- A new study found that honey consumption was linked to lower fasting blood sugar levels.
- They also found that eating honey was also linked to lower levels of total cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Clover honey and unprocessed raw honey appeared to be particularly beneficial for improving blood sugar control and lipid levels.
Honey is a natural sweetener that never goes bad when it’s properly collected and stored—and according to a new review of research, it may also have benefits for cardiometabolic health.
Nutrition Reviewsrecently published a systematic review and meta-analysis that evaluated the effects of honey, especially raw and clover honey, on risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
The authors found that honey consumption was linked to lower fasting blood sugar levels, as well as lower levels of total cholesterol and triglycerides. This may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
“I think the message from this study is that there may be some benefits in replacing some of the added refined sugars that you’re already consuming with honey,” Jamie Pope, MS, RDN, LDN, FAND, an adjunct assistant professor of nutritional sciences at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing in Nashville, Tennessee, told Healthline.
“A teaspoon of honey isn’t going to do a dang thing. However, habitual replacement of refined sugars with honey over time may have some positive impacts for people,” she said.
Clover honey and unprocessed raw honey appeared to be particularly beneficial for improving blood sugar control and lipid levels. Robinia honey, which is made from the pollen of the black locust tree, was also particularly beneficial for improving lipid levels.
The authors of the new review used the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) system to evaluate and synthesize past studies on honey.
“Over 100 organizations worldwide officially endorse the GRADE system,” Stephanie Schiff, RDN, CDN, CDCES, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist at Huntington Hospital in Huntington, New York, told Healthline. “This seems to be a robust, comprehensive meta-analysis with a large sample size.”
The review included 18 controlled trials, with a total of 1105 participants. Different trials compared increased honey consumption to participants’ usual diets, sucrose consumption, or high-fructose corn syrup consumption.
The authors found low-certainty evidence linking honey consumption to improved blood sugar control and reduced levels of “bad” low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and triglycerides. They found high-certainty evidence linking honey to increased levels of “good” high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.
Additional research may help improve the certainty of the available evidence.
“The science of honey consumption and cardiometabolic disease remains a popular topic for researchers as more potential health benefits are revealed,” Emma Laing, PhD, RDN the director of dietetics at the University of Georgia in Athens and a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, told Healthline.
“Though several studies have shown that honey incorporated into a nutritious eating pattern can improve markers of health, more research studies are needed to prove this,” she added.
More research is also needed to learn why honey affects fasting blood sugar and lipid levels.
Although honey is primarily made up of unrefined glucose and fructose sugars, it also contains other compounds that may have cardiometabolic effects.
“Honey also contains water and trace amounts of pollen, vitamins, minerals, like potassium and magnesium, and antioxidants. It also [contains] some phytochemicals like flavonoids, which may play a role in its positive cardiometabolic impacts,” said Pope.
Honey also has prebiotic properties, which means it provides a source of food for beneficial bacteria in your gut. Healthy levels of beneficial bacteria may help reduce inflammation in your body, which might lower the risk of certain health conditions.
“Diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis are inflammatory conditions,” said Schiff.
Although honey appears to have some nutritional benefits, it still contains a lot of sugar and is high in calories.
“Honey is more caloric per tablespoon than refined sugar. It has 64 calories per tablespoon, compared to 49 in sugar. If you use a lot, that could add up,” said Pope. “But honey is a bit sweeter tasting than sugar, so a smaller amount can provide the same sweetness, which means you might be able to use less.”
Pope and Schiff recommend eating honey in moderation and using it to replace refined sweeteners in your diet, rather than simply adding it to your current eating pattern.
“[People] could add honey to plain yogurt rather than eat presweetened yogurt or put honey on pancakes or waffles. They could use honey in tea [instead of sugar] or on toast instead of jam. You can sweeten oatmeal with honey or use honey in homemade salad dressing,” recommended Schiff.
You may also substitute honey for refined sugar in some baked goods, although it may affect the appearance, flavor, texture, and bake time. Substituting honey for refined sugar may work better in some recipes than others.
“If people are going to replace honey for sugar in baking, it’s [generally] recommended that for each cup of honey used to replace sugar, liquids be reduced by 1/4 cup and oven temperature be reduced by 25 degrees,” said Pope.
To learn more strategies for enjoying honey while developing an overall healthy eating pattern, Laing encourages people to speak with a registered dietitian.
“No single food, including a few tablespoons of honey each day, will guarantee improvements in health when considering other key lifestyle factors,” she said. “Individual nutrition needs are specific and vary based on one’s age, health conditions, and medication use. A registered dietitian nutritionist can help you incorporate honey into your eating pattern in a way that supports your health and reflects personal preferences, cultural traditions, and budget.”