Is Honey Keto? What you Need to Know
You’ve heard the debates over whether honey is healthier than sugar. But is honey also suitable for the keto diet?
I’ll argue that yes, honey IS suitable for the keto diet. Read on to see why.
Honey vs. Sugar: Is Honey Better For You Than Sugar?
We all know that honey and sugar are both full of simple carbohydrates. And honey has a reputation for being healthier than sugar.
But is honey really healthier than sugar?
I would argue that yes, honey is healthier than sugar.
Which “keto” are you? Find out by reading The Honey Controversy.
That’s not to say that we should be guzzling honey. But my rule of thumb, if I have a choice, is to go with the less processed option. Ninety-nine percent of the time, it will be the healthier choice.
To understand why honey is slightly healthier than sugar, you’ll need to understand exactly what honey is made of.
What is Honey?
Bee vomit? Yeah, that’s what my kids call it. Ha!
I was super curious when I decided to write this article, so you’re going to get the full explanation of what honey is.
Bees make honey when they gather nectar. Nectar is the sweet liquid in flowers.
The nectar is stored in the bees’ honey stomach, which is not the same thing as its digestive stomach.
Then the bees regurgitate the nectar (hence, bee vomit) when they get back to the hive and transfer it to the hive bees.
The hive bees chew it for a while, allowing enzymes to break down the sugars. This process of going from complex to simple sugars makes the honey sweet.
When the bees store the honey in honeycomb, water evaporates from the honey, making it thick and sticky.
Now you know! But is honey keto friendly? Don’t worry, I’ll get to that!
Is Honey Good for You? The Benefits of Raw Honey
We still haven’t really answered the question: what exactly is IN honey? What’s the chemical makeup of honey that makes it a bit healthier than sugar? What are the nutrients in raw honey?
The simple sugars contained in honey are mostly fructose (40%) and glucose (30%), with some maltose (8%) and sucrose (2%) and other sugars (1.5%).
But there’s a LOT more to honey than sugar!
Beneficial Substances in Raw Honey
- Honey contains amino acids, which come from the pollen in honey. This is kind of the amazing part! Depending on the variety (which flowers the honeybees got the nectar and pollen from), some honey varieties can have as many as 20 types of amino acids!
- Minerals in honey: Sodium, Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Selenium, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Chromium, and Zinc.
- Vitamins found in honey: Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), Pantothenic Acid (B5), Pyridoxine (B6), Folic Acid (B9), Ascorbic Acid (C), and Phyllochinon (K).
- Raw honey contains important antioxidants. These antioxidants are: catalase, chrysin, pinobanksin, pinocembrin, and vitamin C.
- Beneficial enzymes in honey: Invertase, Glucose Oxidase, and Diastase (Amylase).
- Honey has antimicrobial properties. In fact, it’s considered a broad spectrum antibiotic!
- Honey is also recognized as a prebiotic.
- Honey helps with allergies. I’ve heard more than once of doctors prescribing LOCAL RAW honey for people with allergies–so neat!
Raw honey is kind of amazing!
Keep in mind, there are tons of factors that may slightly change the makeup of individual honey types, including the type of flower that’s the source of the honey, the type of bee, climate, etc.
Also, when honey is heated or processed in any way, a lot of these beneficial properties are destroyed. The darker the honey, the more antioxidants.
Always choose raw honey!
(If you’re a weirdo like me and just can’t get enough of scholarly articles on nutrition, go read this one about the nutraceutical benefits of honey.)
Great, But How Many Carbs Are There in Honey?
As I mentioned before, the profile of each type of honey will be different, depending on several factors. But on average, each tablespoon of honey contains 17 grams of carbs, all or most from sugar.
Don’t be disgusted. Keep reading.
(Or if you’re just too far beyond disgusted, you can always try this low carb imitation honey. And get your antioxidants from blueberries instead. Ha!)
Is Honey a Good Carb?
I know, I’ve been telling you all the amazing things about raw honey. I’ve been building up a pedestal for honey throughout this whole post. Shame on me.
I have to say, there are things–healthy, natural, whole food ingredients–I just haven’t been able to give up completely on keto.
Try my Keto Noatmeal Creme Brulee!
I won’t give you a full explanation here, but if you’d like to know more about why I haven’t completely tossed honey out, read my article on the types of keto diets.
I’m going to repeat myself: you will not stay in ketosis if you’re guzzling honey daily.
A small amount for most people is fine, though. But you know your body better than I do! So make your own educated decision.
What do I mean by a small amount? I have one recipe on my site that uses one tablespoon for a whole “noatmeal” creme brulee.
That’s about 3 grams of sugar from the honey per serving. Not bad. (7.7 grams total carbs per serving.)
Good Carb Bad Carb: Where Honey Stands
What we REALLY want to know is, are the carbs in sugar or the carbs in honey better for you?
Do our bodies process honey the same as honey? And will I gain more weight from eating honey or eating sugar?
We all know that excess glucose gets stored as fat. That’s basic Keto 101.
Processed sugar has about 50% glucose and 50% fructose.
As I explained earlier, only 30% of honey is glucose, 40% is fructose, and the rest is more complex sugars.
Most of the sugars in honey are harder to break down than glucose and just don’t get stored as fat as easily.
You’re using up more calories just breaking down the sugars in honey because it takes more energy to break down more complex sugars.
And that means accumulating less calories and less weight.
Please keep in mind, I am NOT a medical professional. Most of the research I do is because I am curious and seek out the answers for myself from credible sources. So everything in this post may not be truth for YOU.
Honey and Ketosis: Can I Stay In Ketosis While Eating Honey?
I have. Not to boast. You can too!
Does that mean anyone can stay in ketosis and still eat honey? The answer is a complicated “no”.
If you read the forums and groups online, you’ll get a range of answers. All from different people with different genes and different body types and different lifestyle habits.
Generally, diabetics can’t have honey at all and stay in ketosis, for example.
For MOST people, honey will not be appropriate on a keto diet. Let me explain further.
I CAN have honey and still be in ketosis, but NOT if I’m sitting around all day. My carb allowance can usually be a bit higher on days when I exercise.
This is because when I exercise, my body uses up glucose immediately, instead of storing it as fat. So, my body is still in need of those good ol’ ketones to stay fueled.
Again, this does not mean I can slather my keto muffins with honey and not be kicked out of ketosis.
BUT, I do know that one of my very favorite keto gurus occasionally takes a spoonful of raw honey during that time of the month. You know which one.
A lot of keto experts agree that women generally need a few more carbs during their cycles. Fascinating! Now pass the chocolate.
Bottom Line: Can You Eat Honey On Keto? Is Honey Keto Friendly?
Yes. Although, honey is not a low carb food and should be used sparingly.
Or, if you don’t plan on exercising (I don’t advise this), then honey should not be used at all.
Get your FREE Printable Keto Foods Grocery List! It’s an easy reference when you need it!
And of course, as always, bodies all react different. Maybe you can’t have honey and never will be able to. (See my ideas for honey substitutes at the bottom!)
My Own Experience with Honey on the Keto Diet
I don’t eat honey every day. Not even close.
But I rest easy when I do, knowing that I’ve chosen the healthiest version of honey and I haven’t gone overboard.
When I do use honey in keto, it’s always raw honey and always sparingly.
As I said earlier, my “noatmeal” creme brulee has just 3 grams of sugar from honey per serving (7 grams total with all the ingredients). And it’s SUPER tasty!
Confused about ketosis? Read my article on Ketosis and The Ketogenic Diet.
And from time to time, I even grab a fingertip-full when I’m feeling low. Just a taste on the tip of my tongue is enough to help a craving or give me a pick-me-up.
As long as I’m exercising and eating right, it won’t kick me out of ketosis!
So you decide. Honey on ketogenic diet or not?
Call me a rebel, but I’m not giving it up anytime soon!
So, Which Honey Should I Choose on Keto?
If you’re going to use honey (sparingly) on the keto diet, make sure it’s the raw kind. Otherwise you’re missing out on the important health benefits of natural honey.
Then it would be kind of like eating sugar liquid. Processed honey is definitely a different product from raw honey.
If you’re still iffy on using honey on the keto diet, try an imitation honey or honey substitute for a sugar free or low carb option! They do exist!
Get your FREE Printable Keto Foods Grocery List! It’s an easy reference when you need it!
I’ll give you a couple options below.
Fair warning: I have not tried any of these yet! I’ve purchased these honey alternatives to start doing some experimenting (and will be experimenting with others, too), and I’ll update this post and probably write another one just for honey subs when I’m done. If you want to try them out, just click on the photos and it will take you to a link to purchase.
Disclosure: Keen for Keto is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. This is at no extra cost to you; your support is VERY much appreciated!!
Honey Tree is a sugar free imitation honey sweetened with maltitol, a sugar alcohol. Many people don’t count sugar alcohols in their carb allowance because it doesn’t affect their ability to stay in ketosis.
I love Pyure’s other keto sweetener products, so I’m excited to try this one. The main ingredient is organic stevia, which is one of the cleaner keto sweetener choices.
If you give either of these a try, please let me know in the comments! And I’d also LOVE to know if you eat honey on keto and why or why not. Thanks for stopping by!
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