Calories in Honey
Fattening Sweetener or Weight Loss?

Concerned about calories in honey? Does honey have any weight loss and slimming effect?

Two common questions I get asked are: How does honey compare to other sweeteners? Since honey is a type of sugar, and there are calories in honey, doesn't it cause weight gain?

The first question is easier to answer, so I will give it a go first.

Blood Sugar Regulator

Let's start with a bit of chemistry.

Both honey and table sugar contain glucose and fructose. The difference? Table sugar is made of sucrose, which has glucose and fructose hooked together, whereas in honey, fructose and glucose remain in individual units. This subtle difference has a huge impact on the human body.

According to Dr. David Baer of the USDA Agriculture Research Service, your body’s tolerance to honey is significantly better than to sucrose or glucose alone.

Individuals with greater glucose intolerance (e.g. those with mild diabetes) tolerate honey better than they do sucrose. In his summary, Dr. Baer said that "some clinical studies show improvement  in with ? honey compared to sugars."

His paper, entitled The Challenges of Insulin Resistance – Does Honey Have a Role? was presented to the First International Symposium on Honey and Human Health on 17 January 2008.

Nutrition and Antioxidant Rich

When you consume processed sugar from soft drinks and other foods, you are basically consuming empty calories. They are devoid of nutrition.

In contrast, unprocessed honey has significant vitamins, minerals and amino acids. It also contains powerful antioxidants, compounds which are believed to fight cancer, heart disease and other diseases.

A 2004 study conducted by the University of California concluded that honey contains as many antioxidants as spinach, apples, oranges or strawberries.

Researchers Heidrun Gross and his team asked 25 participants to eat between 4 and 10 tablespoons of buckwheat honey each day for a month. The researchers found that consuming more honey increased the level of antioxidants in the blood.

Calories in Honey?

Okay, now we come to the second question: Does eating honey make you fat?

Let's face it. Honey is a type of sugar and contains calories. In fact, there are more calories in honey than in table sugar. One teaspoon of table sugar contains 16 calories. One teaspoon of honey contains 22 calories. So gram for gram, honey is more fattening than table sugar, is that right?

It doesn't quite work like that. Although honey has more calories, you may use less of it because it is sweeter. In addition, scientific studies have shown that moderate consumption of unprocessed honey has a mild slimming effect.

Going back to the above-mentioned 2004 study conducted by the University of California, after one month of eating 4 to 10 tablespoons of buckwheat honey, the researchers found no evidence of weight gain. To quote the study:

Interestingly, the study showed no weight gain in [human] participants for the month they were consuming honey. And, some claimed that eating honey for breakfast actually made them feel full and satisfied.

During the 2008 First International Symposium on Honey and Human Health, Dr. Nicola Starkey from the University of Waikato, New Zealand, delivered the findings from a study of honey: its effects on weight gain, anxiety and memory in rats.

Dr. Starkey and her study group set out to investigate the effects of sucrose, honey and a low glycemic index (GI), sugar free diet on weight gain, behavior and biochemical measures in rats over one year.

They found that rats on the honey-based diet showed:

  • Reduced weight gain & percentage of body fat

  • Decreased anxiety

  • Better spatial recognition memory

  • Improved HDL cholesterol

  • Improved blood sugar levels (HA1c)

  • Reduced oxidative damage

Dr. Starkey concluded that honey may be a healthier replacement for sucrose, particularly in those with poor glycemic control, or who are at high risk from cardiovascular disease.

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