I do not think the body gets any beneficial nutrients from sugar. Too much or when the body does not need to store glycogen just gets converted into fat and stored in places that we do not like. I do prefer using honey over sugar since honey does contain other benefits that sugar does not. Sugar is a useless ingredient that can be replaced.
The only plus side of using sugar I see is before exercise. Other than for exercise there is not any use for sugar. Sugar is broken down into glucose and fructose. Glucose is found in every cell in the body. If we are not taking in enough glucose the body will manufacture it for use. Fructose is not used in the body for any physiological reason and it is not produced by the body to any great degree. Fructose is only metabolized by the liver and is not a problem when eaten in small amounts in fruit that we eat. Once the liver is at capacity for glycogen storage the fructose we eat is converted into fat.
One problem I see with fructose is the use of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) in food and beverages. I will use a 12 ounce Classic Coca Cola as an example from the nutrition information from the Classic Cola web site. The calories for this 12 ounces of Classic Coca Cola are 140 calories. The sweet beverage has no fat or protein. It contains 39 grams of carbohydrates with all 39 grams being sugar in the form of HFCS. The body is either going to use the HFCS immediately as energy or convert it to fat. Sugar would at least be able to be broken down and used in other cells in the body. Not that 39 grams of sugar would be that beneficial to our bodies either.
There is really no nutritional value to sugar in the food we eat. I prefer honey since it does contain other beneficial nutrients that the body can use. Yes, honey is sugar and about 40 percent is in the form of fructose. Some studies have shown that honey can be beneficial (1). The other benefits are the trace amount of vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants. I think it is best to get unrefined honey over the store brands. Store brands are honey, but the bees need to produce so much honey in their hives they are fed a sugary mix for food. My wife has a friend, Michael Jordan, who owns A “Bee Friendly” Company with a wealth of information on bees and honey on his Facebook site. It is best if you can find a good company that produces honey with bee that forage off of the land. Depending on what the bees use for food, clover, buckwheat, lavender, hollyhocks, and a huge list of other plants, honey will have different flavors.
So, is sugar really beneficial? Not really. I think it best to pass on foods and beverages that contain sugar. Use honey if you want the sweet taste and make it unrefined honey.