Honey is often marketed as a healthy alternative to regular sugar.
This is largely due to the numerous health benefits associated with it and its antioxidant content.
However, while some claim that honey can be a delicious and nutritious way to help satisfy your sweet tooth, others dismiss it as little more than a high-sugar indulgence.
This article tells you whether honey is good or bad for you.
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What Is Honey?
Honey is a sweet, syrup-like substance that bees produce from the nectar of flowering plants.
The bees collect the nectar and then consume, digest, and regurgitate it inside the beehive to produce honey.
Honey is stored in wax-like structures called honeycombs, which are gathered by humans through the practice of beekeeping (1).
Many types of honey are available, differing based on the plant source, the extraction method, and whether it’s raw or pasteurized.
Common types include:
Orange blossom honey
Although the nutrition profile varies depending on the type, a single tablespoon (21 grams) of honey typically has 64 calories and 17 grams of carbs with little to no fat, fiber, and protein (2).
SUMMARY-Honey is a sweet substance made by bees from the nectar of flowering plants. There are many different types, but it’s generally high in calories and carbs with only trace amounts of micronutrients.
High in Antioxidants
Antioxidants are compounds that help fight disease-causing free radicals, thereby reducing your risk of oxidative cell damage.
SUMMARY-Honey is high in antioxidants — such as phenolic acids and flavonoids — and eating it may increase the antioxidant status of your blood.
May Improve Heart Health
Swapping out regular sugar for high-quality honey in your diet may improve different aspects of heart health, as it has been shown to reduce several risk factors for heart disease.
For example, one 30-day study comparing the effects of table sugar and honey in 55 people found that honey helped decrease levels of total and “bad” LDL cholesterol while increasing “good” HDL cholesterol (8).
SUMMARY=Animal and human studies suggest that trading regular sugar for honey may help reduce cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure.
Promotes Wound Healing
In some forms of traditional medicine, such as Ayurveda, honey is applied directly to the skin to aid wound healing.
Similarly, another study in 30 people showed that adding honey to wound dressings enhanced healing in about 43% of diabetic foot ulcers after three months (14).
SUMMARY-Honey has antibacterial properties and may aid in healing ulcers and treating skin conditions, such as psoriasis, dermatitis and herpes.
Better Than Refined Sugar
Though honey is high in sugar and calories, it’s still a better choice than refined sugar.
Plus, one study in 48 people with type 2 diabetes showed that though honey increases blood sugar levels, it may not be to the same extent as sugar (18).
However, while honey may be a better option than refined sugar, it should still be consumed in moderation to prevent adverse effects on your health.
Honey provides several antioxidants, such as phenolic acids and flavonoids. When used in place of sugar, it may not increase your blood sugar levels as much and may help lower cholesterol and triglycerides.
May Contribute to Weight Gain
Honey is high in sugar and calories — packing approximately 64 calories into a single tablespoon (21 grams) (2).
While this may not seem like much, even a few servings per day can cause the calories to stack up.
Over time, this could lead to weight gain — especially if other dietary modifications are not made to account for these extra calories.
SUMMARY-Honey is high in calories and sugar and may contribute to weight gain over time.
High in Sugar
Despite the health benefits that may be associated with honey, it’s high in sugar — which can be detrimental to your health.
Therefore, the best way to take advantage of the potential benefits linked to honey is to opt for a high-quality brand and use it to replace unhealthy sweeteners, such as high-fructose corn syrup or refined sugar.
Still, be sure to moderate your intake and use it sparingly to minimize your risk of side effects on health.
SUMMARY-Honey is a form of sugar, which can have negative effects on your health when consumed in high amounts.
How to Purchase Honey
Not all honey is created equal.
In fact, some low-quality brands are often mixed with syrup in an effort to cut costs and maximize profit.
While it may be slightly more expensive, opting for a high-quality brand of raw honey is a simple and effective way to guarantee you’re getting the best bang for your buck.
Unlike regular honey, raw versions are not pasteurized, filtered, or processed, allowing them to retain their potential natural health-promoting properties (28).
What’s more, choosing a raw variety ensures that your honey is free of added syrups or extra ingredients that can diminish possible benefits.
Keep in mind that raw honey should never be given to children under one year of age due to the risk of infant botulism, a serious disease caused by toxins from a specific strain of bacteria called Clostridium botulinum.
After the age of one, the digestive system is typically developed enough to fight off potentially harmful toxins and minimize the risk of disease (29).
SUMMARY-Regular honey is often pasteurized, filtered, processed, and mixed with syrup in an effort to cut costs. Selecting raw versions instead is the best way to maximize potential health benefits.
The Bottom Line
Honey has been linked to health benefits like improved heart health, wound healing, and blood antioxidant status.
However, consuming too much may cause adverse effects due to its high sugar and calorie content.
Thus, it’s best to use honey to replace other forms of sugar and enjoy it in moderation.
Still, if you limit yourself and choose a high-quality product, honey can be part of a healthy, well-rounded diet.