Because it’s a sugar source, honey will surely raise your blood glucose. This can be a good thing in times of emergency, when your blood sugar is abnormally low and you need to bring it back up. On the other hand, it can be harmful if you’re managing diabetes and struggle to keep your blood sugar stable. In this case, honey is something you probably don’t want to consume regularly.
Honey is a concentrated source of simple sugars, namely glucose and fructose. Simple sugars require very little digestion in your gut before entering your bloodstream. Enzymes in your small intestine promptly break down the simple sugars -- if required, depending on the type -- and allow them to absorb through intestinal walls. They go directly into your bloodstream from that point, raising your blood glucose level. Cells use this glucose as fuel or energy, once insulin enters your bloodstream and opens up cell walls.
While honey is a natural pure sugar source, it only has a moderate glycemic index score. The glycemic index is a rating system for foods that have carbohydrates. Foods with higher numbers, over 70, are likely to spike your blood sugar quickly. As a moderate-scoring food with a score between 55 and 70, honey is likely to more gradually elevate blood glucose.
Pairing with Fiber
If you must drizzle a little honey into your morning tea, make sure you consume a fiber-rich food at the same time if you need to keep your blood glucose down. Fiber, especially soluble fiber, slows down glucose absorption, which can ultimately lower and stabilize your blood glucose. Have a bowl of oats, side of beans, handful of baby carrots or a few orange wedges. These soluble fiber-rich foods can help minimize honey’s effects on your blood glucose.
When to Be Alarmed
Normal blood glucose levels fall somewhere between 70 and 140 milligrams per deciliter, although your specific normal numbers may vary slightly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. When your sugar dips below 70 mg/dL, a spoonful of honey should help bring it up. If your blood glucose goes over 300 mg/dL and you have a hard time bringing it back down, avoid honey and other high-carb sugar-rich foods. Extremely high blood sugar can be damaging to vital organs, so you’ll need medical attention right away.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Take Charge of Your Diabetes
- The University of Sydney: GI Database
- Better Health Channel: Carbohydrates and the Glycaemic Index
- USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Honey
- Joslin Diabetes Center: How Does Fiber Affect Blood Glucose Levels?
- WomensHealth.gov: Carbohydrates