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Is Honey Low Carb? Facts and Substitutes

Honey is known for its rich flavor and natural sweetness. However, if you’re following a keto or low-carb diet, you might wonder, “Is honey low carb?

Golden, gooey, with a sweet floral aroma — there’s nothing quite like honey! It’s been used as a natural sweetener and medicine for thousands of years and is also a popular ingredient in many recipes, from salad dressings to baked goods.

While it may be one of the healthier ways to satisfy your sweet tooth, does it have any place in a low-carb lifestyle? We’ll answer this question as well as go over the health benefits of honey and some possible substitutes for a ketogenic diet.

Nutritional Benefits of Honey

Honey is made by bees from flower nectar. According to Healthline, honey contains natural sugars like fructose and glucose, beneficial nutrients such as antioxidants and vitamin C, as well as minerals like iron and calcium.

Many different kinds of honey are sold on the market, so the nutritional values may vary slightly. There’s raw honey, which is unprocessed and contains small amounts of bee pollen, propolis, and wax. There’s also pasteurized honey that has been heated to kill any yeast or bacteria that may be present.

Overall, honey is better for blood sugar levels than table sugar, thanks to the antioxidants. But just like any sugary food, it should be consumed in moderation.

Sweet Chilli Halloumi on a red plate with toppings over a gray marble surface.

Is Honey Keto-Friendly?

The short answer? No, unfortunately not. I love me some honey, but if you’re trying to stay within the macro limits of a strict keto diet, honey does not make the cut. However, if you’re looking to enjoy it occasionally in a low-carb lifestyle and don’t mind the extra grams of sugar, you can certainly incorporate small amounts of honey into your diet.

This all of course depends on what your overall goal for carb intake is– and that can vary greatly for anyone on a low-carb diet. 

Honey is a high-carb food because of its high sugar content. Even the smallest amount of honey can kick you out of the state of ketosis so if keto is your goal, best steer clear! Let’s break it down.

A tablespoon (21 grams) of honey contains: 

  • 64 calories
  • 0g fat
  • 0.1g protein
  • 17g net carbs

So what about raw honey vs. pasteurized honey… is there a difference? No, not really. While raw honey may contain some additional nutrients, they both have the same high carbohydrate content. But, enjoying raw honey is my recommendation as most of what you find on supermarket shelves has been processed or not even pure honey sometimes.

While you could technically have a tiny amount of honey (see my Sweet Chilli Halloumi Recipe, which is pictured above!) and use up a good portion of your daily carb limit, the net carbs in honey could spike your insulin levels and kick you out of ketosis.

As with any keto diet, it’s important to stay within your macros and make sure you’re getting enough healthy fats and protein for sustained energy. 

For my low-carb friends who don’t necessarily need to follow strict keto, honey can have a place in your diet. But there are other sweeteners to consider that all have a lower glycemic index when compared to regular honey- let’s check them out!

My Top 4 Favorite Sugar-Free Honey Alternatives

I’ve tried many alternative sweeteners over the years, and you’d be surprised at how bad some of them taste! Out of all the ones I’ve tried, I could easily narrow it down to 4 of my absolute favorite honey substitutes for a ketogenic lifestyle.

They’re not only low-carb but also free from artificial ingredients and chemicals, and they taste great!

1. Monk Fruit

Monk fruit sweetener is the perfect substitute for honey. It’s my #1 choice because of its flavor and versatility.

Pure monkfruit is all natural, doesn’t taste chemical or leave a strange aftertaste like some other sweeteners. While you can certainly enjoy it on its own, monk fruit is 150-200 times sweeter than regular sugar. This means that you’ll more often see it combined with other low-carb sweeteners (like allulose or erythritol). It contains zero calories and carbs, making it a great option for keto dieters. 

If you want pure monk fruit, you’ll find it as concentrated drops, similar to stevia. What’s known as “granulated monkfruit sweetener” is commonly a type of granulated sugar substitute that combines monkfruit with another type of sweetener.

Some recipes of mine that use granulated monk fruit blends:

2. Allulose

Another one of my favorite low-carb sweeteners, allulose is a natural sweetener with zero calories and carbs. It’s found in small quantities in fruits like figs, raisins, and jackfruit.

Allulose has a similar taste and texture to regular sugar, but it still makes a great honey substitute for sweetening desserts, baked goods, coffee, and tea. It has 70% of the sweetness of regular sugar, so you’ll need to use a little more of it to achieve the desired level of sweetness. I recommend using 1 ⅓ cup of allulose to ¾ cup of honey. 

One thing to note is that allulose does not caramelize like regular sugar, so it may not be the best option for certain recipes that require caramelization. I like using Wholesome powdered allulose as it’s a great non-GMO option. You can find allulose in liquid form, granulated form, or as a blend, combined with other keto-friendly sweeteners.

My favorite recipes that use allulose:

3. Erythritol

Erythritol may sound like a scary chemical, but it’s actually a natural sugar alcohol found in fruits and fungi like grapes, melons, and mushrooms. It has way fewer calories than honey and doesn’t affect blood sugar levels, making it a better choice for diabetics and those following a low-carb diet.

Erythritol has a similar taste to sugar but is only 70% as sweet. This means you’ll need to use a little more of it in your recipes, but it still makes a great alternative to honey. Add 1⅓ cup of erythritol for a ¾ cup of honey for a similar level of sweetness.

One downside to erythritol is that it can have a slightly cooling effect on the tongue, which some people may find unpleasant. However, it’s a great option for those looking for a low-calorie alternative to honey.

4. Stevia

Stevia is a natural sweetener derived from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant. It has been used for centuries in South America and has gained popularity as a healthier alternative to sugar in recent years.

Stevia has an incredibly sweet taste, between 200-350 times sweeter than sugar, so a little goes a long way. It’s calorie-free and doesn’t raise blood sugar levels, so you can enjoy its sweetness without messing up your macros. 

Even so, it’s important to note that stevia can have a slightly bitter aftertaste to some. It’s also important to look for pure stevia extract or liquid drops rather than stevia blends, as these can contain added ingredients like maltodextrin that can affect blood sugar levels.

I personally only use stevia when it’s already in products off the shelf, such as protein bars and drinks, rather than making something with it myself. But if you enjoy the taste and don’t mind the aftertaste, it’s a great option to sweeten your meals and drinks without any sugar!

FAQ

What sweeteners are not good for keto?

I won’t tell you what you can and can’t do on a keto diet, but I personally like to avoid artificial sweeteners like maltodextrin, maltitol, sorbitol, and mannitol. These can be found in other sugar alternatives and are known to raise blood sugar levels. So be sure you check the labels of products before consuming them!

That being said, everyone’s body reacts differently to sweeteners, so it’s best to listen to your own body and see how you feel when consuming certain sweeteners!

How much honey breaks ketosis?

Since a tablespoon of honey is about 17g of net carbs, it can definitely break ketosis if you consume too much of it. 

If you really have a honey craving, you might be able to get away with limiting yourself to a teaspoon or less and consuming it with higher amounts of fat or protein. About 5 grams of sugar per day is generally considered the maximum amount of sugar intake to stay in ketosis. 

Keep in mind that everyone’s body is different, and some may be more insulin-sensitive than others, so it’s always best to listen to your own body and test your ketone levels if you’re concerned.

Is honey a good or bad carb?

Honey is nearly all sugar (a.k.a. carbs) but it does have some small amounts of vitamins, minerals, and even natural anti-bacterial properties. 

It can be considered a “better” carb compared to processed sugar since it’s less refined, but it still raises blood sugar levels. That said, enjoying a small amount of honey can be a part of a balanced diet, but it should generally be avoided on keto.

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