

GLYCEMIC INDEX

Honey has a lower glycemic index compared to molasses.

FATS

Both foods contain almost no fats and no cholesterol.

PROTEINS

Honey is slightly higher in proteins than molasses who are void of it.

WEIGHT LOSS AND DIETS

Low carb

Molasses are 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 are favored over honey in a low calorie diet.

Low GI

Honey has lower GI.

HEALTH IMPACT

CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH

Flavonoids are antioxidants found in honey which 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 oxidation, and decreasing the clotting ability of the platelets (7). On the other hand, molasses may also have a cardioprotective effect but through another mechanism: raising HDL cholesterol (8). There is no direct evidence of this effect on humans as this effect was only tested on rats and needs further research, but this may serve as a potential indicator that molasses do raise the good cholesterol (8).

DIABETES

A study showed that the consumption of sugarcane molasses concentrate along with breakfast lead 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 shown to have a hypoglycemic effect. This effect is most probably due to the presence of fructose in honey which enhances glucose uptake (10).

ANEMIA

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).

WOUND HEALING

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 result in the inflammation of the wound (16).

CANCER

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 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 have the highest antioxidant capacity compared to honey and cane sugar (20). Sugar cane molasses had a higher antioxidant capacity compared to vitamin E (21). This may indicate that it may have a stronger anti-cancer activity; however, much research is needed to confirm this.

Downsides and Risks

ALLERGY

Allergies to honey may be due to the food item itself or the pollen or bee venom that it may contain (22).

DIABETES

Honey and molasses are rich in sugar and carbohydrates. Therefore, they should be used with caution in diabetic and pre-diabetic individuals. Moderation is key when it comes to sources of sugar.

SUMMARY

In conclusion, molasses are cheaper than honey. Molasses are 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 glycemic index compared to molasses.

SOURCES

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5424551/
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B012227055X011755 
  3. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B97801240767300000
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0189724115300515
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3215355/
  6. https://www.entomoljournal.com/vol3Issue3/pdf/3-4-48.1.pdf
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3005390/
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16028637/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26410392/
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22337138/
  11.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12935325/
  12. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0022347642800645
  13. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/19390211.2016.1269145
  14. https://link.springer.com/article/10.2165/11538930-000000000-00000
  15. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/tswj/2011/526901/
  16. http://plantarchives.org/20-1/279-282%20(5687).pdf
  17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3865795/
  18. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21167897/
  19. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12657101/
  20. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19103324/
  21. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23190112/
  22. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1398-9995.1992.tb02248.
Article author photo Christelle  Tchakerian
Profession: Institute for Integrative Nutrition New York
Last updated: April 6, 2021

Infographic

Honey vs Molasses infographic
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Mineral Comparison

Mineral comparison score is based on the number of minerals by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Honey
1
:
Contains less Sodium -89.2%
Contains more Iron +1023.8%
Contains more Calcium +3316.7%
Contains more Potassium +2715.4%
Contains more Magnesium +12000%
Contains more Copper +1252.8%
Contains more Zinc +31.8%
Contains more Phosphorus +675%
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 16% 2% 5% 2% 12% 6% 2% 1%
Iron Calcium Potassium Magnesium Copper Zinc Phosphorus Sodium 177% 62% 130% 173% 163% 8% 14% 5%
Contains less Sodium -89.2%
Contains more Iron +1023.8%
Contains more Calcium +3316.7%
Contains more Potassium +2715.4%
Contains more Magnesium +12000%
Contains more Copper +1252.8%
Contains more Zinc +31.8%
Contains more Phosphorus +675%

Vitamin Comparison

Vitamin comparison score is based on the number of vitamins by which one or the other food is richer. The "coverage" chart below show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of the food
Honey
3
:
Contains more Vitamin C +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +1800%
Contains more Folate +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +668.6%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +1082.4%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +2691.7%
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 2% 0% 0% 0% 0% 9% 3% 5% 6% 0% 0% 2%
Vitamin C Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Vitamin B12 Vitamin K Folate 0% 0% 0% 0% 11% 1% 18% 49% 155% 0% 0% 0%
Contains more Vitamin C +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +1800%
Contains more Folate +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +668.6%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +1082.4%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +2691.7%

Vitamin and Mineral Summary Scores

The summary score is calculated by summing up the daily values contained in 300 grams of the product. Obviously the more the food fulfills human daily needs, the more the summary score is.
Vitamin Summary Score
2
Honey
19
Molasses
Mineral Summary Score
5
Honey
91
Molasses

Macronutrients Comparison

Macronutrient comparison charts compare the amount of protein, total fats, and total carbohydrates in 300 grams of the food. The displayed values show how much of the daily needs can be covered by 300 grams of food.
Protein
2%
Honey
0%
Molasses
Carbohydrates
82%
Honey
75%
Molasses
Fats
0%
Honey
0%
Molasses

Comparison summary table

Pay attention to the most right column. It shows the amounts side by side, making it easier to realize the amount of difference.
Honey Molasses
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in price ok
Rich in minerals ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in glycemic index ok
Lower in Cholesterol Equal
Rich in vitamins Equal

Which food is preferable for your diet?

ok
ok
is better in case of low diet
Honey Molasses
Low Calories diet ok
Low Fats diet ok
Low Carbs diet ok
Low glycemic index diet ok

People also compare

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Sugar?
Molasses
Molasses is lower in Sugar (difference - 7.4g)
Which food is cheaper?
Molasses
Molasses is cheaper (difference - $1)
Which food is richer in minerals?
Molasses
Molasses is relatively richer in minerals
Which food contains less Sodium?
Honey
Honey contains less Sodium (difference - 33mg)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Honey
Honey is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.018g)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Honey
Honey is lower in glycemic index (difference - 61)
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)
Which food is richer in vitamins?
?
It cannot be stated which food is richer in vitamins. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information. See the charts below for detailed information.

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Honey Molasses Opinion
Calories 304 290 Honey
Protein 0.3 0 Honey
Fats 0 0.1 Molasses
Vitamin C 0.5 0 Honey
Carbs 82.4 74.73 Honey
Cholesterol 0 0
Vitamin D 0 0
Iron 0.42 4.72 Molasses
Calcium 6 205 Molasses
Potassium 52 1464 Molasses
Magnesium 2 242 Molasses
Sugar 82.12 74.72 Molasses
Fiber 0.2 0 Honey
Copper 0.036 0.487 Molasses
Zinc 0.22 0.29 Molasses
Starch
Phosphorus 4 31 Molasses
Sodium 4 37 Honey
Vitamin A 0 0
Vitamin E 0 0
Vitamin D 0 0
Vitamin B1 0 0.041 Molasses
Vitamin B2 0.038 0.002 Honey
Vitamin B3 0.121 0.93 Molasses
Vitamin B5 0.068 0.804 Molasses
Vitamin B6 0.024 0.67 Molasses
Vitamin B12 0 0
Vitamin K 0 0
Folate 2 0 Honey
Trans Fat
Saturated Fat 0 0.018 Honey
Monounsaturated Fat 0 0.032 Molasses
Polyunsaturated fat 0 0.05 Molasses
Tryptophan 0.004 Honey
Threonine 0.004 Honey
Isoleucine 0.008 Honey
Leucine 0.01 Honey
Lysine 0.008 Honey
Methionine 0.001 Honey
Phenylalanine 0.011 Honey
Valine 0.009 Honey
Histidine 0.001 Honey
Fructose 40.94 12.79 Honey

References

The source of all the nutrient values on the page (excluding the main article the sources for which are presented separately if present) is the USDA's FoodCentral. The exact links to the foods presented on this page can be found below.

  1. Honey - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169640/nutrients
  2. Molasses - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168820/nutrients

All the Daily Values are presented for males aged 31-50, for 2000 calorie diets.

Data provided by FoodStruct.com should be considered and used as information only. Please consult your physician before beginning any diet.