When you're trying to pack on the pounds, the trick is to eat high-calorie, nutrient-dense foods. Adding about 500 calories to your regular diet each day can help you put on about 1 pound a week, according to the Vegetarian Resource Group. Combine that with strength-training exercise to make sure you're putting on weight in the form of muscle, not fat.
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The benefits of honey for gaining weight aren't as good as you might think. Honey is a calorie-dense food, it's not very nutrient-dense. You can use honey sparingly to add sweetness and calories to your foods, but you want to be sure not to go over the recommended daily limit for added sugars.
Read more: Can Gaining Muscle Make You Gain Weight?
More Calories Than Sugar
The benefits of honey for gaining weight is its calorie content. A single tablespoon provides 64 calories. That's more than granulated sugar, which has 49 calories per tablespoon. You'll get more bang for your buck if you add a tablespoon of honey to your protein drink than a tablespoon of sugar. In addition, raw and processed honey may have antibacterial activity akin to antibiotics and could provide an alternative treatment against certain pathogens, according to a study published in Biotechnology Research International in December 2010.
The Drawbacks of Added Sugars
Even though honey is natural, it's still sugar — just like table sugar. It contains a lot of calories but few nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Even raw honey provides nothing but carbohydrates in the form of sugar. Eating too much added sugar can have deleterious effects on your health. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in April 2014 determined that the more added sugar in your diet, the more likely you are to die of heart disease. No amount of weight gain is worth that risk.
Know Your Limits
You can still include a little bit of honey in your weight-gain diet, but it should not make up the bulk of your calories. The American Heart Association recommends men get no more than 150 calories from added sugars per day and women get no more than 100 calories from added sugar per day. That's about 1 1/2 and 2 1/3 tablespoons of honey per day, respectively — just enough to sweeten your morning coffee or afternoon cup of tea and perhaps a midday smoothie.
Read more: The Dangers and Benefits of Raw Honey
Better Options for Weight Gain
Many other foods are both nutrient-dense and calorie-dense and are better for weight gain — and your health — than honey. Chunky peanut butter with no added sugar, for example, has 94 calories per tablespoon. It also comes packed with protein and healthy fats. Dried apricots without added sugar are a calorie-dense source of vitamins A, B3 and E and the minerals iron and potassium. Other recommended foods for weight gain are whole nuts and seeds, olive oil, high-protein meats and whole grains.
To help get the calories you need to gain weight, consider eating small, frequent meals or plan to eat a few snacks in between your meals.
- The Vegetarian Resource Group: "Teen FAQs"
- USDA Food Nutrient Database: "Honey"
- Biotechnology Research International: "Antibacterial Efficacy of Raw and Processed Honey"
- JAMA Internal Medicine: "Added Sugar Intake and Cardiovascular Diseases Mortality Among US Adults"
- American Heart Association: "Added Sugars"
- American Academy of Family Physicians: "Healthy Ways to Gain Weight if You’re Underweight"
- USDA Food Nutrient Database: "Sugars, Granulated"
- USDA Food Nutrient Database: "Peanut Butter, Chunk Style, Without Salt"