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Is honey good for diabetics?
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Is honey good for diabetics?

Honey is a natural sweetener, and it is common for diabetics to wonder if they can substitute other sugars with honey to treat their taste buds without compromising their health. Honey does not contain any artificial ingredients and thus is a very healthy alternative for granulated sugar. Nevertheless, honey is still high in calories and carbohydrates and can only be consumed in moderation.

Honey can be either raw or processed. Raw honey does not undergo any filtering process. The honey is extracted from the beehive and strained to remove impurities. On the other hand, processed honey passes through a filtration process and pasteurization process (where it is subjected to high heat) to remove impurities, destroy yeast and increase shelf life. 

There are about 300 different types of honey in the world. The type of honey depends on what the insect feeds to produce the honey and the source of nectar. The source of nectar also determines the taste and colour of the honey.

Raw honey

A tablespoon of honey consists of 

  • 64 calories
  • 17.25 grams of sugars
  • 17 grams of carbohydrates
  • 0.06 grams of protein
  • 0.04 grams of fibre
  • 11mg of potassium
  • 1mg of calcium
  • 1mg of phosphorus
  • 1mg of sodium
  • 0.05mg of zinc
  • 0.1g of vitamin C.

Honey vs Sugar

Although honey is a natural product, it is sweeter than sugar and contains higher calories and carbohydrates than sugar. Both of these products digest quickly and increase blood glucose levels. However, honey has a lower glycemic index (GI) than sugar. Honey’s GI lies in the range of 45 to 64, while sugar’s GI is 65. A GI of less than 55 is preferred and is considered to be less. Honey also packs a load of other nutrients that can contribute to the health of the consumer, whereas sugar is just carbohydrates and calories.

Raw honey

Benefits of consuming honey

  • Honey contains hydrogen peroxide which is responsible for its antibacterial properties.  Honey’s high sugar also helps in stopping the bacteria’s growth and its low pH aids in destroying the bacteria. Honey is often recommended for skin wounds and infections. 
  • Honey is rich in antioxidants like flavonoids, organic acids and phenolic acids. This can reduce the risk of cardiac problems and certain types of cancer. An increase in antioxidants can improve the way in which sugar is metabolized in the body.
  • Honey also contains anti-inflammatory properties. This can help in reducing the severity of the complications caused due to diabetes. Inflammation also can cause insulin resistance and honey reduces this risk.
  • A review of studies concludes that honey has a hypoglycemic effect and can be effective in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes. Honey is made up of fructose and absorption of fructose is relatively slow, hence the low glycemic index. This slow absorption reduces the blood sugar level temporarily.

Disadvantages of consuming honey

  • Honey is rich in carbohydrates and can increase blood sugar levels significantly. A study shows that honey consumption increases the concentration of glycated hemoglobin, increasing the risk of diabetes.
  • Honey should not be given to infants less than 1 year of age as it can cause botulism. It is a poisoning caused by a toxin from the bacteria Clostridium botulinum.
  • Some honey may be adulterated with added sugars or syrups, which can increase the risk of complications caused due to diabetes.
  • Consumption of raw unpasteurized honey is also dangerous for pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems.

Raw honey

Different studies on whether honey is good for diabetics has been conducted, but no conclusive evidence has been obtained yet. While some studies show that honey can actually lower blood sugar levels and help in managing diabetes, others show conversely that honey can cause blood sugar levels to rise. These studies also included only a small group of people and clear results could not be concluded. More research is needed to obtain a better understanding of the effects of the consumption of honey on diabetics. Therefore, as with any other sweetener, honey should also be consumed in controlled amounts. 

While honey provides essential nutrients, these nutrients can be obtained from other sources such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, etc. It is a gamble to use honey as a sweetener, as it has similar detrimental effects as other sugars. Diabetics should consume any sweetener as rarely as possible. 

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