It offers lots of health benefits, but is honey keto or low-carb friendly? And what is honey, anyway?
Honey is made from those busy little bees you probably shriek away from anytime one gets near. These small insects may seem like a summertime annoyance, but they’re one of the most valuable creatures on the planet. Bees pollinate plants, helping to fertilize over 30% of the world’s crops and 90% of wild plants[*].
Of all the foods you have bees to thank for, honey is the most widely known. Raw honey contains a host of nutritional benefits. It’s packed with antioxidants and is a healthier alternative to sugar.
But is honey keto or suitable for a low-carb diet? And how many carbs are in honey? Find out with this guide to honey on the keto diet.
Honey has existed for 150 million years, with the first records of beekeeping dating back to 7,000 BC[*].
Raw honey is a thick, golden liquid. It’s a pure, unfiltered, natural sweetener produced by bees from the nectar of certain flowers.
Nectar is a sugary sweet juice that the bee takes from the flower and stores in its stomach. Bees have two stomachs — one for eating and one to carry nectar back to the hive[*].
How Is Honey Different From White Sugar?
When it comes to the comparison of raw honey to cane sugar, there are several factors to consider. Both contain two sugar molecules: glucose and fructose.
Honey and sugar are digested differently. The honey bee adds a special enzyme to raw honey. This breaks down the two sugar molecules so it can be immediately used for energy[*].
With table sugar, your body does the work — it must break apart the sugar molecules using enzymes before you can store them as energy.
How Many Calories Are in Honey?
One tablespoon of table sugar (sucrose) contains 46 total calories, while a tablespoon of raw honey contains 64 total calories[*][*]. Honey is higher in total calories but typically sweeter than regular sugar since table sugar is stripped of much of its natural sweetness during processing.
Unfortunately, honey is not a keto-friendly sweetener.
One tablespoon of raw honey contains 17 grams of net carbs — 16 of which come from sugar. It contains zero grams of fat, no dietary fiber, and only a tenth of a gram of protein. As you probably guessed from its nutrition facts, honey is a high-carb food and holds no place on the keto diet.
Will Honey Kick You Out of Ketosis?
Remember, ketosis is a metabolic state. The keto diet provides guidelines to help you enter ketosis. The average person can consume 25-50 grams of total carbs per day and remain in ketosis. Active people and endurance athletes report they can eat up to 100 grams of carbohydrates per day and stay in ketosis.
Technically, you could eat a high-carb food like honey and stay in ketosis. However, eating honey in large quantities will prevent you from entering ketosis and reverse your progress. That said, eating one tablespoon (one serving size) of honey probably won’t hinder your results.
Here are a few times when a small amount of honey is acceptable:
- Targeted Ketogenic Diet (TKD): The TKD allows for 20-50 grams of extra carbs up to an hour before or after your workout window. If you’re an athlete, you could eat one tablespoon of raw honey pre- or-post workout.
- Cyclical Ketogenic Diet (CKD): The CKD follows a traditional low-carb diet for five days, followed by two days of carb backloading. This means that for 24-48 hours of the week you replenish your glycogen stores with higher amounts of carbs. This is typically only recommended for endurance athletes who need higher amounts of carbs to perform.
If you’re able to stay in a state of ketosis with a higher carb intake, you may find honey to be a perfectly acceptable part of your diet — as long as you consume it in moderation. For keto diet beginners, it may be best to hold off.
While honey is not suitable for the keto diet, it’s a healthy alternative to white sugar. Raw honey is abundant in different micronutrients, including vitamin B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc[*].
There are key health benefits you gain when you replace traditional table sugar with raw honey. These can include weight loss, improved energy, an increase in antioxidants found and distributed throughout the body, a restful night’s sleep, wound healing, antibacterial effects, and lower chances of developing diabetes[*][*][*][*][*].
Is honey keto? No, it isn’t keto-friendly. If you want to stay in ketosis, it’s best to find other ways to sweeten your food or beverages.
Instead of honey, choose a sweetener with zero calories that won’t spike your blood sugar. Like honey, these sweeteners are healthy alternatives to table sugar and rank low on the glycemic index. They won’t spike your blood sugar or insulin levels — two adverse side effects of honey.
Choose one of these keto-friendly sweeteners instead of honey:
- Stevia: This natural sweetener contains no calories, ranks zero on the glycemic index, and is 200-300 times sweeter than regular sugar[*].
- Monk Fruit: Monk fruit sweetener is typically preferred to stevia, as it doesn’t have a bitter aftertaste. It also ranks zero on the glycemic index and is 300 times sweeter than sugar.
- Erythritol: This is a sugar-free sweetener made up of sugar alcohols. It’s just as sweet as honey so you can use a one-to-one ratio.
Avoid Artificial Sweeteners on Keto
It might be tempting to replace honey with artificial sweeteners since they all claim to have zero calories and are sugar-free. But some sweeteners could cause negative health effects.
Is Honey Keto? No, It’s Not
While raw honey beats most traditional sweeteners in terms of overall health benefits, it’s too high in carbohydrates and natural sugars to be a safe bet for the ketogenic diet. The only way to make raw honey a part of your diet on a low-carb or keto diet is if you are:
- Following the TKD and eat honey pre- or post-workout
- Following the CKD and eat honey during your carb backloading
- Are at or under 50 grams of carbs for the day, including the honey
Since honey is not low-carb or keto-friendly, you’re better off choosing stevia or monk fruit as a keto-friendly sweetener.