Until the 18th century, honey was the main sweetener people used, as white sugar was prohibitively expensive, when it was available. While honey can raise your blood sugar levels, using honey instead of white sugar may help you limit the increase and make it easier to maintain the recommended blood sugar levels.
When you are watching your blood sugar levels, carbs are the nutrient you need to be most concerned with. The more carbohydrates a food contains, the higher your blood sugar levels are likely to go after you eat it, although what you eat along with high-carb foods can help limit the overall effect on your blood sugar levels. Honey has slightly more carbs than sugar, with each tablespoon containing 17 grams, compared to the 13 grams in the same amount of white sugar.
The glycemic index is a tool you can use to estimate how quickly and how much a food will raise your blood sugar levels after you eat it, with lower numbers indicating a slower and smaller increase in blood sugar levels. While honey has a GI score of 55, which is considered low, white sugar has a medium GI score of 68, which means honey won't cause as much of a spike in your blood sugar levels as white sugar.
Effect on Blood Sugar
A study published in the "Journal of Medicinal Food" in 2004 found that honey caused less of an increase in the blood glucose levels of diabetics than either table sugar or dextrose, which is another form of sugar. Regularly consuming honey may even lower your fasting blood glucose levels, decreasing your diabetes risk. People who added 1.2 grams of honey per kilogram of body weight to their diet for two weeks experienced a 5 percent decrease in their fasting blood sugar levels, according to a study published in the "Journal of Medicinal Food" in 2003.
There isn't a huge difference between sugar and honey, so don't be tempted to go overboard and pour it on everything you eat. Use it to replace some of the table sugar you eat, rather than using it in addition to table sugar. While honey may increase your blood sugar levels less than regular sugar, diabetics still have to include the carbs in their diet planning and eat honey only in moderation, according to the American Diabetes Association.
- Journal of Medicinal Food: Natural Honey Lowers Plasma Glucose, C-reactive Protein, Homocysteine, and Blood Lipids in Healthy, Diabetic, and Hyperlipidemic Subjects: Comparison With Dextrose and Sucrose
- Journal of Medicinal Food: Effects of Daily Consumption of Honey Solution on Hematological Indices and Blood Levels of Minerals and Enzymes in Normal Individuals
- The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America; Andrew F. Smith, editor in chief
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.