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Honey vs Maple syrup - Health impact and Nutrition Comparison

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Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan by Victoria Mazmanyan | Last updated on November 29, 2020
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Honey
vs
Maple syrup

Summary

Honey and maple syrup are healthier options as sweeteners instead of refined sugars. Honey contains more carbohydrates, protein, and calories, while maple syrup contains more fats. Honey has a higher glycemic index. It is richer in vitamin C, vitamins B3, B5, and B6, whereas maple syrup is higher in vitamins B1 and B2. Honey has higher levels of iron, copper, and phosphorus, but maple syrup contains more calcium, potassium, magnesium, and zinc. Honey is lower in sodium.

Both honey and maple syrup express certain cardioprotective, antidiabetic, and anticancer qualities, due to certain antioxidant compounds within. However, it is always important to moderate the intake of all high sugar food products, including honey and maple syrup.

Introduction

Honey and maple syrup are two of the most popular sweeteners in the world. There’s no question that these two are healthier than cane sugar, but which one is the better choice? Both are natural sources of sugars, certain minerals, and vitamins. Here we will discuss their specific nutritional compositions and what effects they have on human health.

How It’s Made

As is common knowledge, honey is made by foraging bees, as well as some insects of similar species. Bees in nature produce honey to use in winter or in times of scarcity. Firstly, bees, with the help of their long tubular mouthpart, extract the nectar in a liquid form from the flowering plants and store it in their extra stomach, also called the “crop.” In the bee’s stomach, the nectar changes composition, mixing with enzymes that change the texture and storage time of the honey. Honeybees later return to the beehive and pass the honey to the next bee by regurgitating it into the other bee’s mouth. This goes on until the honey reaches the honeycomb. Finally, bees circulate air in the honeycomb with their wings to evaporate water, condense the honey, and later seal the honeycomb with beeswax (1). The taste and texture of honey can differ depending on the species of flower from which the nectar was collected.

On the other hand, maple syrup does not require the help of insects and is acquired from trees, which is why maple syrup fits the vegan diet, while honey does not. Maple syrup is made from tapping maple trees. The most common trees that people get maple syrup from are the sugar or rock trees (Acer saccharum) and the black maple (Acer nigrum), although sometimes the red maple (Acer rubrum) is also used. In spring, these trees produce a sugary sap underneath the bark. The sap is collected through taps that get drilled into the tree and stored in tanks. Later the sap is evaporated to condense it and achieve the final maple syrup (2).

Shelf Life

Depending on storage conditions, honey can change its color and texture, often crystallize. However, these are natural changes and do not mean the honey has gone bad. Honey does not have an expiration date (3).

Maple syrup, due to its density, is more susceptible to growing mold. An unopened bottle of maple syrup can be kept indefinitely; however, you can use it for about a year after opening it. Unopened bottles of maple syrup should be kept in a dry, cold area. After it is opened, storing it in a refrigerator is advised (4).

Nutrition

One serving of honey is one tablespoon, equivalent to 21g of honey, whereas a serving of maple syrup is a quarter of a cup equaling 83g.

Honey contains more calories, protein, and carbohydrates, including fiber, sugars, and net carbs, but it does not contain fats. Maple syrup does comprise a small amount of fats. Both foods do not contain cholesterol.

The glycemic index of maple syrup is lower than that of honey. The average glycemic index of seventeen types of honey is 61, while the glycemic index of maple syrup is 54 (5).

Honey is the right choice for a low-fat diet, while maple syrup is preferred for low-calorie, low-carb, and low glycemic index diets.

However, the significant difference in the average serving sizes of honey and maple syrup should be taken into consideration.

Vitamins

Honey is richer in vitamins B3, B5, and B6 and also contains vitamin C and folate, while maple syrup does not. Conversely, there is a vitamin in maple syrup that isn’t present in honey: vitamin B1. Maple syrup is also higher in vitamin B2.

Both foods entirely lack vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin K, and vitamin B12.

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
5
:
Contains more Vitamin C +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +49.4%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +88.9%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +1100%
Contains more Folate +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +3242.1%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 0% 0% 0% 2% 0% 9% 3% 5% 6% 2% 0% 0%
Vitamin A Vitamin E Vitamin D Vitamin C Vitamin B1 Vitamin B2 Vitamin B3 Vitamin B5 Vitamin B6 Folate Vitamin B12 Vitamin K 0% 0% 0% 0% 17% 294% 2% 3% 1% 0% 0% 0%
Contains more Vitamin C +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B3 +49.4%
Contains more Vitamin B5 +88.9%
Contains more Vitamin B6 +1100%
Contains more Folate +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B1 +∞%
Contains more Vitamin B2 +3242.1%

Minerals

Honey is richer in iron, copper, and phosphorus. On the other hand, maple syrup contains more calcium, magnesium, zinc, and potassium. Honey is lower in sodium.

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
Contains more Iron +281.8%
Contains more Phosphorus +100%
Contains less Sodium -66.7%
Contains more Copper +100%
Contains more Calcium +1600%
Contains more Magnesium +950%
Contains more Potassium +307.7%
Contains more Zinc +568.2%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 2% 16% 2% 2% 5% 1% 6% 12%
Calcium Iron Magnesium Phosphorus Potassium Sodium Zinc Copper 31% 5% 15% 1% 19% 2% 41% 6%
Contains more Iron +281.8%
Contains more Phosphorus +100%
Contains less Sodium -66.7%
Contains more Copper +100%
Contains more Calcium +1600%
Contains more Magnesium +950%
Contains more Potassium +307.7%
Contains more Zinc +568.2%

Health Impact

Cardiovascular Health

Both maple syrup and honey express intermediate antioxidant abilities that famously have the potential to protect cells from oxidative damage, having a positive effect on cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and other conditions (6).

Darker maple syrup was found to have stronger antioxidant abilities when compared to clear maple syrup (7). One of the antioxidant compounds found in maple syrup is called glucitol-core containing gallotannin (GCG). These are polyphenols that have free radical scavenging abilities (8).

Not much is known about the specific compounds that are responsible for honey’s antioxidant abilities. It is most likely due to its phenolic and flavonoid acid composition. Different kinds of honey from various floral sources have different antioxidant capacities due to their individual phenolic profiles. Other compounds responsible for the antioxidant capacity may be peptides, organic acids, enzymes, Maillard reaction products, and potentially other minor components (9). Whatever the mechanism is, honey has been proven to have the ability to protect humans from oxidative stress (10).

Long-term consumption of honey has the potential to reduce cardiovascular risk factors. It has been shown to decrease the total level of cholesterols and low-density lipoproteins in overweight individuals. Honey also decreases blood levels of C-reactive protein, which is associated with cardiac risk factors and inflammation (11).

However, all added sugars can play a role in the development of atherosclerosis, hypertension, coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, heart failure, and cardiac arrhythmias; therefore, honey and maple syrup should be consumed in moderation (12).

Diabetes

Both honey and maple syrup are naturally high in sugars. Maple syrup has a low glycemic index of 54, while honey’s glycemic index of 61 is slightly higher, making honey a moderate glycemic index food.

In one study, honey decreased triglycerides in patients with hypertriglyceridemia and reduced low-density lipoproteins in patients with hyperlipidemia; however, artificial honey had the opposite effects. Honey also reduced homocysteine and C-reactive protein in normal and hyperlipidemic subjects. Compared to sucrose and dextrose, honey caused a lower elevation of plasma glucose levels (13).

Another study concluded that long-term consumption of honey might positively affect the body weight and blood lipid levels of diabetic patients. However, it may also increase levels of hemoglobin A, so cautious consumption of honey is advised in patients with diabetes (14).

Honey also increases zinc and copper serum levels that are important for insulin and glucose metabolism (11).

The previously mentioned antioxidant compound found in maple syrup, named glucitol-core containing gallotannin (GCG), also has potential antidiabetic α-glucosidase inhibitory and antiglycation properties (8). Other chemicals maple syrup contains that might help its antidiabetic properties are polyphenolic lignans and phytohormone abscisic acid and its derivatives (15).

Studies have found maple syrup to be a healthier substitute as a sweetener instead of sucrose due to a lower glycemic index (16). Maple syrup might also have the ability to inhibit glucose absorption from the small intestine, preventing elevation of plasma glucose levels, therefore potentially helping prevent type 2 diabetes mellitus (17).

In conclusion, honey and maple syrup are both better options to use instead of processed sugars; however, the high sugar content means they have to be used with caution and moderation.

Cancer

Even though honey and maple syrup are high in sugars, which are thought to be carcinogenic, they have potential anticancer qualities due to other chemicals they contain.

One study has found an inverse association between maple syrup and colorectal cancer. Maple syrup might inhibit cell proliferation and invasion by suppressing AKT activation, thus becoming potentially suitable phytomedicine for colorectal cancer, with fewer adverse effects than traditional chemotherapy (18).

Maple syrup extracts and pure maple syrup, the dark ones, in particular, have shown a selective in vitro antiproliferative activity against prostate, lung, breast, and colorectal cancer cells (7).

Honey can potentially be used as a chemopreventive and therapeutic treatment against cancer. It is suggested that honey can inhibit cell proliferation, induce apoptosis and cell-cycle arrest (19).

Honey has been studied to be effective against bladder, breast, cervical, colorectal, renal, prostate, endometrial cancers, leukemia, and others (20, 21, 22, 23, 24).

Allergy

Allergy to honey is very rare; however, there have been such described cases. The main allergens causing this allergy are thought to be pollen proteins (Compositae pollen) from the plants and glandular proteins produced by bees. Propolis, which can be found in beeswax, is also known as a contact allergen (25). Symptoms of a honey allergy can occur when the allergic person consumes or touches honey. These may include oral allergy syndrome, itching, swelling and redness of the mouth, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, skin rashes, and other symptoms.

Maple syrup allergy is also quite uncommon but can occur. People who are allergic to maple syrup have a higher chance of being allergic to the pollen or sap of the maple tree. Symptoms are similar to that of honey allergy.

Restrictions

Honey may contain bacteria that cause infant botulism, so it is not allowed for children younger than 12 months to consume honey. It is safe for children that are one year of age or older (26).

It is also advised to limit consumption of honey to 6 tablespoons (25 grams) a day for women and 9 tablespoons (38 grams) for men due to the high sugar concentration (27).

It is better to avoid giving babies maple syrup as well, due to the high sugar concentration.

References

  1. https://www.scu.edu.au/engage/news/latest-news/2020/how-do-bees-make-honey.php
  2. https://www.maplesource.com/how-pure-maple-syrup-is-made/
  3. https://www.naturenates.com/does-honey-expire/
  4. https://www.doesitgobad.com/does-maple-syrup-go-bad/
  5. https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/diacare/suppl/2008/09/18/dc08-1239.DC1/TableA1_1.pdf
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19103324/
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20132041/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4871730/
  9. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12358452/
  10. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12617614/
  11. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/5398991
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4244242/
  13. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15117561/
  14. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19817641/
  15. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1756464614003077
  16. https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jos/62/9/62_737/_article/-char/ja/
  17. https://europepmc.org/article/med/25757438
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4358083/
  19. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22761637/
  20. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12657101/
  21. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21167897/
  22. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21472079/
  23. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0308814609003124
  24. https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/13/11/15054
  25. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5287071/
  26. https://www.cdc.gov/botulism/prevention.html
  27. https://sugarscience.ucsf.edu/the-sweet-science-behind-honey.html
Article author photo Victoria Mazmanyan
Education: General Medicine at YSMU
Last updated: November 29, 2020

Infographic

Honey vs Maple syrup infographic
Infographic link

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 Maple syrup
Lower in Sugar ok
Lower in glycemic index ok
Lower in Sodium ok
Lower in Saturated Fat ok
Lower in price ok
Lower in Cholesterol Equal
Rich in minerals Equal
Rich in vitamins Equal

All nutrients comparison - raw data values

Nutrient Honey Maple syrup Opinion
Net carbs 82.2g 67.04g Honey
Protein 0.3g 0.04g Honey
Fats 0g 0.06g Maple syrup
Carbs 82.4g 67.04g Honey
Calories 304kcal 260kcal Honey
Starch g g
Fructose 40.94g 0.52g Honey
Sugar 82.12g 60.46g Maple syrup
Fiber 0.2g 0g Honey
Calcium 6mg 102mg Maple syrup
Iron 0.42mg 0.11mg Honey
Magnesium 2mg 21mg Maple syrup
Phosphorus 4mg 2mg Honey
Potassium 52mg 212mg Maple syrup
Sodium 4mg 12mg Honey
Zinc 0.22mg 1.47mg Maple syrup
Copper 0.036mg 0.018mg Honey
Vitamin A 0IU 0IU
Vitamin E 0mg 0mg
Vitamin D 0IU 0IU
Vitamin D 0µg 0µg
Vitamin C 0.5mg 0mg Honey
Vitamin B1 0mg 0.066mg Maple syrup
Vitamin B2 0.038mg 1.27mg Maple syrup
Vitamin B3 0.121mg 0.081mg Honey
Vitamin B5 0.068mg 0.036mg Honey
Vitamin B6 0.024mg 0.002mg Honey
Folate 2µg 0µg Honey
Vitamin B12 0µg 0µg
Vitamin K 0µg 0µg
Tryptophan 0.004mg mg Honey
Threonine 0.004mg mg Honey
Isoleucine 0.008mg mg Honey
Leucine 0.01mg mg Honey
Lysine 0.008mg mg Honey
Methionine 0.001mg mg Honey
Phenylalanine 0.011mg mg Honey
Valine 0.009mg mg Honey
Histidine 0.001mg mg Honey
Cholesterol 0mg 0mg
Trans Fat g g
Saturated Fat 0g 0.007g Honey
Monounsaturated Fat 0g 0.011g Maple syrup
Polyunsaturated fat 0g 0.017g Maple syrup

Which food is preferable for your diet?

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

People also compare

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
26
Maple syrup
Mineral Summary Score
5
Honey
15
Maple syrup

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%
Maple syrup
Carbohydrates
82%
Honey
67%
Maple syrup
Fats
0%
Honey
0%
Maple syrup

Comparison summary

Which food is lower in Sugar?
Maple syrup
Maple syrup is lower in Sugar (difference - 21.66g)
Which food is lower in glycemic index?
Maple syrup
Maple syrup is lower in glycemic index (difference - 7)
Which food contains less Sodium?
Honey
Honey contains less Sodium (difference - 8mg)
Which food is lower in Saturated Fat?
Honey
Honey is lower in Saturated Fat (difference - 0.007g)
Which food is cheaper?
Honey
Honey is cheaper (difference - $1)
Which food contains less Cholesterol?
?
The foods are relatively equal in Cholesterol (0 mg)
Which food is richer in minerals?
?
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.
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.

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. Maple syrup - https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/169661/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.