Is Honey Keto-Friendly?

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Written by Brenda Peralta, Registered Dietitian and medically reviewed by Abby Courtenay

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The market for sugar replacements has blossomed in recent years as people have become more aware of the dangers of added sugars. From agave to stevia, we have a range of different natural and artificial options to make our foods a bit sweeter. However, when following a keto lifestyle, not all of the options are available.

Honey is one of the most popular sweeteners since it is more natural than others and due to its health benefits. However, being a high-carb food, it’s not one of the first options that jump out when on a keto diet.

This leads us to the main question: is honey keto-friendly?

In this article, we will explore several questions regarding this golden sweetener. What is it? How many net carbs does one tablespoon offer? Are you allowed to eat it on keto? How much can you have without altering the ketosis process? What kind can you have?  What can you eat with? And finally, some keto-friendly alternatives.

What is honey?

Who doesn’t love this delicious sweetener? But what exactly is it?

You can find it either pasteurized or raw. Honey contains both glucose and fructose. This makes it a simple carb.

The most fantastic thing about this food is that it’s naturally produced by honeybees. The bees extract nectar from flowers and take it back to the hive, where it is made into honey and deposited in a honeycomb cell for safekeeping. 

The process could seem simple, but it is actually composed of many complicated steps. Did you know that the beating of the bees’ wings helps to evaporate water and make the sugars more concentrated? Pretty amazing!

Humans developed techniques for beekeeping more than 9,000 years ago. The process involves several steps to gather the sweetener. A hot knife is used to cut the wax, and then it pours out of the honeycombs.

Honey nutrition facts

Food and medicine all in one! Since ancient times it has been used as a remedy for several ailments. It has potent antioxidant capacities that can decrease inflammation in the body. Also, you can use it as a remedy for cough and flu symptoms. However, what’s its macronutrient composition?

Serving size: 1 tablespoon of honey (21 g)

  • Calories: 64 kcal
  • Fat: 0 g
  • Net carbs (total carbs - fiber): 17.3 g
  • Total carbs: 17.3 g
  • Fiber: 0 g
  • Protein: 0.1 g

One tablespoon of honey has around 17.3 g of carbs. Since it has no fiber, all of the carb content is used. It does not have any fat or protein, meaning it is a pure, simple carb source.


Is honey allowed on keto?

Not easily. It is too high in carbs to incorporate regularly into a keto lifestyle.

It is just a simple carbs source, with no protein and fat. It could raise your blood sugar levels very rapidly.

If you are on a targeted keto diet because you are an athlete or a more active person, you can include honey as a pre-workout snack to give you an extra boost.

If you want to include this food in your diet due to its antibacterial properties, it may be possible if you are very careful with the portion size. However, in most cases, I would recommend avoiding it.


How much honey can you have on a keto diet?

Although honey is not entirely keto, you could add a small amount into your ketogenic lifestyle if you control the portion size.

1 tablespoon is too much for keto, but 1 teaspoon of honey only contains 5.8 net carbs. 

So you could probably get away with having 1 teaspoon, or ½ teaspoon for even less of an impact on your daily carb count. Make sure to always measure the amount you eat and include the carbohydrates in your daily plan.


What kind of honey can you have on keto?

There are different types of honey you can add to foods or drinks. However, remember that you need to be careful with the amount of honey you consume in a keto diet since it is high in carbs. Depending on the level of processing, there are several types of this tasty sweetener.

  • Raw. It is unprocessed, not pasteurized, and often unfiltered. It is often slightly higher in beneficial substances and nutrients, which is why it’s promoted as being better for your health. Since it needs less processing, it is also better for the environment.
  • Pure. It is pasteurized, which destroys some of its nutrients, but it does not contain any additives.
  • Regular. It has been pasteurized and can have some additives like sugar or sweeteners added to the mix. It doesn’t contain pollen which is one of the most nutritious parts. You can also classify honey depending on its color.
  • Dark. It is higher in nutrients and has a more intense taste.
  • Light. Has a milder color and taste.

It can also be classified for its texture. You can have liquid, creamed/whipped, or chunk.

Finally, you can find many varieties that are classified depending on which flower they come from. The most common types are alfalfa, buckwheat, clover, eucalyptus, sage, tupelo, wildflower, and many more.


What can you eat with honey?

Since it is a high-carb food, make sure to avoid pairing it with another carb source.

It has great antibacterial properties. Thus, if you are looking to eat it for its medicinal purposes, you can stir it into a nice cup of lemon tea. You can also add turmeric, ginger, and cayenne pepper to help you boost your immune system or help you get rid of the flu.

Add it to your favorite vinaigrette to give it an extra flavor. However, always make sure to measure the amount you put into the dressing.

You can also add it to a keto microwave bread to make a sweet version. Add some spices like cinnamon to make it even tastier.


Keto substitutes for honey

Suppose you are looking to add a little sweetness into your life but don’t want the calories that go along with it. In that case, there are several options you could use when following a keto lifestyle.

Here is a list of the top 5 sugar-free sweeteners you can include in your everyday life.

  • Stevia. Stevia is a natural approach for adding sweetness, and you can use it in drinks, for cooking, or even baking.
  • Monk fruit. Along with stevia, it’s one of the natural sweeteners available on the market. Like stevia, you can use monk fruit for drinks, cooking, and baking.
  • Allulose. Rarely seen in foods. This sweetener has the advantage that it produces fewer gastrointestinal side effects. You can use allulose in your favorite drinks, dishes, and even for baking.
  • Erythritol. Erythritol is one of the top sweeteners used in baking for keto products.
  • Sucralose. Commonly used in Splenda, this is another option when looking for a sugar-free sweetener.


FAQ about honey on a keto diet

Do you still have questions related to this sweetener and a keto diet? Find the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions below.

All of them are high in carbs.

Agave and molasses might have less carbs than honey, but they are still high-carb sources.
Agave is mostly composed of fructose. That is why it has a lower glycemic index than the other two. However, since it is high in fructose, be careful to consume it if you have liver problems since fructose is metabolized through the liver.

Also, since all of them have carbs, make sure to measure and count the carbs in each specific case. Even a small amount could push you over your daily limit.

There are 17.3 g of carbs in one tablespoon of honey. This makes it a high-carb food. If you are following a keto diet, try to avoid it or eat in moderation. Always measure and include it in your calculations of total carb intake.

If you eat honey in large quantities it will affect your blood sugars in a similar manner to sugar. So portion control is key.

Although it is a source of simple carbs, it does contain certain health benefits. It is high in antioxidants, has antibacterial properties, and may potentially have healing capacities.

Yes, there is a way of making sugar-free honey.

The recipe is quite simple. You mix pollen, warm water, and the sugar-free syrup of your choice. Now you have a sugar-free option! You can use liquid stevia or allulose syrup to provide sweetness.

They both are simple carbs that have glucose and fructose. The sweetener you choose will be up to personal preference, always try your best to choose the option you’ll have the least of. Some people use more honey because they think it will give them health benefits or they find that it is not as sweet as sugar. Try to limit your sweetness tolerance, no matter the sweetener. 

Yes! Pollen is lower in carbs than honey.
In a 10-gram serving of pollen, you can find 6 g of net carbs. This could be an option if you like the taste and want all of its health benefits but without loading up on carbs.


Other non-keto-friendly sweeteners and sugars