As far as sweeteners go, honey comes highly recommended by many for several reasons. For one, as a natural sweetener, it can provide a possibly healthier alternative to processed white sugar. It’s also been used as a natural remedy for centuries in many cultures due to its medicinal properties. The fact that honey is naturally sweet makes it an obvious candidate for a keto dieter who wants to avoid sugar. However, can you eat honey on keto? Whether or not you can have honey on a keto diet depends largely on your individual goals and restrictions. Honey is still a sugar, albeit one with naturally occurring vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. For this reason, if you are looking to stay in ketosis and achieve optimal fat loss while on the diet, then you should be mindful of your honey intake. With that being said, there are still nuances to consider when it comes to honey and the keto diet. Let’s dive in and take a look at how honey can affect your ketogenic journey.
What’s In Honey?
You’d think the answer to this one would be easy, but it’s actually a bit more complex. The main ingredient in honey is fructose, a type of sugar that occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables as well as certain grains. Honey also contains glucose, which is another type of sugar found in plants. While the ratio of these two sugars varies from honey to honey, on average they exist in a 50/50 ratio (5).
In addition to fructose and glucose, honey also contains trace amounts of several vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, zinc, selenium, and phosphorus. It also contains several antioxidants (flavonoids, phenolic acids, etc.), which are believed to help reduce inflammation and even prevent certain types of cancer (3).
Now, let’s talk about how the components of honey change depending on where the honey was harvested, and whether or not it has been processed.
Raw, unprocessed honey hasn’t been heated or pasteurized. As a result, its vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants remain intact. Also, because raw honey has not been strained, it may contain trace amounts of pollen, bee wings, and other particles.
Processed honey, on the other hand, has gone through a filtering process to remove impurities like wax and dirt. This can help enhance its flavor and make it appear clearer. Unfortunately, this process also removes some of the antioxidants and minerals you’d find in raw honey.
Can You Eat Honey On A Keto Diet?
Unfortunately, natural and healthy as it is, honey doesn’t fit into the keto diet. That’s because it has a fairly high glycemic index. Foods with a high glycemic index are converted into glucose quickly, which can cause an increase in blood sugar levels and knock you out of ketosis.
A quick glance at the nutritional label of honey reveals that it contains 17-18 grams of sugar per tablespoon. It’s no wonder then why many keto followers tend to avoid or limit their intake of this sweetener.
Can You Eat Raw Honey On A Keto Diet?
Although raw honey is said to be a better choice than processed honey, as mentioned earlier, it still contains a significant amount of sugar. Therefore, it doesn’t feature prominently in the keto diet.
How Much Honey Can You Have On Keto?
Given its high sugar content, it’s best to avoid honey completely if you are following a strict keto diet. However, if you decide to have some, remember to keep your servings small. A single tablespoon of honey contains nearly 17-18 grams of sugar, and depending on which type of keto diet you’re on, you may not afford to go over your daily carb limit.
Think of your daily carb limit as a budget. Every carb counts and if you spend it all on one thing, there won’t be any left for other things like fruits or nuts.
Now consider getting your carbs from a source like bell peppers or almonds. Not only do these foods have a lower carb count, but they are also filling thanks to fiber, protein, and/or fats. These qualities make them a much better choice than honey.
Bear in mind, that not all types of keto diets are the same, and some may allow you to have more carbs than others. For example, a cyclical keto diet may allow you to have more carbs on certain days, whereas the targeted keto diet allows more carbs around your workout times.
In these cases, you’ll be more cautious than normal, and use honey sparingly, if you desire. A tablespoon of honey a day or less is an ideal amount for such scenarios.
Also, ketosis is different for everybody (1). Some research shows that some people may stay in ketosis even after consuming up to 50-100 grams of carbs a day. These are mostly athletes who are very active and have increased energy needs. Again, these folks should continue to be mindful of their carb intake and not go overboard with honey. They can get away with a tablespoon or two, but no more than that.
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What To Substitute For Honey On Keto?
Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives to honey that fit into a keto diet.
Top on the list of honey substitutes is Keto Honey. It’s a special type of sweetener that has been formulated to taste and look as close to real honey as possible. The main ingredients in this sugar-free honey are a monk fruit allulose blend, natural honey flavor, and tapioca fiber. It has no net carbs and zero glycemic index, making it the perfect substitute for real honey.
Next on the list is stevia, a natural sweetener made from the leaves of the stevia plant (7). Unlike honey, it has zero calories and carbs and has been used as a sweetener for centuries. It is also great for diabetics or people following the keto diet because of its low glycemic index.
Stevia is up to 300 times sweeter than sugar and honey, so you only need a little bit to sweeten your food. Consequently, because it doesn’t contain any calories, it can actually help with weight loss.
Xylitol is another natural sweetener that many people on the keto diet use in place of honey. It’s a sugar alcohol that is found naturally in plants and fruits, but it can also be made from corn cobs or birch wood (4).
Unlike sugar, Xylitol has a low glycemic index and contains only 2.4 calories per gram. It is also said to have some health benefits, such as preventing tooth decay and improving gut health. The downside is that it can cause digestive issues for some people, so if you’re experiencing any abdominal discomfort after consuming Xylitol, then it might be best to avoid it.
Third on the list is erythritol, another sugar alcohol that is commonly used as a sweetener on the keto diet. Like Xylitol, it has nearly zero calories and a low glycemic index. It also has a slightly lower sweetening power than sugar, so you may need to use more of it compared to other sweeteners (2).
It’s more common to find erythritol as part of a sugar-free sweetener blend. It goes well with other keto-friendly sweeteners, such as monk fruit or stevia, so it’s worth trying out.
Monk Fruit Extract
The monk fruit is a small melon-like fruit native to Southeast Asia and has been used for centuries by monks as a sweetener. The extract of the monk fruit is incredibly sweet and contains no calories or carbs (6). It also has a low glycemic index, making it an ideal sweetener for people on the keto diet.
Monk fruit is available in both liquid and powder form, which makes it very easy to use. It can be used for baking, as a sugar substitute in your coffee or tea, or as an added ingredient to your smoothies or other keto-friendly snacks.
How To Use Honey Keto Substitutes?
Now that you know all the keto-friendly sweeteners available to replace honey, how do you use them? The answer varies from one recipe to another, as each of these sweeteners has different properties.
For baking, you’ll want to use a keto-friendly sweetener that mimics the texture and flavor of honey. For instance, when baking cookies or cakes, use a liquid sweetener like monk fruit syrup to replace the honey. This will ensure that your baked goods have the same texture and flavor as if you had used honey.
For adding flavor to dishes, you can substitute honey with some of the keto-friendly powders, such as erythritol or allulose. These are great for adding sweetness to dishes without making them too sweet. Plus, they won’t alter the texture of the dish.
When it comes to making homemade jams or jellies, you’ll want to use a liquid sweetener like monk fruit syrup. Since jams and jellies rely on the texture of honey, using a powder like erythritol may not produce the same results.
Sauces, glazes, and marinades can also benefit from keto-friendly sweeteners like monk fruit syrup or allulose. These sweeteners will provide the same flavor and sweetness as honey, but with fewer carbs.
Lastly, for general purposes, such as sweetening tea or coffee, you can use any of the keto-friendly sweeteners mentioned above. Just choose the one that suits your taste and dietary needs best.
We should mention that a good quality keto honey brand can easily be the answer to all your culinary and sweetening needs. It’s made to look, taste, and work in recipes just like the real thing. You won’t have to spend time calculating ratios or converting measurements to get the same results.
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The Bottom Line
Can you eat honey on keto? No. Honey is high in carbs and sugar, which makes it unsuitable for most individuals on the keto diet. However, there are a variety of substitutes available, which can be used in place of honey while still providing the same sweetness and flavor.
These keto-friendly sweeteners include Xylitol, Erythritol, Monk Fruit Extract, and Allulose. Real keto honey (made from keto-approved ingredients) is a great option, as it mimics the look, taste, and texture of regular honey.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- A Review of Ketogenic Diet and Lifestyle (2022, nih.gov)
- Erythritol: An In-Depth Discussion of Its Potential to Be a Beneficial Dietary Component (2023, nih.gov)
- Honey and its nutritional and anti-inflammatory value (2021, nih.gov)
- Health benefits of xylitol (2020, nih.gov)
- Honey: Single food stuff comprises many drugs (2018, nih.gov)
- Introduction, adaptation and characterization of monk fruit (Siraitia grosvenorii): a non-caloric new natural sweetener (2021, nih.gov)
- Stevia, Nature’s Zero-Calorie Sustainable Sweetener (2015, nih.gov)