Honey is a food many of us love to add to cereals, yogurt, nuts, tea, and many more foods.
It tastes delicious and is often thought of as a healthier alternative to sugar. But should you include it within your diet?
This article will go through some of the key points to remember so you can make an informed choice about including honey on a Mediterranean diet.
Is Honey Allowed on the Mediterranean Diet?
Honey isn’t found in traditional Mediterranean diets. That doesn’t mean you can’t eat it though.
The general ethos of the Mediterranean diet is not to outright ban particular foods, but to eat certain foods in particular quantities. This means honey is allowed on the Mediterranean diet.
However, the more important question is how much should you eat considering that it is high in sugar. This can cause weight gain.
Because of this, you should try and limit honey to an occasional treat, particularly if you are losing weight.
What is the Nutritional Value of Honey?
1 tablespoon of honey (21g) contains 64 calories, 17g carbs, 0g fat, and 0g protein according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database.
It also contains negligible vitamin and mineral quantities.
Can I Lose Weight on the Mediterranean Diet Eating Honey?
Honey contains a lot of sugar and calories – 1 tablespoon/21g contains 64 calories.
Although this may not seem like a lot, it is very easy to add more than just 1 tablespoon to your food. You can see how that can add up, particularly if you are adding honey to foods and teas often.
The high amount of sugar in honey can also cause blood sugar levels to rise and drop more dramatically when compared to eating other types of foods. Blood sugar level spikes cause increased levels of hunger, resulting in overeating and long-term weight gain (1).
Studies also find that eating more sugar overall coincides with a higher risk of obesity and weight gain.
What’s more, research consistently associates a higher intake of added sugar with a higher risk of weight gain and obesity (2).
Honey vs Sugar
Honey is considered a better choice than sugar for a number of reasons.
Honey Contains More Antioxidants
First, it contains some antioxidants such as phenolic acids and flavonoids.
Studies find these can help combat health issues such as reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer, immune-system decline, and other inflammatory processes (3).
Added sugar contains none of these.
Refined Sugar Increases Blood Sugar Levels More
Honey also has a low GI value than sugar, meaning that blood sugar levels don’t rise as quickly compared to sugar.
One study of 48 people did find that type 2 diabetics that consumed honey increased their blood sugar levels less than those who ate sugar (4).
However, for diabetics, there isn’t a real advantage to substituting sugar for honey as both will raise blood sugar levels significantly
Sugar in Honey and How It Affects Your Mediterranean Diet
Sugar is something you should try to lower in general due to the health issues eating too much can cause.
The Mediterranean diet itself doesn’t specifically say to avoid sugar completely, but the food choices promoted within it lead to lower amounts of sugar being eaten.
Too much sugar in your diet is linked to obesity, inflammation, insulin resistance, liver issues, and heart disease (5, 6).
However, when used to replace refined sugars and unhealthy sweeteners such as high-fructose corn syrup, then it can bring benefits.
You will still to need to consume it sparingly to reduce any health issues it can cause.
Best Ways To Add Honey to Your Diet
Honey can be used in various recipes or foods as a sweetener. Baking honey causes excess browning and moisture, but experiment to see what works for you.
If you need to substitute honey for sugar, use ¾ cup of honey for one cup of sugar (250g of honey for every 200g of sugar).
With your everyday foods, honey can be used such as:
- Stirred in coffee or tea
- Mixed into yogurt, cereals, or oatmeal instead of sugar
- Sweeten dressings or marinades
Remember to moderate your use of honey.
To Sum Up
The Mediterranean diet doesn’t exclude honey so you can by all means include it as part of a balanced diet.
However, it is high in sugar and calories, which can contribute to obesity and other health risks. Therefore, it’s best to eat it in moderation or as a treat.
It’s a good alternative to sugar, but it still needs to be consumed in moderation since it still behaves like sugar in your body.