What Are The Best Low-Carb Substitutes for Honey on A Keto Diet?
Honey is deliciously sweet and decadent with a sticky consistency that is perfect for baking or incorporating ingredients, which makes it hard to replicate on a low-carb diet.
It also has numerous proven health benefits and is full of healing nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and enzymes.
Despite its many proven health benefits, honey has too many carbs to be consumed on a keto diet.
Unfortunately, honey has a consistency that is hard to replace. For this reason, you may have to avoid honey entirely if you’re trying to eat low-carb.
Here’s everything you need to know about honey, including how many carbs it contains and what to replace it with on a low-carb diet.
Health Benefits of Honey
Honey has been used for thousands of years for its medicinal properties. Research shows that honey is one of the most valued and appreciated natural products in holistic medicine.
It contains a wide range of phytochemical, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative, anticancer, antimetastatic and antioxidant properties due to its high flavonoid and polyphenol content.
Raw honey also contains enzymes that help contribute to its many health benefits (1).
When it comes to picking out honey, it’s always important to go with the raw or unfiltered kind. This means that it has not been heated to high temperatures, which kills off the nutrients that contribute to its healing powers.
Health experts recommend buying organic, raw, unfiltered honey instead of the processed store-brand versions.
You can usually tell the difference between raw honey and processed honey by the consistency. Raw honey is thick and does not pour well. You may have to scoop it out of the jar with a spoon. This might be a pain, but it means you’re getting a better product.
On the other hand, processed honey will run freely out of the bottle. Raw honey also tends to be darker than processed honey.
Most raw honey brands will write the words “unfiltered” or “unpasteurized” on their bottles to indicate that it contains its natural antioxidant and enzyme properties.
Here are some of the proven health benefits of raw honey:
#1. It contains antioxidant properties
Honey contains antioxidant properties from phenolic compounds that help fight free radical damage and prevent oxidative stress before it can damage the body. Research shows that the darker the honey is, the more antioxidants it has (2).
#2. It contains antimicrobial properties
Honey has been shown to possess antimicrobial and antibacterial properties that can help protect you against infection and viruses.
Research shows that honey contains the following anti-microbial and anti-bacterial components:
- Benzyl Alcohol
- 3,5-dimethoxy-4-hydroxybenzoic Acid (Syringic Acid)
- Methyl-3,5-dimethoxy-4-hydroxybenzoate (Methyl Syringate)
- 2-hydroxy-3-phenylpropionic Acid
- 2-hydroxybenzoic Acid
- 3,4,5-trimethoxybenzoic Acid
Of all the different types of honey, manuka honey has been shown to possess the highest levels of antibacterial and antimicrobial activity.
Manuka honey has been shown to prevent Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus as well as many other different types of bacteria fungi and pathogens (3).
#3. It may help prevent or kill cancer cells
Research shows that honey may protect against cancer in several ways.
This means that honey helps induce cancer cell death to stop the growth of cancer cells. It also modifies cell cycle progression by interfering with communication between cells.
Honey also modifies the immune response and helps depolarize mitochondrial membranes in the following cancer cells:
- Skin cancer
- Adenocarcinoma epithelial cells
- Cervical cancer
- Endometrial cancer
- Liver cancer
- Colorectal cancer
- Prostate cancer
- Renal cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Human nonsmall cell lung cancer
- Bone cancer
- Mouth cancer
#4. It contains anti-inflammatory properties
Research shows that honey contains polyphenols that inhibit inflammation that can damage tissues (19).
Honey has been shown to increase T and B lymphocytes, eosinophils, natural killer cells, antibodies, and monocytes, which are responsible for its anti-inflammatory mechanisms.
Honey also contains a type of sugar called nigerooligosaccharides that has been shown to help enhance the immune system. Research shows that honey also contains non-sugar components that help boost the immune system (20).
#5. It helps heal wounds
There is some evidence to show that honey assists with wound healing because it contains antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiviral activities.
Research shows that honey causes leukocytes to release cytokines, which is a compound that is used to repair damaged tissues (21).
Additionally, honey has been shown to activate the immune response to infections. It induces the production of antibodies that are used to help control and treat acute wounds and burns (22).
#6. It may help improve blood sugar
Although it contains sugar, there is some evidence to suggest that honey can help manage diabetes. This is due to its antioxidant properties.
Research shows that antioxidants help decrease reactive oxygen species (ROS), which is used in many antidiabetic medications. Additionally, research shows that honey has a lower glycemic index than sucrose or glucose, which means that it doesn’t spike blood sugars like other sugar does (23, 24).
#7. It may help treat asthma
According to one animal study, honey reduces asthma-related symptoms and prevents the induction of asthma. Specifically, it treats chronic bronchitis and bronchial asthma by inhibiting airway inflammation that is caused by histopathological changes (25).
#8. It may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease
Research shows that honey contains antioxidants such as polyphenols, vitamin C, flavonoids and monophenolics that have been linked to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
These nutrients have been shown to possess antithrombotic, anti-ischemic, and vasorelaxant properties.
Honey helps protect the heart in three ways. First, it improves coronary vasodilatation and reduces the ability of blood to clot. Next, it prevents LDL or bad cholesterol from oxidizing (26).
#9. It may help improve neurological diseases
Honey has been shown to protect the nervous system because it contains anxiolytic, antidepressant, antinociceptive, and anticonvulsant properties. Research shows that honey also has nootropic and neuroprotective effects due to its polyphenol properties.
These polyphenols have been shown to reduce inflammatory pathways that lead to neurotoxicity, aging, and misfolded proteins in the brain. Honey also helps reduce inflammation in the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain involved in memory (27, 28).
#10. It may improve digestive health
Honey has a soothing effect on the digestive system that can be used to treat a variety of conditions. It also has antibacterial properties that may fight H. pylori infections. Some research shows that honey helps reduce diarrhea in patients with gastroenteritis (29, 30, 31).
#11. It’s full of nutrients
Honey is very nutrient-dense. It contains proteins, amino acids, organic acids, and minerals that contribute to a variety of health benefits.
Research shows that honey even contains all nine essential amino acids and all nonessential amino acids, except for glutamine and asparagine. It’s also a good source of the enzymes diastase, glucose oxidase, invertases, catalase, and acid phosphatase, which help you break down food and assist in chemical reactions.
Honey contains 31 different minerals and many different trace minerals. Overall, honey has over 600 different biochemical compositions that contribute to its many health properties (32).
Carbs in Honey and Other Nutrition Facts
Interestingly, there are over 300 different types of honey. These different types of honey are categorized by their nectar component that is collected by honeybees.
Honey is made of approximately 95% to 97% carbohydrates, which means that honey is not a low-carb food.
Here is the nutritional breakdown of a one-ounce serving of honey (33):
- 85 calories
- 0 grams of fat
- 23.1 grams of carbs
- 23 grams of sugar
- 0.1 grams of protein
Research shows that honey is primarily made of sugar (fructose) and water. It also has several vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins, and other nutrients such as amino acids, inhibine, proteins, phenol antioxidants, and micronutrients. The sugar in honey is sweeter than artificial sweeteners (34).
As you can see, it doesn’t take a lot of honey before you’ve reached your maximum amount of carbs on the ketogenic diet for the day.
Additionally, all of the carbs in honey come from sugar. This makes honey a dangerous food to eat on a ketogenic diet.
Can You Eat Honey on Keto?
Unfortunately, despite its delicious taste and numerous impressive health benefits, honey is not approved for the ketogenic diet.
As mentioned above, this is because it contains too many carbohydrates. Even a small amount of honey will put you over the allowed amount of carbs for the day if you’re a strict dieter.
If you’re on a low-carb diet, then you can add a drizzle of honey to recipes here and there. But for the most part, honey should be avoided on a low-carb diet whenever possible.
Low-Carb Alternatives to Honey
It’s hard to replace the consistency and components of honey on a low-carb diet. The best you can do is replace honey with low-carb sweeteners in your favorite recipes.
Here is a list of some keto-friendly sweeteners you can use in place of honey:
Keep in mind that most of these sweeteners are much sweetener than real sugar. This means you might not have to use as much in your recipes when you’re trying to replicate honey.
Also, keep in mind that honey is more substantial than these powders. You may have to add water, coconut oil or some other liquid to compensate for the lack of volume in your recipes.
If you’re using honey as a binding agent in your recipe to incorporate all ingredients, then you may want to add an egg or some healthy oil in addition to the keto-friendly sweetener. This will help bind all ingredients together the way honey would.
Honey is a delicious and sugar-laden food that has several proven health benefits. It has been shown to prevent and even help treat several chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. This is because honey contains many antioxidant polyphenols, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, and organic acids.
Unfortunately, honey contains too many carbs to be eaten on a strict keto plan. Even a one-ounce contains 23 grams of sugar! Because of this, you’ll need to swap out honey for a keto-friendly sweetener in your favorite dishes. We recommend stevia, monk fruit extract, or non-GMO erythritol in its place.
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