Honey, a delicious and thick substance, is meticulously crafted by honey bees, serving as a vital source of nourishment for their colonies. Bees painstakingly collect and refine sugary secretions from plants or the honeydew of aphids to create this natural wonder. On the other hand, sorbitol, also known as glucitol, is a sugar alcohol with a pleasant sweet taste. Unlike honey, it is metabolized slowly by the human body and does not promote tooth decay.
While both sweeteners offer their own distinctive qualities, understanding their origins and metabolic effects can help you make informed choices when satisfying your sweet tooth. Let’s compare the two so you can make yours.
Comparing Sorbitol vs Honey
|Raw and unpasteurized in moderation
|Sugar alcohols, fructose
|Honey, certain pollens
|Pantry shelf life (unopened/sealed)
|Best for baking
|Low-sugar treats and tooth-friendly candy
|A wide variety of cakes, flaky pastries, and sweet treats
Differences Between Sorbitol And Honey
Honey is a natural sweetener with a range of health benefits, such as antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Its diverse varieties are determined by the type of flower the bees pollinate. Made up of approximately 40% fructose, 30% glucose, and 17% water, honey also contains other sugars, carbohydrates, and trace amounts of essential vitamins and minerals. This golden liquid remains in a liquid state as long as it is stored below its melting point, gradually thickening with decreasing temperature.
Beyond its role as a sweetener, honey shines as a natural medicine. It is commonly used both orally to alleviate coughs and topically to treat burns and promote wound healing.
On the other hand, sorbitol, a polyhydric alcohol, is a sweetener that can be extracted either naturally or synthetically from glucose. With a sweetness level roughly half that of sucrose (table sugar), sorbitol is often utilized as a pharmaceutical sweetener. It is available in both solid crystal form and as a 70% (w/w) aqueous solution. In addition to its pharmaceutical uses, sorbitol serves as a laxative for relieving constipation!
Taste and Culinary Uses
When it comes to sweeteners, honey and sorbitol offer distinct flavors and versatile applications in culinary creations. Honey, beyond its inherent sweetness, boasts a diverse flavor profile that can range from floral and fruity to smoky, woody, spicy, nutty, or earthy, depending on the nectar source. This wide range of flavors adds depth and complexity to dishes where honey is incorporated.
In cooking, honey shines as a versatile ingredient, bringing both flavor and texture to a wide variety of sweet and savory dishes. It can enrich casseroles, sauces, and dressings, lending them a subtle and unique taste that enhances the overall culinary experience. Honey’s ability to balance and elevate flavors makes it a beloved choice among chefs and home cooks alike.
On the other hand, sorbitol, a sugar alcohol, is a classic ingredient for sugar reduction. It offers a pleasant, sweet taste while exerting minimal impact on blood sugar levels. Along with its sweetening power, sorbitol possesses excellent food-technical properties, making it a preferred ingredient in sugar-free confectionery and energy-reduced products. Its tooth-friendliness, characterized by being non-cariogenic, further contributes to its popularity.
Sorbitol finds versatile usage in various culinary applications. In sponges and cakes, sorbitol is typically used at a ratio of 5% to 8% of flour weight, while in biscuits and cream fillings, it can be utilized up to 10%. Making gingerbread? Adding only 5% sorbitol to it can enhance its freshness.
Are Sorbitol and Honey Substitutes for Each Other?
You can try substituting ½ to ¾ cup of honey or maple syrup for each cup of sorbitol in the recipe, but I don’t think it works well at all. Stange flavors and very different baking properties. It is best to substitute it with a different kind of sweetener, there are plenty to choose from!
Nutritional Profile And Health Benefits
Honey (1 tbsp.):
- Calories: 60
- Total carbs: 17 g
- Sugars: 17 g
- GI: 58
Sorbitol (5 g)
- Calories: 13
- Total carbs: 5 g
- Sugars: 0 g
- GI: 4
Honey offers potential therapeutic benefits due to its phytochemical, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties. It contains flavonoids and polyphenols, acting as antioxidants and contributing to its bioactivity. Sorbitol helps protect teeth against decay, has reduced calorie value, and is beneficial for people with diabetes.
When it comes to diet suitability, honey and sorbitol have different considerations. Let’s take a closer look:
Honey, although a natural sweetener rich in sugars and carbohydrates, is not considered vegan due to its origin and production process. Bees collect nectar from flowers, partially digest it, and regurgitate it in their hives. This honey serves as a long-lasting food source for the hive. While unadulterated raw honey aligns with the principles of a paleo lifestyle as a whole food, pasteurized honey undergoes heat processing, making it less recommended in a paleo-oriented diet. On Whole30, all sweeteners, including honey, must be eliminated.
On the other hand, sorbitol is generally vegan, but its source and processing may vary. It is a sugar alcohol derived from various sources, some of which may be non-vegan. Sorbitol is considered keto-friendly and does not disrupt ketosis. However, for those following a paleo diet, sweeteners, and sugar alcohols like sorbitol are not allowed in any form. Additionally, sorbitol is not approved for the Whole30 diet.
How to Store Sorbitol and Honey
To keep your honey in tip-top condition, storing it in sealed containers like glass jars with airtight lids is advisable. This ensures minimal air exposure when the honey is not in use. It is not advisable to use non-food plastic or metal containers for honey storage, as they can cause oxidation of the honey.
Sorbitol can be stored at room temperature, ideally around 77°F. It is essential to avoid extreme temperatures like freezing or exposing it to high heat, as these factors can affect its shelf life. Additionally, it’s worth noting that different sorbitol products may have varying shelf life durations.
Price and Availability
The price of honey starts at $2.96 per pound and can skyrocket from there. But a 1lb package of sorbitol costs an astounding $21.99, making it significantly pricier!
When it comes to the environmental impact of sweeteners, honey stands out as a highly sustainable choice. Unlike other farming practices, beekeeping for honey production has minimal greenhouse gas emissions. It does not require the use of tractors, large machines, or fertilizers. The process of bringing honey from the hive to your cupboard is relatively simple and natural. In contrast, sweeteners like xylitol and sorbitol have a higher potential for global warming due to the energy and chemical requirements in their production process. Therefore, choosing honey as a sweetener benefits the environment and promotes sustainability.
Sorbitol vs. Honey: The Ultimate Verdict
Sorbitol is a decent diabetic-friendly sugar substitute if you can handle the odd digestive issues it can cause, but honey is superior. It is more natural, better for the environment, and has a far superior taste. Furthermore, honey is actually beneficial to our health with its anti-inflammatory properties, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins. Plus, it does not cause any of the uncomfortable side effects that sorbitol sometimes can. Honey 100% wins this round.
Consuming sorbitol can lead to gastrointestinal issues such as gas, urgency, bloating, and abdominal cramps, and the severity depends on the dosage (5 to 20 g per day). Exceeding 20 g per day may result in diarrhea. The impact of sorbitol can vary between individuals.
Sorbitol is a naturally occurring compound in fruits and vegetables, but it is also produced from corn syrup. Unlike sugar, sorbitol has only half the sweetness, requiring double the amount for equivalent sweetness in a product.
If you have fructose intolerance, it is crucial to eliminate sorbitol from your diet. This is because the body metabolizes sorbitol into fructose.