Honey, please don't overdo the honey

April 20, 2018 Susan Watkins, RD, CDE


Honey is slightly higher in calories than table sugar.

Honey is sweeter than sugar so you may need less of it, making the calorie difference a wash.

Honey can be used topically to protect small wounds from infection.

You can use honey instead of sugar to sweeten recipes.

Is honey good for you? Though the question is simple, the answer isn’t. Honey and sugar are the most commonly used sweeteners—and honey is often considered the more healthful option, but is that really true?

Honey and sugar are both carbohydrates that contain the sugars fructose and glucose. While both should be eaten in moderation to prevent or control things like obesity and blood sugar for those with prediabetes and diabetes, honey does not contain refined fructose and glucose. Refined sugar is often found in things like soft drinks, sweets, and processed foods. This type of sugar can raise the blood sugar faster than honey.

“Consuming too much refined sugar is one of America’s worst dietary habits,” says Susan Watkins, RD, CDE, a registered dietitian at St. Jude Heritage Medical Group. “Although honey has advantages over refined sugar, it is still a sugar and should be used judiciously. Too much honey can lead to an increased risk of weight gain as well as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.”

What are the benefits of honey?
Honey has been used for centuries as both a sweetener and a medicine. However, honey must be raw and unfiltered in order to reap its benefits. Let’s take a look at some of the health benefits below:

  • Honey fights infection.
    Honey has antiseptic, antibacterial and antimicrobial properties that naturally provide a protective barrier when used topically for minor cuts and scrapes.
  • Honey aids digestion.
    Honey may aid in digestion, by helping to feed the bodies good bacteria. It may aid in relieving constipation and bloating as well.
  • Honey is an antioxidant.
    Honey contains the antioxidant polyphenol, which may boost your body’s natural defense against inflammation. Inflammation can lead to negative health consequences or diseases.
  • Honey helps your scalp.
    Honey may improve seborrheic dermatitis (dandruff). Simply dilute it in a little warm water and apply directly to the scalp every other day for four weeks.

What are honey’s drawbacks?
Anyone who has diabetes, is trying to lose weight, or has other health reasons for controlling their blood sugar should avoid or limit added sugar and honey (including raw, unfiltered honey). Looking at total carbohydrates (which includes sugar) per meal and snack can help control blood sugar. Here some strong reasons honey should be used sparingly:

“If you’re looking for a healthier option than refined table sugar or an artificial sweetener, then honey can be on your list. Keep in mind that it is still sugar and is high in calories. “I recommend spreading any form of sugar out over the course of a day, rather than eating it all at once, to avoid any blood sugar spikes,says Watkins.

Tips for choosing the best honey
The next time you’re shopping for honey, keep these tips in mind:

  • Dark honey
    Darker variations of honey are higher in antioxidants, which help eliminates damaging free radicals in your body.
  • Raw, unpasteurized honey
    Raw, unpasteurized honey preserves all of the natural vitamins, nutrients, phytonutrients and other natural elements.
  • Low water content
    Honey with low water content has a reduced risk of fermentation, which decreases the acidity of the honey and therefore the quality and taste.

Healthy recipes for honey
Here are a few delicious recipes to try at home, courtesy of intoxicatedonlife.com:

Apple Cider Fruit Snacks


  • 1 cup chilled apple cider or apple juice
  • 1 cup plain applesauce
  • 1/4 cup plain gelatin
  • 2-3 tablespoons honey (optional)


  1. With medium-high heat, sprinkle the gelatin over the apple cider in a small saucepan. Let stand until fully soaked (approximately 5-10 minutes).
  2. Turn heat to low and gently whisk until the gelatin is completely dissolved.
  3. Stir in the honey, then pour the mixture into a blender along with the applesauce. Puree until combined.
  4. Pour mixture into a 13x9 inch baking dish and refrigerate until set (approximately 2-3 hours).
  5. Cut into little squares and store in the fridge for easy, healthy, delicious snacking!

Easy Paleo Honey Lemon Chicken


  • 1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 Tablespoons coconut aminos
  • 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil

Honey Lemon Sauce Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup chicken bone broth or stock
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tablespoons honey
  • 2 Tablespoons arrowroot powder
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Pinch of ground ginger


  1. Combine the chicken, coconut aminos, and rice vinegar in a large ziplock bag. Toss until the chicken is evenly coated. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes or up to 8 hours.
  2. When you are ready to cook the chicken, drain and transfer to a separate plate. Season the chicken on both sides with a few generous pinches of salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, whisk the honey lemon sauce ingredients together until combined.
  3. Heat coconut oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and sauté for about 5-7 minutes or until it is cooked through and no longer pink inside, stirring and turning the chicken occasionally for even cooking.
  4. Transfer the chicken to a separate plate with a slotted spoon.
  5. Pour the (whisked) honey lemon sauce into the same (now empty) sauté pan. Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.
  6. Add the chicken back into the pan and toss until it's evenly coated with the sauce. Remove from heat and serve the chicken immediately.

This recipe is delicious when served with quinoa or riced cauliflower.

Nutritious Mint Chip Breakfast Smoothie


  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons raw local honey
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 2 frozen bananas, sliced
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 3 Tablespoons chocolate chips
  • 2 Tablespoons ground flaxseed
  • 2 teaspoons hemp seeds or 1 teaspoon chia seeds
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon mint extract


  1. Combine honey and yogurt in a small bowl then add the blender.
  2. Top with the remaining ingredients and blend until smooth.

Do you have type 2 diabetes and need more help keeping your blood sugar levels stable? The Center for Health Promotion provides diabetes education and support. This program meets the standards for Recognition from the American Diabetes Association. Our certified diabetes educators and registered dietitians offer individual consults followed by four-week small group classes to help you effectively manage your diabetes. You may need a physician referral. For more information about the Center for Health Promotion programs and services call:

Brea (714) 618-9500
Santa Ana (714) 628-3242

For more information on how to lose weight through our award winning HMR weight program, call (714) 446-5154 (Fullerton).

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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