From Bees to Trees: Honey vs Maple Syrup (Comparison Guide)


12 minutes

Essential Takeaways

Maple syrup comes from the sap of maple trees. It is collected and boiled ready to eat, and comes in four colour gradings which indicate the intensity of its flavour.

Honey is made by bees that collect, digest, and dehydrate plant nectar. The flavour, colour, and texture of honey is determined by its floral source and how it’s processed.

Pure maple syrup and honey both have health benefits. Manuka honey has been studied more than other honeys or maple syrups for its unique antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, making it not just a delicious and nutritious food but an effective agent in skincare and medicine too.

There are plenty of fake maple syrups and honeys on the market, so make sure you read the labels thoroughly and do your research on brands before buying.

The sweetest nectars that nature has to offer.

One comes from trees, the other from bees.

Is there any real difference between maple syrup vs honey? What are the nutritional benefits? Is one healthier than the other? How do you avoid the fakes on the market?

Find out everything you need to know (and a few surprises along the way) right here.

In this guide to maple syrup vs honey:

  • What’s the difference between maple syrup and honey?

  • Comparing manuka honey vs maple syrup

  • Health benefits of manuka honey vs maple syrup

  • Which is better, honey or maple syrup?

  • Where to buy top quality manuka honey

  • Manuka honey vs maple syrup FAQs

Let’s take a closer look.

What’s the Difference Between Honey vs. Maple Syrup?

So what sets these natural sweeteners apart?

Let’s find out.

An introduction to honey

Honey is a sticky, sweet, viscous substance produced by bees as a food source to sustain them during the winter months.

Worker bees make honey by chewing down and dehydrating nectar and pollen, and storing it in a beeswax honeycomb.

Honey can be safely extracted without harming bees, and responsible beekeepers (like those we work with) will never over harvest and threaten the colony.

Honey varieties

The flavour, colour, and texture of honey depends on its floral source.

It might have all come from one flower (monofloral) or several (multifloral). Since bees can travel miles to collect pollen, monofloral honeys like our manuka honey tend to be rarer.

Different types of honey can be sweeter or earthier than others, and the texture can vary based on whether it has been pasteurised, filtered, ultra-filtered, or creamed.

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to NZ Honey Varities

Uses for honey

Honey has a reputation going back thousands of years for being a wellness superfood.

It's used in recipes, skincare, medicine, and even for pets. So its no wonder that the global demand for honey has made it one of the most faked foods in the world.

That’s why it’s crucial when buying honey to understand which labels to look for and where to buy the most authentic product.

How to avoid buying fake honey

Labels like “pure honey” don’t always tell you very much.

The tests that honey goes through to earn the label “pure” just look for the presence of certain sugars. These may come from the honey, or they may not.

As a result, diluted or contaminated products make their way onto store shelves.

Manuka honey has earned a standout reputation over the years for its uniquely high antibacterial properties. To protect the integrity of genuine manuka honey, a rigorous grading system was created.

The Unique Manuka Factor (UMF™) grading system verifies that a jar of manuka honey is pure and monofloral manuka honey from New Zealand, and that it’s fresh.

This way, customers can trust the authenticity and quality of the honey and be sure that they’re not buying a contaminated or diluted product.

Manuka honey is the most regulated honey variety in the world. So if you’re concerned about getting the good stuff, stick to UMF™ graded manuka honeys like ours. We only deal with real.

An introduction to maple syrup

Maple syrup is a thick, sweet substance that comes from the sap of maple trees.

Trees produce sap to help them move sugar and energy out to their branches for new growth¹. It’s like the blood of a tree, made up of water and nutrients collected from the soil.

Deciduous trees like maple trees don’t grow much over winter. They store their energy resources ready for spring. As the ice melts, sap begins to move up the trees and supply the nutrients needed for photosynthesis and regrowth.

Maple syrup producers “tap” the trees around early spring to collect this sap².

Although this technically wounds the tree, the evidence shows that when handled carefully, it is able to recover easily, and the same trees are tapped for many years without adverse effects³.

The sap is boiled down to reduce its water content. The leftover maple syrup can come in a variety of colours and flavours.

Maple syrup varieties

Maple syrup is graded according to its colour and flavour.

These are determined by a number of factors: the condition of the sap, its pH, sugar concentration, the duration of boiling time, ambient temperature, and even microbial activity⁴.

The gradings are: Golden, Amber, Dark, and Very Dark. The darker the colour, typically the more intense the flavour. The flavours are all variations of the same maple taste, unlike honeys which can have more distinct differences.

Uses for maple syrup

When it comes to uses for syrup vs honey, the differences are significant.

Unlike honey, maple syrup is really just an ingredient in food.

It can add a delicious natural sweetness to any dish, and will keep for up to two years.

How to avoid buying fake maple syrup

When it comes to distinguishing real maple syrup or honey, the story is similar.

It takes around 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup⁵. As a result, pure maple syrup can be quite expensive.

The fake stuff is essentially maple flavoured sugar with added colourings.

Like honey, genuine maple syrup contains more beneficial nutrients than any processed maple syrup or honey substitutes. So it’s worth finding the real stuff and paying a little more if this is important to you.

Maple syrup gradings vary between the US and Canada and they only refer to the colour of the product, not its quality.

So buying straight from authentic maple syrup manufacturers and doing your research into the brands will help to ensure that you only buy real maple syrup.

Comparing Manuka Honey vs. Maple Syrup

Manuka honey is one type of honey, made from the nectar of the mānuka plant in New Zealand.

It has been studied since the 1980s for its unique antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties which come from a significantly higher MGO (or methylglyoxal) content than other honey types.

For the purposes of this guide, we will be comparing pure, monofloral manuka honey vs pure maple syrup.

These are arguably the best versions of honey and maple syrup, and any maple syrup honey substitutes are unlikely to have the same nutritional values or beneficial properties.

Health Benefits of Manuka Honey vs Maple Syrup

Let’s take a look at manuka honey vs maple syrup nutrition.

Unlike refined sugars, maple syrup and manuka honey contain beneficial minerals and antioxidants⁶.

Maple syrup is particularly high in manganese and zinc, which are important for maintaining our brain and bodily functions⁷. It also contains small amounts of calcium, potassium, and iron⁶.

One study found 24 antioxidants in maple syrup⁸, and active compounds that break down carbohydrates in the digestive tract⁹ and may even reduce cancer cell growth¹⁰.

But proceed with caution.

“Keep in mind that most maple syrup studies — which are often accompanied by misleading headlines — are sponsored by maple syrup producers.”

  • Maple syrup: healthy or unhealthy? Heathline.

Manuka honey contains proteins, enzymes, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. In addition to those found in maple syrup, manuka honey also supplies:

  • Selenium (crucial for metabolic health¹¹)

  • Phosphorous (important for cell repair¹²)

  • Sodium (key for nerve and muscle health¹³)

  • Chromium (needed for regulating blood sugar levels¹⁴)

  • Copper (important for energy and protecting blood vessels¹⁵)

With its emollient and antibacterial properties, manuka honey has been found to be a powerful healing agent. When applied topically to skin, it can lock moisture in, keep microbes out, and promote tissue regeneration¹⁶.

As a result, it’s used by doctors and vets today for some of the most serious open wounds, and as an effective acne treatment.

It has also proven to be a great natural remedy for allergies, sinus infections, hormone imbalance, menopause symptoms, and even as a great pre- or post-workout fuel.

With pure maple syrup, you get a delicious, nutrient-packed sweetener for your food and drinks.

With raw manuka honey, you get a wellness superfood that can be used not just in cooking but in skincare, haircare, and treating medical complaints too.

Now that’s versatility.

Manuka honey vs maple syrup glycemic index

Both maple syrup and manuka honey score around 54 on the glycemic index, compared to table sugar which is closer to 65⁶. This makes them lower GI options and healthier than refined sugar.

The glycemic index is a categorisation tool for carbohydrates. It helps people to understand how long after eating foods they’ll get an energy hit.

Low GI foods (longer-lasting energy) generally score between 1 and 55, medium between 56 and 69, and high GI foods (shorter bursts of energy) score over 70¹⁸.

Scientists have found a strong correlation between the consumption of higher GI foods and weight gain¹⁷.

Calories in maple syrup vs honey

A tablespoon of manuka honey provides around 60 calories, and maple syrup closer to 50¹⁹.

It’s important to remember that calories have a limited impact on health, wellness, and even weight loss. They don’t tell us anything about what’s beneficial in our food, and should be used with caution.

The same goes for the glycemic index.

“Digestion is far too messy a process to accurately convey in neat numbers. The counts on food labels can differ wildly from the calories you actually extract, for many reasons.”

Manuka honey vs maple syrup for diabetics

Both manuka honey and maple syrup are lower on the glycemic index than refined sugar.

So for diabetics looking for healthier sweeteners than refined table sugars, they are both good options.

Thanks to persistent scientific interest in the medical application of manuka honey specifically, there appears to be much more research on its use in diabetes than maple syrup.

With more evidence to support that manuka honey is safe for diabetics, it may be the better route.

If you are diabetic, it’s always best to check with your doctor before integrating any new carbohydrates into your diet, even if they are low GI foods like honey and syrup.

Read more: Manuka Honey And Diabetes: What You Need To Know

So Which Is Better Manuka Honey or Maple Syrup?

Both manuka honey and maple syrup contain beneficial properties like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

They are highly sought-after, delicious, natural foods that are in demand throughout the world. As a result, it’s important to understand what the labels mean to ensure you buy an authentic product.

Where maple syrup is really just used in food, manuka honey has become one of the most versatile ingredients for natural wellness on the market.

Since its popularity exploded in the 1980s thanks to pioneering research by Dr Peter Molan, scientists have been investigating its application in many contexts.

It’s used in food, skincare, and medicine; treating some of the most chronic wounds better than traditional antibiotics.

Manuka honey is arguably better than maple syrup for its versatility and increased antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.

But ultimately, it’s all down to personal preference.

Buying Manuka Honey? Here’s What to Look Out for…

Both manuka honey and maple syrup are naturally-derived foods, and in their natural states, can offer great health benefits.

But this depends on minimal processing between the tree or bee, and the jar.

For example, some honeys are filtered, ultra-filtered, and pasteurised. This is designed to make the honey smoother, more visually appealing, and more attractive to buyers. But all this processing kills most of the beneficial enzymes.

To retain as much of the good stuff as possible, we keep our manuka honey raw.

So if you want a truly versatile natural sweetener, stick to UMF™ graded raw manuka honeys like ours.

We work with some of the best beekeepers in New Zealand to ensure quality, authenticity, and freshness.

We only deal with real.

Check out our accreditations.

Shop the full range.


Manuka Honey vs Maple Syrup FAQs

Quick answers to your sticky sweet questions about syrup vs honey.

Is syrup honey?

Syrup and honey are different substances. Honey is produced by bees as they chew, dehydrate, and store nectar in honeycomb shells. Syrup is produced by dissolving sugar in boiling water. As a result of the boiling process, no matter what the origin of the syrup was, it won’t have the same nutritional values as raw honey.

Is honey better than maple syrup?

Honey is more versatile than maple syrup. There’s a wealth of scientific evidence to support using manuka honey for skincare and medical purposes as well as for food. So if you want a product that can sweeten your dishes and give you a wellness boost in a variety of ways, honey may be better for you than maple syrup.

What is healthier, honey or maple syrup?

While maple syrup contains beneficial vitamins and minerals, manuka honey has been found to contain uniquely high levels of methylglyoxal (MGO), a compound associated with antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It can help to regulate hormones, boost pre-workout performance and post-workout recovery, and help you feel full for longer.

Can I use honey instead of maple syrup?

Honey and maple syrup can be effective substitutes for each other when it comes to cooking. Their flavours differ though, so it depends what you want to create. A jar of honey can be more versatile than maple syrup. For example, there’s a lot of scientific evidence that supports using manuka honey for serious medical conditions as well as in foods and for health and wellness.

Is honey or maple syrup sweeter?

There are numerous types of honey and maple syrup which vary in their sweetness. For both honey and maple syrup, the lighter varieties tend to be sweeter, and the darker tend to be more intense, earthy or caramel-like. Maple syrup will always have that distinct maple taste, where honey can vary much more in flavour and sweetness.

Is maple syrup or honey better for weight loss?

Both maple syrup and honey are carbohydrates that contain a lot of sugar. They are healthier than refined sugars, and lower on the glycemic index. So they can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet, but shouldn’t be overly consumed for someone trying to lose weight. Manuka honey offers more in terms of vitamins and minerals, it can boost pre-workout performance and post-workout recovery, and help you feel full for longer.

Should I use maple syrup instead of honey?

It depends on what you’re using it for and the flavours that you are trying to achieve. Honey comes in a variety of flavours and sweetness which are determined by the floral origin. Maple syrup has different intensity levels based on its colour and how it was produced. If you want the maple flavour, it’s better to stick to syrup. However, if you’re after different flavours or an ingredient that can be used in natural skincare or medical care, opt for manuka honey.

What is the healthiest alternative to sugar?

Manuka honey is arguably the healthiest alternative to sugar thanks to its uniquely high levels of antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. Not only do you get the sweetness of the honey, but you get a powerful hit of nutrients that has been championed for thousands of years and is used by doctors throughout the world.


¹ What is tree sap? The Tree Center.

² Hobby maple syrup production, Ohio State University.

³ Tap holes in sugar maples, Maple research.

Making the grade: maple syrup. University of New Hampshire.

Maple syrup, Tree Hugger.

Maple syrup, Healthline.

Maganese benefits, Healthline.

Foods high in antioxidants, Healthline.

Maple syrup research, Science Direct.

¹⁰ Quebecol research, Science Direct.

¹¹ Selenium fact sheet, National Library of Medicine.

¹² Phosphorous information, Mount Sinai.

¹³ Salt and sodium, Harvard.

¹⁴ Chromium, Harvard.

¹⁵ Copper, National Library of Medicine.

¹⁶ Honey in dermatology and skincare, National Library of Medicine.

¹⁷ Low glycemic index diet, Mayo Clinic.

¹⁸ Low glycemic index diet, Mayo Clinic.

¹⁹ Maple syrup nutritional facts, Michigan State University.


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