Is honey safe for people with diabetes?

16.07.2020. 13:00

People with diabetes are often told that they should not eat sweets because doing so can cause a spike in blood sugar. However, could honey for people with diabetes be a healthy alternative?

While honey has some health benefits, it’s still a source of simple sugar and carbohydrates. People with diabetes have to be wary of this because they need to count carbohydrates throughout the day.

Sweets can cause a spike in blood sugar. Blood sugar refers to how much sugar is in a person's bloodstream. The pancreas secretes insulin, which keeps blood sugar at safe levels.

But in people with diabetes, the body cannot produce enough insulin or cannot use it correctly. The effect of honey on people with diabetes 2 is unclear, but some studies suggest that it might be useful in moderation.

What is honey?

Honey is a thick, golden liquid produced by honeybees. Bees make honey from nectar, which they collect from flowers. Nectar used to make honey is sucrose (sugar), water, and other substances. On average, it’s 20% water and 80% carbohydrate.

The process of making honey includes ingesting and regurgitating nectar repeatedly until most of the water is removed. Honey is then stored in honeycombs and used as food during the winter when it’s harder to find food. 

When we compare it to table sugar, honey has more carbohydrates per teaspoon. Moreover, it contains minerals, vitamins, iron, folate, magnesium, potassium, and calcium.

One of the benefits is that honey is an antioxidant. Antioxidants are substances that slow down and prevent cell damage. 

Raw vs processed honey

Raw honey is honey extracted from a beehive, which is then strained to remove impurities. Raw local honey may also help with seasonal allergies. If you want to learn more about raw honey check here.

On the other hand, processed honey undergoes filtration and pasteurization to destroy yeast and make it have a longer shelf life. This honey is smoother than raw honey, but pasteurization removes some of its nutrients and antioxidants. 

Health benefits of eating honey for people with diabetes

Honey has been known for its health benefits since ancient times. Ancient Egyptians used honey as a sweetener, embalming fluid, and even as a gift to gods.

Ancient Greeks used honey as a medicine. There are numerous health benefits of consuming honey, but we will mention just a few.

Cough suppressant

One study has shown that honey effectively relieves cough as much as dextromethorphan, which is found in over-the-counter cough medicines.


Honey’s antimicrobial properties are due to hydrogen peroxide in it and high sugar content. This property halts the growth of bacteria. Moreover, honey has a low pH, which kills bacteria.

Antibacterial properties are the reason that honey is sometimes used for skin infections or wounds

Enhanced athletic performance

According to research from the University of Memphis, honey might be better than sugar water to boost athletes' endurance.  

Source of antioxidants

Antioxidants are a natural substance that lowers the risk of stroke, heart disease, and some types of cancer.

How honey affects blood sugar?

Since honey is made of sugar and carbohydrates, it naturally affects blood sugar. There was a study in 2004 that evaluated the effects of table sugar and honey on blood sugar levels.

In this study, there were individuals with and without type 1 diabetes. What they found is that honey caused an initial increase in blood sugar in people with diabetes.

But, after the initial spike, their blood sugar levels remained low for two hours. Researchers believe that honey may increase insulin, a hormone important for controlling blood sugar. 

Are there any risks to eating honey if you have diabetes?

Honey is sweeter than sugar, so you need it less than you would sugar. But, avoid all sweeteners, including honey, until your diabetes is under control. 

If you decide to use honey as an alternative sweetener, make sure to use it in moderation and speak with your healthcare provider before using it.

Also, choose only raw honey for diabetics because it doesn’t have any added sugar, so it’s safe for people with diabetes.

Store-bought honey may contain sugar or syrup, which can affect your blood sugar.

Benefits of consuming honey if you have diabetes

Consuming honey can increase insulin levels and help in controlling blood sugar. Moreover, antioxidants in honey can help your body metabolize sugar, and anti-inflammatory properties can reduce diabetes complications.

Reducing inflammation is beneficial because inflammation can lead to insulin resistance (the body doesn’t respond properly to insulin).

Can honey prevent diabetes?

Honey can help increase insulin levels and control blood sugar in people with diabetes, but no research supports honey as a preventive factor. 

However, researchers have found a possible connection between the lower glycemic index and honey. In a study where people with and without type 1 diabetes were tested with table sugar and honey, honey raised their C-peptide levels.

This substance is released into the bloodstream when the body is producing enough insulin, but further research is needed to determine whether honey can be used to treat and prevent diabetes.

How many carbohydrates can a person with diabetes eat?

Carbohydrate is a substance that breaks down into sugar during digestion and gives your body energy. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommends carbohydrates making up 45-65% of daily caloric intake. 

There is no set daily amount of carbohydrates, protein, and fats for people with diabetes because the right amount of each depends on the individual. 

When trying to determine how many carbohydrates to consume, we have to consider several things:

  • Body fat percentage

  • Insulin sensitivity

  • Sleep quality

  • Activity level

  • Work with a healthcare professional to figure out the right amount

Once a person knows how many carbs to consume daily, they can adjust their diet and portion sizes accordingly. Each meal should contain a lot of fiber because it is crucial in managing post-meal blood sugar levels.

When it comes to carbs, the majority should be unprocessed, high-fiber, healthy carbs such as barley, whole grains, legumes, whole oats, etc.

Is honey for people with diabetes?

Compared to other forms of sugar, honey promotes lower levels of blood sugar and higher insulin levels. Thus, it would be best to take honey as an alternative to sugar instead of using it as an additional sweetener.

Moreover, consume it in moderation and stop using it if it spikes your blood sugar levels significantly.

Choose only raw organic honey that doesn’t contain added sugars. We also recommend talking to your doctor before adding honey to your diet.