Some people add honey to their coffee and tea or use it as a sweetener when baking. But is honey safe for people with diabetes? The short answer is yes, but only under certain conditions.
People living with diabetes have to control and manage their carbohydrate and sugar intake. This doesn’t mean they have to avoid sweets altogether.
In moderation, honey isn’t only safe, but it has anti-inflammatory properties that might also reduce diabetes complications.
Honey is a thick, golden-colored liquid produced by honeybees and other insects, like some bumblebees and wasps.
It comes from the nectar within flowers, which bees collect and store in their stomachs until back at the hive.
Nectar is made up of sucrose (sugar), water, and other substances. It’s roughly 80 percent carbohydrate and 20 percent water. Bees produce honey by ingesting and regurgitating the nectar over and over again. This process removes the water.
Afterward, bees store the honey in honeycombs to be used as an energy source during the winter when it’s harder to find food.
Although it’s a natural sweetener, honey has a bit more carbohydrates and calories per teaspoon than table sugar.
According to the United States Department of AgricultureTrusted Source, 1 tablespoon of raw honey has about 60 calories and 17 grams of carbohydrates.
Honey also contains many vitamins and minerals, including iron, vitamin C, folate, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. It’s also an antioxidant, which are substances that prevent and slow cell damage.
Raw honey is also known as unfiltered honey. This honey is extracted from a beehive and then strained to remove impurities.
Processed honey, on the other hand, undergoes a filtration process. It’s also pasteurized (exposed to high heat) to destroy yeast and create a longer shelf life.
Processed honey is smoother, but the filtration and pasteurizing process does remove some of its nutrients and antioxidants.
There are about 300 different types of honey in the United States. These types are determined by the source of the nectar, or more simply, what the bees eat.
For example, blueberry honey is retrieved from the flowers of the blueberry bush, whereas avocado honey comes from avocado blossoms.
The source of the nectar affects the taste of the honey and its color.
Because honey is a natural sugar and a carbohydrate, it’s only natural for it to affect your blood sugar in some way. When compared to table sugar, however, it appears that honey has a smaller effect.
A 2004 study evaluated the effects of honey and table sugar on blood sugar levels. This study involved individuals with and without type 1 diabetes.
Researchers found that in the group of people with diabetes, honey caused an initial increase in blood sugar 30 minutes after consumption. However, participant’s blood sugar levels later decreased and remained at lower levels for two hours.
This leads researchers to believe that honey, unlike table sugar, may cause an increase in insulin, which is an important hormone for controlling blood sugar. More research is needed.
Even though honey may increase insulin levels and help people with diabetes control their blood sugar, there doesn’t appear to be any conclusive research supporting honey as a preventive factor for diabetes. This might be plausible, however.
Researchers have found a possible connection between honey and a lower glycemic index.
In a study of 50 people with type 1 diabetes and 30 people without type 1 diabetes, researchers found that, compared to sugar, honey had a lower glycemic effect on all participants.
It also raised their levels of C-peptide, a substance released into the bloodstream when the body produces insulin.
A normal level of C-peptide means the body is making sufficient insulin. More studies are needed to determine whether honey can be used for the prevention and treatment of diabetes.
Keep in mind that honey is sweeter than sugar. If you substitute honey for sugar, you only need a little.
Because honey can affect blood sugar, avoid it and other sweeteners until your diabetes is under control.
Honey should be consumed in moderation. Speak with your healthcare provider before using it as an added sweetener.
If your diabetes is well-controlled and you want to add honey to your diet, choose pure, organic, or raw natural honey. These types are safer for people with diabetes because all-natural honey doesn’t have any added sugar.
However, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems shouldn’t consume raw honey, as it’s not pasteurized.
If you purchase processed honey from a grocery store, it may also contain sugar or syrup. The added sweetener can affect your blood sugar differently.
One benefit of eating honey is that it could increase your insulin level and help control your blood sugar.
Replacing sugar with honey can also be beneficial, considering how honey is a source of antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties.
A diet rich in antioxidants can improve how your body metabolizes sugar, and the anti-inflammatory properties in honey could potentially reduce diabetes complications.
Inflammation can lead to insulin resistance, which is when the body doesn’t respond properly to insulin.
Honey is a natural sweetener that could have a positive effect on your glycemic index. But as with any type of sweetener, moderation is key.
Talk to your doctor before adding honey to your diet. Honey isn’t right for everyone, including people who need to lower their blood sugar levels. If you eat honey, make sure it’s organic, raw, or pure honey that doesn’t contain added sugars.