Can You Have Honey On A Low Carb Diet?

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People who choose to go on a low carb diet know that they need to cut down and avoid sugar.

First, ask yourself what is your total daily carb number. Can you have any carbs at all? If so choose your carbs wisely.

People on a Low Carb “Keto” diet are attempting to reach a metabolic state of ketosis where there is not enough sugar available to burn for energy in your body so your body switches to burning fat that is stored instead.

The way most people do this is by not eating high carbohydrate foods like bread, sugar, cookies, desserts, starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn. Hidden sugar is found in sauces like ketchup, salad dressing, sweetened beverages. 

But how does honey rank as in carbohydrates?

Honey is a byproduct of the bees when they evaporate nectar from the flowers. They store the nectar in their second stomach. Bees have two stomachs, one for food and one for storing nectar. Back in the hive the bees take nectar and put it into cells made out of beeswax.

The nectar is used to make honey.  The bees add an enzyme to the nectar which breaks down the sugar molecules and enables the bees to use the energy immediately. The Bees actually eat the honey they make and because they make more than they need we get the benefit from their surplus. White sugar is broken down differently. Our body needs to break down the sugar molecules with an enzyme before we can use it as energy. 

Honey is higher in calories than white sugar but sweeter so you need less. Honey contains zero grams of fat, no fiber, and only a tenth of a gram of protein in one Tablespoon. But a Tablespoon of Honey contains 17 grams of carbohydrates.

So because Honey is chocked full of nutrients and antioxidants it is a healthy alternative to white sugar, however, because of honey’s high carbohydrate count, as you may have already guessed, does not make it much of an option for a person on a low carbohydrate diet.

Sugar even in a natural form are high in carbs. 1 teaspoon of :

  • White sugar:  4.2 grams of carbohydrates
  • Agave syrup:  6.9 grams of carbohydrates
  • Maple syrup:  6.6 grams of carbohydrates
  • Honey         : 7.0 grams of carbohydrates

Low carb diets generally recommend having between 20-100 grams of carbohydrates per day.

Carbohydrates are found in bread (white bread slice has 14 grams of carbs, while even healthy whole wheat bread has 17 grams of carbohydrates), fruit (apple contains 21 grams of carbs and dried fruit even more because they contain concentrated sugar, so raisins typically are very high in carbs,  however, berries because they are low in sugar can sometimes be eaten on occasion.

So which sugars to avoid and which to choose?

Good Sugars For Low Carb Diet

Stevia - A natural plant (Stevia rebaudiana) based sugar with little or no calories or carbs. It is concentrated so 200 grams of sugar can be substituted by 4 grams (teaspoon) of powdered stevia)

Sucralose- an artificial sweetener that passes through your body not adding any calories or carbs. Splenda is this type of artificial sweetener.  Because they add maltodextrin and dextrose a packet of Splenda contains 3 calories and 1 gram of carbs. Some studies have found sucralose can turn into a harmful product when heated to a high temperature so it is not suitable for baking.

Erythritol- a sugar alcohol that mimics the taste of sugar. Erythritol has 4 grams of carbohydrate per teaspoon and may help lower blood sugar levels. 

Xylitol- sugar alcohol you may recognize from sugarless gum. It also has about 4 grams per teaspoon.  It can be exchanged for sugar on a 1;1 ratio, so you can substitute 1 teaspoon of sugar for 1 teaspoon xylitol. It can cause digestive problems in some people.

Monk Fruit sweetener- It is extracted from the monk fruit in China and has no carbs or calories. It contains mogrosides which may stimulate insulin into the bloodstream and may help manage sugar levels in the blood. It is 100 times sweeter than sugar so you need less. 

Sugars To avoid when on a Low Carb Diet

Honey, although it is high in antioxidants and nutrients, is high in carbohydrates and not recommended for a low carbohydrate diet. 

Coconut sugar made from the sap of the coconut tree is absorbed more slowly than white sugar.

Dates and Date syrup- supplies vitamins and nutrients but is high in carbs 7 grams per teaspoon, one date has about 18 grams of carbohydrates but more fiber. 

Agave nectar-which is about 85% fructose is from the agave plant (Agave salmiana) native to Mexico. It is a different Agave species than that which is used in making Tequila (Agave tequila).

One teaspoon of agave syrup is 20 calories and 4 grams of carbohydrate.

It  has been known to hinder your body's absorption of insulin and contribute to metabolic syndrome (interference with your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar) because fructose is metabolized in the liver and half of it is converted into glucose used for energy, one quarter is converted to lactic acid, 15-20% is turned into glycogen, a stored form of glucose, however, the rest is stored as triglycerides. 

High triglycerides are a type of fat that can affect a higher risk of heart disease, and diabetes.

Maple sugar- Sap of the maple tree has lots of micronutrients like manganese and zinc, however, it is high in calories and carbs.

Technically you can eat high carb food like honey in small amounts and stay in ketosis. The average individual can consume 25-50 grams of carbohydrates per day and remain in ketosis especially if you are active.

You would need to check using a home blood ketone test or through your urine using testing strips (often referred to by the brand name Ketostix). 

For the most insightful ketone readings test 4 hours after breakfast, or just before lunch or four hours after lunch before dinner.

Succeeding on a low carbohydrate diet means you need to be aware of how many carbohydrates you are eating and plan your daily amount of carbs wisely.

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