Amy Reeder is a Certified Diabetes Educator with a master’s degree in nutrition from the University of Utah. She has worked in the diabetes field since 2005 and has been a Certified Diabetes Educator since 2007. 

Honey is a safer sweetener than sugar because it has a lower glycemic index. However, honey still contains carbohydrate, so it is important for diabetics to track the intake of honey just like sugar.

“She’s as sweet as Tupelo honey,” a line from Van Morrison’s song is one of many that refers to the sweet nectar that is honey. Some call honey a miracle food because of the many other properties it has besides just being a sweetener. Honey has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (the darker the honey, the more antioxidants), as well as trace minerals of B-vitamins and Vitamin C. And for centuries, honey has been used as an anti-microbial agent to treat cuts, wounds, acne, and other skin ailments.

Honey and counting carbs

Honey is a sweetener, somewhat comparable to table sugar. Both honey and sugar contain carbohydrate. It is the arrangement of the carbohydrate molecules glucose and fructose that make sugar and honey a little different from each other, however. Honey has a lower glycemic index than sugar (55 compared to 65, respectively), so eating honey may result in a more modest increase in blood glucose than when consuming sugar. When counting carbohydrates, it is important to know that 1 tablespoon of honey is considered one “serving” of honey, or 15 grams of carbohydrate. It is also important to note that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the American Heart Association have both issued the recommendation to reduce intake of “added sugars,” which would include both sugar and honey.

Honey substitues

But reducing intake does not mean having to eliminate honey from the diet. Honey tends to taste a little bit sweeter than table sugar, so in cooking you can substitute 1 part honey for 1 ¼ parts sugar, thereby lowering carb content, even if slightly, of the baked good or food you are preparing. Many times adding a little bit of honey to plain yogurt and a few berries will yield less carbohydrates than consuming a fruit-flavored yogurt off the grocery store shelf. Same goes for sweetening beverages – using a small amount of honey in home-brewed ice tea is going to have less ingredients and less carbohydrate than the sweetened tea you get at a restaurant or convenience store.

Try this recipe for a cool meal on a hot day:

Salad with Honey Dijon Vinaigrette

Servings: 4


2 TBSP Dijon mustard
1 TBSP honey (remember, the darker the honey, the more healthy antioxidants!)
1 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP lemon juice
8 cups arugula or other salad greens
2 pears, thinly sliced
½ cup chopped walnuts
1. Whisk vinaigrette ingredients until smooth.
2. Toss dressing with salad ingredients.
Nutrition Facts per 2-cup serving: calories 200, total carbohydrate 21 g, dietary fiber 4 g, sugars 13 g

Recipe courtesy of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Simple, healthy and refreshing on a hot summer day. Enjoy!

More honey recipes:

Honey-Mustard Turkey Burgers
Honey-Soy Broiled Salmon
Almond & Honey-Butter Cookies