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Is Honey Okay for Type 2 Diabetics?

Honey is a natural sweetener that tastes delicious in tea, coffee, on top of yogurt, and in baked goods. The fact that it is "natural" might make one think that is healthy and possibly healthier than other sweeteners. Honey does have certain health benefits and it is less processed than other sweeteners, but is okay for people living with type 2 diabetes?

Honey and type 2 diabetes

If you have type 2 diabetes, then you are already aware that it is important to limit the amount of sugar in your diet. Honey, although different than white cane sugar, is still a sweetener, and one tablespoon of honey contains 17 grams of sugar. On the other hand, white cane sugar contains 12 grams of sugar per tablespoon. If using honey in place of cane sugar, then be aware that honey is a more concentrated sweetness, so you can use less of it. A doctor from the Mayo Clinic recommends eating honey in moderation as you would with other sweeteners, and counting the carbohydrates in honey as part of your type 2 diabetes eating plan.1

The glycemic index of honey

A glycemic index (GI) measures the effect of different carbohydrates on blood glucose levels. Many different sweeteners exist, and each sweetener has its own glycemic index. A GI index below 55 is considered to be low, a medium GI is between 55-69, and a high GI is above 70. Honey has a glycemic index of 83, while white table sugar has a GI of 92, and agave has a GI of 27.2

Therefore, honey has a high glycemic index which has the potential to spike your blood glucose levels. Interestingly, honey breaks down slower than white cane sugar in the body, which is why it has a lower glycemic index.

Benefits of honey

All of this being said, there are a few health benefits of honey. Honey can help soothe a cough, and Manuka honey (which comes from New Zealand) can be used to treat minor wounds.3 A study found honey to also be an antioxidant; antioxidants help your body fight free radicals which can cause diseases in the body like cancer. Apparently, darker honey varieties like avocado or buckwheat contain more antioxidants than lighter varieties of honey.4

Not all honey is the same!

If you are shopping for honey, it is important to check the ingredients listed on honey containers. It seems like the only ingredient in a jar of honey should be "honey", but unfortunately some companies will add cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup. The addition of these sweeteners can add more sugar to the product and potentially spike your blood sugar more.

The honey takeaway

Honey is a more natural sweetener than other existing sweeteners, but it can still spike your blood sugar because it falls in the high glycemic index category. If you chose to use honey in place of regular white cane sugar, be aware that honey has a more concentrated sweetness so you can use less of it. Like other sweeteners, honey should be used in moderation for those who have type 2 diabetes.

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