A cup of green tea does more than quench your thirst. In fact, green tea contains powerful antioxidants that can reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, Parkinson's disease and dental decay, according to MayoClinic.com. Plain brewed green tea is your best bet, but adding a bit of sugar or honey to your cup can sweeten it and enhance the flavor. Sugar and honey aren't nutritionally equal, however, and comparing the two might have you reaching for the honey bottle more often than the sugar bowl.
Nutrients and Antioxidants
One teaspoon of sugar contains 16 calories, while a teaspoon of honey has about 20 calories. Sugar and honey are fat-free. Neither sugar nor honey add beneficial protein or fiber to a cup of green tea either. Sugar contributes nothing in the way of key vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, potassium, vitamin C or vitamin A. Honey is slightly better because, though it doesn't supply key vitamins and minerals, it is a source of powerful antioxidants that boost your health and prevent disease. According to Michael T. Murray, author of "The Encyclopedia Of Healing Foods," honey supplies antioxidants called flavonoids that can lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of developing heart disease. Honey also has anti-cancer properties that can help inhibit the growth of cancerous tumors, as well as reduce your risk of developing certain kinds of cancer.
Dangers of Sugar
Too much sugar isn't good for you. When your diet includes an unhealthy amount of sugar, you're likely taking in too many calories, which can translate to weight gain. Too much sugar can also elevate your levels of a certain type of fat called triglycerides, which increases your risk of developing heart disease. A large amount of added sugar in your diet might also raise your risk of type 2 diabetes. Women shouldn't eat more than 6 teaspoons, or 24 grams, of sugar per day. A teaspoon of sugar is 17 percent of that limit and a teaspoon of honey is about 20 percent of your daily limit.
Types of Honey
The kind of honey you put in your green tea matters, too. Many store-bought brands of honey are processed, which means that a portion of their beneficial nutrients and antioxidants are stripped away as they're heated. Granulated sugar is highly processed, as well. Raw honey is better than processed honey and sugar because it isn't processed. That means it contains higher concentrations of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Organic raw honey is the best choice because the bees that make the honey live in areas where they aren't exposed to chemicals or pesticides, according to C. Marina Marchese, author of "Honeybee: Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper."
In terms of health benefits, honey is the way to go if you want to sweeten your green tea. Limit yourself to a teaspoon or less of honey, however, because it's quite easy to consume much more than that, especially if you drink more than one cup of green tea per day. In fact, honey tastes sweeter than sugar, too, which means you need less of it to lend your green tea a sweet flavor. Sugar alternatives are another option, and they don't add any calories to your green tea. A squirt of fresh lemon or orange juice will add a bit of sweetness as well, and it'll also increase the vitamin C content of your tea slightly.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Sugars, Granulated
- MayoClinic.com: Added Sugar: Don't Get Sabotaged by Sweeteners
- MayoClinic.com: Tea: Enjoy a Cup for Health and Pleasure
- The Open Nutraceuticals Journal: Antioxidant Properties of Honey and Its Role in Preventing Health Disorder
- The Encyclopedia Of Healing Foods; Michael T. Murray, et al.
- Honeybee: Lessons from an Accidental Beekeeper; C. Marina Marchese
Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.