Is It Safe To Have Honey If You Are Diabetic?

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Honey is lower in calories and sweeter than sugar (smaller amounts equals more sweetness). It has a lower glycemic index as well which means lesser insulin is needed to remove blood glucose. Honey can be used as a sugar substitute but only if you have your diabetes under control. Ayurveda promotes using kshoudram, pauthikam, and daalam honey in treating diabetes.

Sweetening your day with a little honey may seem like a distant dream if you are diabetic. Yet, reports of honey’s application in actually treating diabetes send out mixed signals. So what’s the verdict? Should you be eating honey if you have diabetes mellitus or should you steer clear of the sweet amber liquid?

The Goodness Of Honey

Honey is packed with antioxidant nutrients that protect against multiple diseases. Many of these nutrients like vitamins C, B3, B5, B6, B9, and minerals magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc are absent in sugar. Vitamin B2, calcium, and iron are present in higher quantities in pure honey than in sugar.1 These vitamins act as precursors for enzymes that help with metabolism.2 The phenolics, organic acids, enzymes, peptides, and Maillard reaction products in honey have antioxidant benefits. It is also anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory and promotes healing.3

Skip The Sugar, Have The Honey?

Honey is a great sugar substitute, helping sweeten a beverage or food more effectively than an equal quantity of sugar. It is thrice as sweet as sugar, so a smaller quantity will suffice. Additionally, it also has lower calories than sugar. This might make it a good alternative for a someone who has diabetes but is still taking a little sugar in their diet.4

What Happens When A Diabetic Eats Honey

When you have honey because its glycemic index is not as high as other sweeteners, it takes less insulin and does not cause blood sugar levels to rise as fast. Also, honey has glucose and fructose in equal quantities, allowing easier absorption into the liver. This means less glucose enters the bloodstream, resulting in less elevated plasma glucose levels, something that’s crucial if you are diabetic.

A study by Al-Waili showed that while the initial spike in blood sugar levels at the 30-minute marker was higher for honey than for glucose, the blood sugar levels after that dropped below sucrose and steadily remained lower post that.5

Another study of type 2 diabetes patients investigated the impact of natural honey consumption over a two-month window. Researchers found that those who had honey versus those who did not showed no significant difference in levels of fasting blood sugar. In fact, in those who consumed honey, body weight and harmful LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels as well as triglycerides went down. This beneficial effect on lipid levels and total cholesterol led them to conclude that honey consumption could be good for diabetics.

However, the study also recommended “cautious consumption” by diabetics because of the rise in hemoglobin A(1C) levels that was noted. As such, diabetics who were otherwise in control of their condition and on anti-diabetics medication could consume small quantities of honey to replace sugar.6

For those who are otherwise managing their diabetes well through diet, exercise, and medication, honey may be a viable replacement for sugar. Whether additional consumption of honey is actually a good idea remains to be seen as more research is underway in this area.

Ayurvedic Use Of Honey In Diabetics

Ayurveda doesn’t just allow honey consumption in small quantities, it actually puts honey in medications and treatments for diabetes. Ayurveda further classifies honey into multiple types. Of these, kshoudram, pauthikam, and daalam are used to treat diabetes.7 Old bee’s honey is used in Ayurveda for this treatment, with scientific research supporting the use of Apis mellifera, the kind seen as the best. 8

While honey, in small quantities or as a substitute for sugar, undoubtedly has benefits even for those with diabetes, it is best to consult your doctor before you begin consumption of any honey-based remedies or before you decide to sweeten your morning coffee.

References   [ + ]

1. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28, United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service.
2. Ediriweera, ERHS S., and NY S. Premarathna. “Medicinal and cosmetic uses of Bee’s Honey-A review.” AYU (An international quarterly journal of research in Ayurveda) 33, no. 2 (2012): 178.
3. Eteraf-Oskouei, Tahereh, and Moslem Najafi. “Traditional and modern uses of natural honey in human diseases: a review.” Iranian journal of basic medical sciences 16, no. 6 (2013): 731-742.
4, 8. Ediriweera, ERHS S., and NY S. Premarathna. “Medicinal and cosmetic uses of Bee’s Honey-A review.” AYU (An international quarterly journal of research in Ayurveda) 33, no. 2 (2012): 178.
5. Al-Waili, Noori S. “Natural honey lowers plasma glucose, C-reactive protein, homocysteine, and blood lipids in healthy, diabetic, and hyperlipidemic subjects: comparison with dextrose and sucrose.” Journal of medicinal food7, no. 1 (2004): 100-107.
6. Bahrami, Mohsen, Asal Ataie-Jafari, Saeed Hosseini, Mohammad Hasan Foruzanfar, Mazaher Rahmani, and Mohammad Pajouhi. “Effects of natural honey consumption in diabetic patients: an 8-week randomized clinical trial.” International journal of food sciences and nutrition 60, no. 7 (2009): 618-626.
7. Role of honey in ayurvedic treatment, Center for Science and Environment.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

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