May 17


Honey vs. Sugar – Effects on Insulin and Blood Sugar Levels

By Gabriela

May 17, 2021

Honey goes by the name of ‘nature’s sweetener’, and our ancestors have not only been consuming it but using it for versatile medicinal purposes as well, practically since the dawn of time.

So since it’s both sweet-tasting and healthy, surely we should all try to include it into our daily diets right?

Well, as healthy as it is, honey is still basically sugar, and we are all aware of the consequences of eating too much sugar, even if it’s the natural kind.

So, the question remains – is honey safe to eat or not? Especially when it comes to those with diabetes.

And since this question is anything but simple, let us delve into the topic in more detail before making a final conclusion, shall we?

The Comparison Between Sugar and Honey

We all learned back in school that honey is the product of the nectar of flowers, thanks to the arduous work of the bees.

But not many are aware that honey’s nutritional properties depend on the nectar which is available around the beehive.

Obviously, when compared to regular sugar, honey ‘takes the cake’ by being much healthier and nutritious.

It has many more vitamins and minerals which sugar lacks. Furthermore, honey is only 82% sugar, while sugar is (no shocker) 99.9% sugar.

Which, naturally, makes honey less caloric and a far better alternative for sweetening things up! It is also rather high in antioxidants which can stop and treat a vast number of diseases.

Its Web MD, however, is rather unpredictable as it varies from variety to variety.

Effects on Insulin and Blood Sugar: Honey versus Sugar

The impact which the consumption of honey has on one’s blood glucose levels is slightly better than that of sugar. However, the keyword here is slight.

A number of studies conducted on those with Type II have concluded that honey indeed has a smaller impact on one’s sugar levels than pure glucose.

Researchers also took it upon themselves to find how honey compares to sucrose. Sucrose is regular table sugar and the one which most people find in their daily meals.

And just like honey, sucrose contains both fructose and glucose.

What they found was that although the blood levels had spiked more from honey in the first 30 minutes, they then dropped lower and remained lower than in the sucrose group for the following 2 hours.

As for those with Type I, the impact honey had on their sugar levels was also lower than that of sucrose or pure glucose.

Other Studies Concerning Honey and Blood Glucose Levels

There has been research that has looked at the addition of honey to one’s everyday diet, instead of looking at it as only an alternative to sugar.

A twelve-week study focusing on those with type 1 discovered that honey has a positive impact not only on their short-term glucose levels but also on their lipid profiles.

Sadly, this study did not measure any long-term glucose levels. So, for now, we have no information on whether the impact that honey had lasted for long.

A different but similar study, this time on those with Type II, was conducted over the course of 8 weeks.

The result was that, although there was an improvement in lipid profiles here as well, what honey did was increase the long-term blood sugar levels.

Well, it shouldn’t be all that surprising, since honey is mostly sugar, after all.

And yet such findings contradict many of the other things discussed in this topic.

So, honey is neutral at worst when used additionally, and beneficial at best. This especially when used as a supplement with drugs.

Still, in order to give a 100% clear answer whether all people who have the condition are completely safe in their potential honey consumption, there need to be many more studies on this subject.

The ones we have currently are… mixed, to put it simply.

The Many Health Benefits of Honey

Diabetes is a very complicated metabolic disorder. So logically, any foods which help improve one’s metabolic health should also help in managing this disease.

When used with medications, honey can have many health benefits.

Some of which are: improving bad cholesterol and reducing total high cholesterol, a topical treatment for many skin disorders and infections (as well as cuts and wounds), aids in maintaining good gut and liver health, rich in antioxidants (particularly dark honey) which help in many ways and fight against many ailments, etc.

Is It Really So Simple?

Most doctors, when asked by the patients about honey, give the red light almost 99% of the time.

But each person with the condition is their own individual, and it’s not possible for the same rules to apply to everyone on this matter.

In fact, if one controls it appropriately, honey has shown benefits for both those with the condition and those who are pre-diabetics.

Of course, before incorporating honey into their daily meal plan, they need to first calculate how much they personally can consume each day.

Moderate amounts of organic, unprocessed honey do not do any damage, at least that is what many experts claim.

Learn To Do Some Calculations

Still, since fructose is the main component even in the healthiest honey varieties, it is best to limit our honey intake to no more than 50 grams per day.

We’re going to have to do some math here when we want to safely incorporate honey into our daily caloric intake.

We could try monitoring our response to honey. We can do this by taking note of our blood sugar levels before and two hours after honey consumption.

Either way, it is a much safer choice for those with the condition (or, really, anyone who wishes to lead a healthier life) than any other table sugars or artificial sweeteners.

This is also thanks to the fact that honey has a lower glycemic index than sugar, which is logical.

Moreover, honey is nature’s only sugar which has a very unique ability.

Namely, it facilitates the glucose intake to one’s liver. Which in turn prevents too much glucose from entering the blood circulation.

This is all thanks to the perfect one-to-one ratio of glucose and fructose found in honey.

The sad truth is that many people with the condition while trying to sweeten some of their meals using ‘safer’ alternatives to regular table sugar, is actually worse off in the long run.

This is because artificial sweeteners and corn syrup are more damaging than regular sugar is, as surprising as it sounds.

So ‘sticking’ (get it?) to honey is our best bet when we cannot ignore a sweet tooth. But even so, we should calculate its intake with our overall daily caloric consumption.

How to do this? There are plenty of websites with calorie calculators to make things easier for us, for example, there’s My Calorie Counter.

So, Can We Eat Honey or Not?

There are quite a rare number of things in this world that are black and white. This goes especially when it comes to nutritional advice…and this subject is no exception to that rule.

Let’s put it this way: if we happen to be overweight and our condition is poorly managed, honey is certainly not on the list of foods we should consume.

Like we’re sure we’ve been told about a million times before, our goal is to reduce any sugars or carbs in our daily diet. And adding honey is the opposite of that.

While it may indeed be beneficial to our health and even help us manage the condition, the current studies are not sufficient. And the results thereof are inconsistent.

On the other hand, if we are able to manage our condition and are not overweight, then we can consider using honey as a replacement for sugar without having to worry too much.

In such a case, it can even be beneficial, assuming we take it easy and not consume too much.

Honey does give one’s blood sugar level a spiking and whether it’s better to add it to our diet or not… in the case of those with the condition, we still need more solid evidence before we can make a stone-hard conclusion.

As for those who are active and healthy, then honey is definitely the way to go. This especially when replacing sugar, as it is infinitely more nutritious and beneficial.

The bottom line: while it’s safer to consume honey than regular sugar, it is still best to avoid both. Stay healthy, dear readers!

Sources: Diet vs DiseaseBenefits of HoneyFoodwatch


  • Gabriela

    Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Diabetes Health Page, Fitness trainer and instructor has dedicated her career to educating and informing people for over 10 years. As one of the most passionate diabetes advocates, Gabi has worked tirelessly to ensure that those people receive the education and support they need to properly manage their diabetes and achieve their health, fitness and weight loss goals.

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