Since ancient times, honey has been used as both a food and a medicine.
It’s very high in beneficial plant compounds and offers several health benefits. Honey is particularly healthy when used instead of refined sugar, which is 100% empty calories.
Here are the top 10 health benefits of honey.
Honey is a sweet, thick liquid made by honeybees.
The bees collect sugar — mainly the sugar-rich nectar of flowers — from their environment (1).
Once inside the beehive, they repeatedly consume, digest and regurgitate the nectar.
The end product is honey, a liquid that serves as stored food for bees. The smell, color and taste depend on the types of flowers visited.
Nutritionally, 1 tablespoon of honey (21 grams) contains 64 calories and 17 grams of sugar, including fructose, glucose, maltose and sucrose.
It contains virtually no fiber, fat or protein (2).
It also contains trace amounts — under 1% of the RDI — of several vitamins and minerals, but you would have to eat many pounds to fulfill your daily requirements.
Where honey shines is in its content of bioactive plant compounds and antioxidants. Darker types tend to be even higher in these compounds than lighter types (3Trusted Source, 4).
Honey is thick, sweet liquid made by
honeybees. It is low in vitamins and minerals but may be
high in some plant compounds.
High-quality honey contains many important antioxidants. These include organic acids and phenolic compounds like flavonoids (5Trusted Source).
Scientists believe that the combination of these compounds gives honey its antioxidant power (5Trusted Source).
Interestingly, two studies have shown that buckwheat honey increases the antioxidant value of your blood (6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source).
Antioxidants have been linked to reduced risk of heart attacks, strokes and some types of cancer. They may also promote eye health (8Trusted Source).
Summary Honey contains a number of antioxidants, including phenolic
compounds like flavonoids.
The evidence on honey and diabetes is mixed.
On one hand, it can reduce several risk factors for heart disease common in people with type 2 diabetes.
For example, it may lower “bad” LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and inflammation while raising “good” HDL cholesterol (9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).
However, some studies have found that it can also increase blood sugar levels — just not as much as refined sugar (10Trusted Source).
While honey may be slightly better than refined sugar for people with diabetes, it should still be consumed with caution.
In fact, people with diabetes may do best by minimizing all high-carb foods (12Trusted Source).
Keep in mind, too, that certain types of honey may be adulterated with plain syrup. Although honey adulteration is illegal in most countries, it remains a widespread problem (13Trusted Source).
Some studies show that honey improves heart
disease risk factors in people with diabetes. However, it also raises blood
sugar levels — so it cannot be considered
healthy for people with diabetes.
Blood pressure is an important risk factor for heart disease, and honey may help lower it.
This is because it contains antioxidant compounds that have been linked to lower blood pressure (14Trusted Source).
Studies in both rats and humans have shown modest reductions in blood pressure from consuming honey (15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source).
Eating honey may lead to modest reductions in
blood pressure, an important risk factor for heart disease.