The ketogenic diet is currently very popular. The diet burns fat, rather than glucose in order to make weight loss easier. However, the diet does have some drawbacks, and one of them is the use of sweeteners.
Our taste buds like the taste of sweet. For this reason, sugar is added to a lot of processed foods in order to make us want to eat them. Unfortunately, most of the time the sweeteners do nothing for us health wise and they add on the pounds quickly.
Honey is one of the exceptions to that rule. Yes, it can add on pounds, but it does have several health benefits. It is also used by herbalists and some doctors to deal with problems like coughs and sore throats.
Raw honey is preferred, and it is often used in cooking as a sugar replacement. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a great addition to every diet.
Is honey high in carbs?
Honey is about seventy percent carbs. The breakdown is thirty percent glucose and forty percent fructose. The carb count could indicate that honey and keto don’t mix, although that will be addressed later.
When comparing honey to table sugar, there are pros and cons. Honey is slightly higher in calories per teaspoon, but less is used. That’s because it is higher in fructose, which is sweeter than glucose. It also has some health benefits, although it is not considered a health food.
Table sugar is basically junk food. It has no nutritional benefits and the combined sugars in it become sucrose. There is a higher risk for diseases like diabetes with too much table sugar in the diet. Weight gain risks are slightly higher than with honey. (1)
So, can I eat honey on a keto diet?
The answer is yes, but. Very small amounts may be acceptable, especially if it is being used for one of its health purposes. However, eating or drinking anything that is straight sugar is going to make it harder to stay in ketosis.
That’s because our muscles prefer to burn glucose when in use. In order for fat to be used instead of glucose, there has to be a limited amount of the latter available to use. Anything with carbs, but most particularly sugars, will turn to glucose after digestion.
What are some keto substitutes for honey?
There are several, although the only natural one is stevia. It has zero carbs and is sweet enough to make the amounts needed small. You can find it in powdered or liquid form, or you can buy the leaves and dry them.
After that, it gets down to chemistry. Sucralose is one of the artificial sweeteners available to be used. It does have a slightly bitter taste, as do many artificial sweeteners. Sucralose cannot be used in baking because it may give of toxic chemicals in high heat.
Be forewarned that Splenda, a sucralose based sweetener, does have carbs. It also has maltodextrin and dextrose. The calorie count for a packet of Splenda is three, which isn’t bad. However, they do count.
Erythritol is relatively new to the artificial sweetener lineup. This is a sugar alcohol, which is a great deal different from sucralose. It isn’t so much that it’s sweet. It triggers the sweet taste buds, which makes them feel like they’ve had something sweet.
Xylitol has been around a lot longer. Scientists began studying it in the 1960s, and it has been added to a lot of sugar free foods since then. Xylitol has some drawbacks. One is that overeating it can cause digestive problems for the unwary human.
The other is with pets. Dogs and cats are especially at risk from this substance. Even a small pack of chewing gum can kill a small dog unless a vet intervenes quickly. Even then, it may still kill the dog. It is best to keep anything with this in it away from pets.
Both erythritol and xylitol have an added benefit. They are often added to dental care products because they can kill bacteria. Several known bacteria that cause tooth decay are inhibited by these sugar alcohols. That’s why some dentists recommend chewing sugar free gum after eating.
Monk fruit is the last on the list of honey/sugar replacements. This fruit comes from China, but the extract is what is used for a sweetener. On its own, it has zero carbs and is about two hundred times sweeter than sugar.
There is one thing to look out for if you choose this one. While the fruit extract itself is fine… it even has antioxidants… make sure to read the nutrition and ingredient labels. Some manufacturers add sugar to the extract, and that does have carbs and calories.
Are there other sweeteners to avoid?
Yes, there are several. Maltodextrin is at the head of the list. It is a starch taken from grain plants such as rice, wheat or corn and it has the same amount of calories as table sugar. When looking for keto friendly products, check the ingredients for this hidden sugar.
With all of the emphasis on coconut fat for the keto diet, you might think coconut sugar is a great choice. Unfortunately, it isn’t. There is a lot of fructose in this sugar, which makes blood sugar control a problem. Keeping blood sugar low is the key to this diet.
Maple syrup and its close cousin, birch syrup are also sugars to avoid. Like honey, they do have micronutrients, but the sugar content is very high. They also lack some of the further health benefits of honey.
Agave nectar is something of a quiet rage in some circles, but it isn’t a good choice either. Its fructose content makes up eighty five percent of it. This can lead to metabolic syndrome, which can cause diseases like diabetes.
That amount of fructose can also increase insulin resistance and make ketosis difficult to sustain. Most sugars are not a good idea on this diet.
Lastly, dates are not a good choice for the keto diet. In some desserts, dried dates are used to replace the table sugar. However, the carb count doesn’t make up for the fiber and nutrients in the fruit.
What is honey?
Of all the sugar sources available, honey is rather unique. It doesn’t come from a plant source or a chemistry vial. It comes from bees, which produce it as a food source. If you’ve ever watched bees going about their business, it is easier to see.
Bees have two stomachs. One is for food, like our own. The other is to hold nectar from flowers. The bee will go from flower to flower getting nectar to take back to the hive. The enzymes in the bee’s stomach help to turn it into honey.
Beekeepers have domesticated hives that they can harvest both honey and the comb, which provides beeswax. They either use it for themselves or the sell it. If it’s a backyard operation, the honey is sold raw, which is the best kind.
We are in a bit of a bee emergency right now. Pesticides are killing off our bees at rapid rates and they can’t keep up. If we lose the bees, we will lose thirty percent of our domesticated crops and ninety five percent of wild crops.
This would have a devastating effect on food production. Most of that thirty percent are things like corn, fruits and other high yield crops. Mass starvation would become quite likely. It would be wise to avoid using pesticides that kill bees.
To know if they do, look at the bottle carefully. Nicotinamides are the number one cause of bee deaths and they are the most popular pesticide. There are others that are safer to use for both humans and bees. (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)
Why all the fuss about honey?
“Ew, bee spit,” is a comment heard by some who loathe honey. So, why is there such a fuss about it? Wouldn’t it be easier just to skip it if it isn’t keto friendly? The answer to that depends a great deal on personal preference, but many like the idea of using natural products.
Raw honey is probably the closest to all natural as any sweetener gets. Stevia powder has to be dried and ground to a powder, although it is close. Monk fruit extract is also close, but it still needs some processing. Raw honey comes straight from the hive.
Because it is a natural product, it has some nutritional benefits. They aren’t great, but they do help. Table sugar and chemical sweeteners don’t have those benefits. While the sugar alcohols can kill tooth decaying bacteria, they aren’t nutrients.
One of the oldest known cough syrups is honey. When lemons are available, a fifty/fifty mixture of lemon juice and honey is even better. Those same bacteria that rot teeth can also play havoc with the throat.
Battlefield medical stations have used honey and garlic for thousands of years. Honey has some antimicrobial properties that can help ward off infections in wounds. After it is cleaned, the honey is applied directly onto the wound.
Those of us with pollen allergies are often advised to use local raw honey. That’s because the bees will have used the pollen and nectar from local plants and that is supposed to relieve the allergies. This is considered especially true after moving to a new area.
Should a keto diet be the weight loss plan of choice, having honey around is not necessarily a bad plan. Even a small amount can be useful, and it is often a safer route than the more chemical choices. Keto and honey may not mix well, but it can still work. (7) (8)
The USFDA has not approved any of these statements. This is for your information only, as they get a little peeved when article writers don’t point that out.
It is very important to check with your doctor before going on any diet. He or she will do a physical and discuss the merits and drawbacks of the diet you choose. Some doctors are pro-keto and others aren’t. If you do choose keto, your doctor will want more frequent checkups.
The keto diet can cause other problems, so you will need blood tests every three months. That way, if the diet should be causing health problems you can switch to a different one. Some of the health problems include heart disease.
Honey should never be given to infants. Children under one year of age who are given honey are at risk for a type of botulism, due to the microbes in it. Older children can use it, though it is a good idea to check with your pediatrician.
Diabetics need to exercise caution when using honey. Large amounts will affect blood sugar levels. Those who are on dialysis, whether or not they are diabetic, need to avoid putting honey on injection sites. That can cause infection due to immune compromise.
There are no known drug interactions with honey. That said, always talk to the pharmacist if using honey in medicinal amounts. Things can change over time, and a new drug may come up that will have an interaction.
Studies have been done with honey mixed with coffee, taken by mouth. This appears to be likely safe. Other studies on the use of honey have been for burns, mouth sores, dry eye and rosacea. There has also been some done on the use of honey on diabetic foot sores.
Before applying honey to the foot sores, make sure the doctor approves. If the burn is severe, also see the doctor or go to the emergency room… whichever gets you help faster. Never apply honey or butter or anything else until after the burn has cooled.
If that happens, you will seal the heat in and the burn will continue to get worse. Use cold water and ice to take the heat out of the burn. This may take quite some time, but it will help in the long run.