Bears love it, bees make it and people consume it until no end. But what’s the scoop on this natural sweetener that makes bears (and our dopamine levels) go crazy?
When it comes to sweeteners, you have to be careful of which one you choose. While there are an abundant amount of sweeteners out there today, many are artificial and can have some severely damaging effects on your health. Raw honey is actually one of the best natural sweeteners out there today.
With refined sugar still being a staple ingredient in most households in the country today, there’s a strong push for replacing it will raw honey for all the health benefits it could provide. However, for individuals on a low carb or keto diet, chances are you’ll want to avoid this natural sweetener all together.
What is Honey and Why Isn’t it Low Carb or Keto Friendly?
Raw honey is an unfiltered, natural sweetener made by bees from the nectar of flowers. While raw honey provides an abundant amount of health benefits, unfortunately most honey you see today is artificially flavored and processed. Processed honey is extremely different from raw honey due to the filtering it goes through, stripping it clean from most of its natural health benefits.
Nowadays honey is often times collected from domesticated beehives. In this case,the domesticated bees store the honey in honeycombs where the beekeeper collects it. Due to the different compounds it contains, honey actually has the ability to be preserved for a significant amount of time as long as it’s exposure to humidity is limited. Honey’s long preservation period is due to a specific enzyme found in the stomach of the bees which suppresses the growth of harmful bacteria.
Raw honey provides a number of different health benefits. Some of these health benefits include helping maintain a healthy weight, providing individuals with a strong energy source, providing a number of healing antioxidants including pinocembrin, pinostrobin and chrysin. Raw honey also helps to promote a restful nights sleep, helps heal wounds and helps individuals struggling with diabetes due to it’s healthy management of blood sugar levels. The impact raw honey may have on an individual’s health is great, however it might not be suitable for individuals following a low carb or ketogenic diet.
Most of the benefits listed above are due to honey’s amazing micronutrients. Unprocessed, raw honey contains key vitamins and minerals including vitamin B6, thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, niacin, zinc, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and selenium. It also contains a total of 22 amino acids and around 5,000 enzymes.
One tablespoon of raw honey is a total of 64 calories, including zero grams of fat, zero grams of protein and 17 grams of net carbs all coming from sugar. Needless to say, this natural sweetener is not low carb or keto friendly.
4 Low Carb Substitutes for Raw Honey
While there is no shortage of benefits an individual can receive from consuming raw honey as the ultimate natural sweetener, unfortunately it’s high carb count takes it completely out of the question for individuals following a low carb or ketogenic diet.
Most low carb alternatives to honey will be filled with artificial additives in order to give it a similar sweet taste. However, there are some other natural low carb sweeteners you can use instead. Some of these low carb honey substitutes include:
Stevia is one of the top natural sweeteners seen in healthy recipes today and with good reason too. Stevia is a plant in the same family as marigolds, ragweeds and chrysanthemums. Stevia contains two particular glycosides that are responsible for its sweetness — stevioside and rebaudioside.
Along with being a great low carb substitute, stevia provides several benefits when consumed. Stevia has been shown to significantly reduce blood sugar levels as well as insulin resistance due to its low glycemic index. In fact, one study even showed that subjects who consumed stevia before a meal ha lower blood glucose and insulin levels afterwards[*]. Stevia also helps to reduce cholesterol and help maintain a healthy weight. However, there are several types of stevia out there to choose from today. While there are multiple keto-friendly options, make sure the stevia you’re using is organic and free from GMOs.
One gram of stevia is only one gram of noted carbohydrates while being calorie-free — the ultimate sweetener to have in a keto-friendly cabinet.
Allulose is another natural sweetener that’s quite rare to find in foods. In fact, the only foods that contain this low-calorie sugar alternative include wheat, figs and raisins.
Allulose is a single sugar, also known as a monosaccharide. It’s ability to resist fermentation in the gut makes it less likely to cause digestive issues such as bloating, cramping or gas. Along with it’s positive effect on the digestive tract, allulose also has a glycemic index of zero, creating absolutely no spike in blood sugar or insulin levels — making it the ideal sugar replacement for individuals struggling with diabetes or weight loss.
Allulose is also only one tenth of the calories of your traditional table sugar, making it a top choice for a honey substitute on a low carb or ketogenic diet.
Organic, natural sweeteners are hard to come by, especially when looking for low carb substitutes for honey. But there are a few out there. Along with stevia and allulose, monk fruit is one of the best natural sweeteners available today. The compounds in monk fruit make it up to 400 times as sweet as traditional cane sugar without any negative effects on blood sugar.
Yep, you read that right. A sugar that’s 400 times as sweet as cane sugar with zero calories.
Monk fruit contains mogrosides. These are antioxidants responsible for giving monk fruit it’s extremely sweet taste. Mogrosides are actually metabolized much differently by the body in comparison to natural sugars, which is what negates any increase you typically see in blood sugar or insulin response.
These antioxidants found in monk fruit are also key players in helping fight off free radical damage and oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is when free radicals (unstable molecules in the body) start to attack and damage other cells. Monk fruit can also help individuals struggling with diabetes and obesity due to it’s extremely low glycemic index (GI). The low GI creates no rise in blood sugar or insulin — perfect for diabetics. This low carb honey substitute also helps fight fatigue and works as a natural antihistamine.
The final low carb honey substitute to discuss is erythritol. Unlike the other sweeteners listed above, erythritol is actually considered a sugar alcohol. Often times found in sugar-free foods and sweets, most individuals will choose erythritol because it adds a sweet taste without the carbs or calories.
While Japan has been using it since the 1990’s in candies and chocolates, the first sign of erythritol actually dates all the way back to 1848. A chemist named John Stenhouse first discovered this four-carbon sugar alcohol way before it’s time of growing popularity.
Erythritol is popular among individuals following low carb or ketogenic diets due to its low carb count. In fact, one gram of this natural sugar alcohol is less than one half of a gram of total calories.
While raw honey itself can be very beneficial to your health (especially in the replacement of sugar), it is unfortunately extremely high in carbs. However, that’s not to say you can’t enjoy your favorite sweetened treats on a low carb or ketogenic diet. The next time you’re at your local grocery store, check for these top low carb sweeteners to replace your favorite sweet ingredient.