Many people use honey or stevia to replace sugar in their diet. Unlike cane sugar, both honey and stevia contain nutrients and beneficial properties. For centuries, societies have used them to heal wounds, fight against bacteria and infection, create healthy skin and improve health. If you’re concerned about the effects of refined products on the market today, you might be confused as to which product to use. While both come in natural versions with a long history of health improvements, here’s how to tell which sweetener is best for you.
Benefits of Honey
Natural food enthusiasts have used honey for a long time. It contains 69 percent glucose and 31 percent fructose. According to the USDA, honey offers 64 calories per tablespoon compared to 15 in a tablespoon of cane sugar. That makes honey unsuitable for those with diabetes or metabolic issues. Unlike sugar, honey contains vitamins and minerals. The quantity of nutrients depends on the type of flowers the honey originated from. Typically, honey contains a few amino acids, several B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, zinc and vitamin C.
Honey is an antiseptic with anti-bacterial, antioxidant and healing properties to help you stay healthy and disease free. Many natural home remedies use honey in the recipe because it improves immune system function, helps fight yeast infections, relieves the pain of arthritis, kills athlete’s foot fungus and inhibits the growth of bacteria from infection. For that reason, many sore throat and cough medicines take advantage of honey. It also contains anti-inflammatory properties to help reduce swelling and pain.
The negative side to honey is that some strains may contain a slight amount of natural bacterial botulinum toxin that the immature digestive system of infants cannot neutralize. Generally, the acidic environment of the stomach renders these few spores harmless, but in babies who are younger than 12 months, their digestive system isn’t acidic enough. That can cause a problem, so physicians do not recommend giving small babies honey. This doesn’t include pregnant women or nursing mothers since the body renders the toxin harmless. It cannot endanger a fetus or pregnant mother.
Benefits of Stevia
The stevia plant is a native of Paraguay. Its leaves contain the glycosides Steviosides, Rebaudiosides and a Dulcoside. These glycosides are 30 times sweeter than sugar in their natural form. The leaves contain amino acids, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, rutin, vitamin A, vitamin C and an oil that contains 53 additional properties.
Refined Steviosides and Rebaudiosides are its sweetest form. Refined stevia is a semi-white powder referred to as an extract. Stevia also comes in a clear liquid, but the liquid is made by adding the powder to water along with a preservative. The liquid form does not have the same health benefits that whole-leaf stevia products do. Processing converts stevia into various sweetening abilities. The sweetening power ranges from 70 to 400 times sweeter than sugar.
The reported health benefits come from a water-based whole-leaf stevia extract. This type has a higher concentration of nutrients. Stevia has been reported to inhibit the bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease. Those who use stevia consistently also report fewer colds and flu. It soothes an upset stomach, improves digestion and helps gastrointestinal function. When used on the skin, it can heal burns, lip sores and wounds without scarring. It corrects acne, eczema, dermatitis and seborrhea.
Stevia has a regulating effect on the pancreas that helps to stabilize blood sugar. Unlike honey, the body doesn’t digest glycosides. It’s a fiber, not a carbohydrate, so even the processed versions of stevia contain no calories. That makes stevia the perfect choice for diabetics, those with metabolic syndrome and those who are overweight. Unlike artificial sweeteners, stevia does not break down when exposed to heat, so it makes a good calorie-free substitute for sugar when bulk in baked goods is not needed.