Honey has been touted as a superfood in the world of health and nutrition, and it is undoubtedly a far healthier choice than refined sugar. There are conflicting opinions as to whether or not honey really can be part of a healthy diet, or if it is no better than other types of sugar. In this article, we’ll compare the health benefits of honey to more processed sugars, and also consider whether it has a place in your low carb diet.
What is Honey, Exactly?
Honey has been used throughout history across the globe for both its medicinal and nutritional benefits. Some health experts point out that honey is very high in fructose, and therefore unhealthy. While this is true (and why honey should be used in moderation, whether you follow a low carb diet or not), honey also comes with a long list of nutrients, a bit of fiber and other health promoting compounds.
Specifically, honey contains the following:
What Are The Health Benefits of Honey?
Before looking specifically as to whether honey has a place in a low carb diet model, let’s consider the health benefits offered, and how they compare to those of white sugar (hint: honey comes out far ahead).
High in Antioxidants
High quality honey (especially raw honey) offers a decent amount of antioxidants, which are important for fighting oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Excessive free radicals in the body have been linked to serious chronic diseases and cancer. Studies show that honey is particularly high in certain phenols, flavonoids and enzymes which have been linked to the prevention of degenerative diseases.
Supports Heart Health
On the topic of antioxidants, certain antioxidants found in honey have been shown to support healthy blood pressure, which reduces the risk of heart disease. Another study found that swapping honey for white sugar could lower your blood triglyceride levels by up to 11%, and lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.
Helps Cough in Children
A lot of OTC (over the counter), conventional cough medicine remedies for children can come along with potential risks and side effects, not to mention are often loaded with artificial ingredients. Honey makes for an excellent alternative, but should not be consumed by kids under the age of one.
One benefit that might surprise you is that honey has potent anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, making it a powerful wound healer. Studies show that honey is most effective in treating partial thickness burns, and medical grade honey has been used by medical professionals to treat diabetic ulcers, psoriasis, ezcema and other skin conditions.
Is Honey Better Than Refined Sugar?
Short answer: yes. While honey should still be used in moderation, it is a far superior choice to refined sugar.
White sugar offers no nutritional value whatsoever, and can actually be considered an “anti-nutrient,” meaning that it actually depletes your body’s nutritional stores instead of adding to them. Basically, refined sugar is the very definition of an “empty calorie.”
A diet high in refined sugar has been linked to increased risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome, and it works to lower your immune system. Multiple studies have shown that a diet high in refined sugar is the leading cause of obesity in the United States.
What About Using Honey On My Low Carb Diet?
Honey is not exactly a low-carb food, but the Glycemic Load (another marker of how fast a food works to spike your blood sugar, and is actually more accurate that glycemic index) is about average. Furthermore, the type of honey you use makes a big difference.
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon that processed honeys have added sugar, not to mention fewer nutrients. Raw honey is by far the best option, as it contains enzymes and nutrients that have been killed in the pastuerization and heating process of refined honey.
The carb content in one tablespoon of honey is about 17 grams. So, if you are on a very low carbohydrate diet (a ketogenic diet, for example), obviously honey is not an option. However, if you are on a moderately low-carb diet and want to use a tablespoon of honey here and there, it is a far better choice than refined sugar that comes with some health benefits, not to mention tastes delicious.
Other, lower-carb alternatives to honey would be erythritol, monk fruit powder, mannitol or green leaf stevia (the best option). Whole fruit works well too, but is also a relatively high carbohydrate food.
Remember than honey is a far healthier sweetener than white sugar, but should still be used in moderation due to its high fructose and carbohydrate count. You can also feel good about the nutritional and medicinal benefits to be reaped from occasionally including honey in your diet.
Carb Manager is the easiest and most powerful way to count carbs and live the low carb life. In this blog, we've invited experts on LCHF to contribute their views on everything low carb.