While both maple syrup and honey are thought to be similar because they’re natural sweeteners, they actually vary greatly in their nutritional makeup. Once you understand just what the breakdown of nutrients, sugars, and fat is for maple syrup vs. honey, you’ll know which option is healthier.
Maple Syrup vs. Honey Nutrition
Pure maple syrup is made from the sap of maple trees, while honey is produced by bees from plant secretions. Even though both are sticky, sweet substances that have a similar texture and viscosity, they are nutritionally different from each other.
For one, honey contains more calories than maple syrup. One tablespoon of honey contains 64 calories, while one tablespoon of maple syrup contains 52 calories. While the calorie difference isn’t huge for one tablespoon, the difference adds up when you’re using greater amounts, such as in baked goods.
The two also vary in the number of sugars they contain. Pure maple syrup contains 13.5 grams of carbohydrates, 12.4 of those grams being mostly sucrose, a complex sugar. Honey, on the other hand, contains 17.4 grams of carbohydrates with 17.3 of them being mainly made up of fructose.
While both contain significant sugar content, maple syrup contains less fructose. Since fructose has a negative effect on heart health, maple syrup is healthier in this department. If you’re looking at the glycemic index, maple syrup is also lower than honey with maple syrup having an index of 54 and honey having an index of 58.
One nutritional advantage that honey has over maple syrup is that honey has no fat. That said, maple syrup’s fat is very minimal, just 0.1 gram of fat per tablespoon. Another advantage of honey over maple syrup is that honey offers more vitamins — B-6 and C — while maple syrup lacks this vitamin profile.
But what maple syrup lacks in vitamins, it makes up for in minerals. Maple syrup offers more iron, calcium, zinc, and potassium than honey does.
Which Is Healthier?
Honey and maple syrup both offer their own advantages and disadvantages. In the case of fat content, both are similar, even if honey has a slight advantage. The same goes for their calorie count.
Both offer benefits in the form of either vitamins or minerals, and both offer protective antioxidant activity. Putting taste aside, as the two have different flavors — honey is more floral while maple syrup is more woodsy — maple syrup tends to be the healthier choice.
From a sugar standpoint, pure maple syrup contains less sugar and less fructose. It is also lower on the glycemic index than honey is.
Which natural sweetener you choose to use will often depend on what you’re looking to use the sweetener in rather than simply which one is healthier. For instance, some dishes like French toast or pancakes are classically adorned with maple syrup since the flavors pair well together, while honey is typically reserved for tea.
If you’re on a low-sugar diet, it may be worth exploring other sweeteners like erythritol or sorbitol, which contain no sugar but mimic the taste of table sugar. These alternative sweeteners don’t contain any calories and do not cause blood sugar spikes.
Before incorporating any sweetener, whether it’s a natural one like maple syrup or honey, or an alternative sweetener, discuss your diet and any health conditions with your doctor first to decide which option is going to be best for you.