A new study suggests that honey may reduce cardiometabolic health risks. The results show that raw honey, especially honey made from a single flower source, could lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels. The honey lowered fasting blood sugar and LDL or “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides while increasing “good” HDL cholesterol.
“These results are surprising, because honey is about 80 percent sugar,” said Tauseef Khan, a senior researcher on the study and a research associate in nutritional sciences at the Univ. of Toronto. “But honey is also a complex composition of common and rare sugars, proteins, organic acids and other bioactive compounds that very likely have health benefits.”
The people in the study followed a healthy diet. Less than 10 percent of their daily calories came from sugar. People who had two tablespoons of honey a day seemed to do well.
The results may be surprising. But honey does have some healthy components. “Honey is very rich in antioxidants for cardiometabolic health,” Catherine Gervacio, a registered dietitian, said about the research. “It contains flavonoids and phenolic compounds. Flavonoids are anti-inflammatory antioxidants that have the ability to prevent blood clots, and phenolic compounds reduce the risk of heart disease, as it is known to protect cells from oxidative stress.”
“We’re not saying you should start having honey if you currently avoid sugar,” said Dr. Khan. “The takeaway is more about replacement — if you’re using table sugar, syrup or another sweetener, switching those sugars for honey might lower cardiometabolic risks.”
Researchers point out that heating honey can destroy health benefits. You may only see the benefits if you use honey by adding it to salad dressings, having it as a topping for yogurt or using it in some other way wherein it doesn’t change temperature.
The researchers saw the best results from acacia honey, clover honey and unprocessed honey. However, they said more research would be needed to know how different kinds of honey impact the body.
If you follow a sugar-free diet, you shouldn’t add honey to your day, hoping it will lower your blood sugar. Some headlines about the research have made the find sound like you should be taking two tablespoons of honey as a supplement. That is not a healthy plan. Honey is a food that is predominantly sugar. However, if you use sugar in your diet as a sweetener, switching to honey may offer health benefits. Without further study, we don’t believe any “miracle” health claims. But it may be healthier for your blood sugar than table sugar or another sweetener.