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Is Honey Bad for Diabetes?

author image Dr. Tina M. St. John
Tina M. St. John runs a health communications and consulting firm. She is also an author and editor, and was formerly a senior medical officer with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. St. John holds an M.D. from Emory University School of Medicine.
Is Honey Bad for Diabetes?
Honey may be considered an occasional treat on a diabetic diet. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images

Honey is not completely forbidden to those on a diabetes nutrition plan. Honey contains a high concentration of sugars and more calories per teaspoon than table sugar. Small amounts of honey are permitted on a diabetic diet, although you need to monitor the total carbohydrates in your nutrition plan to be sure you do not exceed your daily target. Avoid consuming a large amount of honey to prevent a steep rise in your blood sugar level.


Honey contains the sugars glucose and fructose. Fructose predominates in most honey varieties; the higher the fructose concentration, the sweeter the honey tastes. A tablespoon of honey contains approximately 17.3 g of sugars. Because glucose and fructose are single sugar molecules, they are directly absorbed from your small intestine. The rapid absorption of the sugars in honey may cause an increase in your blood glucose level. You can dampen this effect by eating food that contains protein, fiber or fat when you consume honey.

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Many people are surprised to learn that honey contains more calories than table sugar. A tablespoon of honey contains 64 calories compared to 47 calories for a tablespoon of granulated sugar. Although honey has more calories than table sugar, you may use less of it in your tea or coffee because it is slightly sweeter than table sugar. Frequent consumption of honey can contribute to weight gain, which may exacerbate your diabetes. Limiting your intake of honey, therefore, is important in terms of weight management and long-term blood sugar control.


To avoid the carbohydrates and calories in honey, consider an artificial sweetener as an alternative. Calorie-free artificial sweeteners include acesulfame K, saccharin, neotame, sucralose and rebaudioside A, also known as stevia. Aspartame is another artificial sweetener that contains a very low number of calories. Although artificial sweeteners do not contain carbohydrates, foods sweetened with these substances often contain carbohydrates from other ingredients. Be careful not to overlook the carbohydrates in artificially sweetened foods.

Possible Benefits

Small, preliminary studies conducted with natural honey suggest that it may have beneficial effects on your blood fat levels. In a 2008 article published in the "Scientific World Journal," Dr. Nahid Yaghoobi and colleagues report that overweight and obese patients who consumed 70 g of honey daily for 30 days experienced modest improvement in their blood fat levels without gaining weight. Further research is needed to determine whether these findings hold true in large-scale clinical trials.

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