Honey has a reputation for being a healthier alternative to sugar. It's more natural and claims a host of health benefits.
But does it really deserve that reputation? And, is honey Keto-approved?
Let’s get to know this natural sweetener a little better.
What Is Honey?
Honey is a sticky, sweet, amber-colored substance bees produce using nectar from plants.
Although bees make honey as a food source for themselves, we humans love honey too.
It’s sweet, but the flavor can vary drastically from region to region, based on the type of nectar the bees had access to.
Honey is used in baked goods, desserts, sauces, spreads, and to sweeten coffee or tea. It’s also used in many natural skin care products.
When it comes to calories and macronutrient content, honey is nearly identical to other types of sugary sweeteners — like granulated sugar, maple syrup, and agave nectar.
One teaspoon (7 grams) of honey provides:[*]
- Calories: 21
- Protein: 0 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbs: 6 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Net carbs: 6 grams
Honey also contains small amounts of vitamins and minerals, although this will vary depending on the source of the honey.[*]
Is It Healthy?
In moderate amounts, honey is an excellent sweetener to use instead of granulated sugar or highly processed sweeteners. It’s minimally processed, especially if you purchase raw honey, and may offer a small advantage over other sweeteners by offering some extra vitamins and minerals.
Additionally, there’s a fair amount of research showing that it may be helpful for alleviating cough symptoms — especially in children.[*]
Honey may also provide some anti-inflammatory benefits.[*]
However, it’s still extremely high in carbohydrates from sugar — so portion size matters a great deal, especially if you’re limiting your carb intake.
Is Honey Keto?
Per 100 grams, honey contains 82 grams of carbs — making it 82% carbs. Generally, we don’t consider a food Keto-friendly unless it’s 5% carbs or less.[*]
In that sense, honey is not a Keto-friendly food.
However, there are a few instances when honey may be permissible on Keto, like:
- When it’s used to activate yeast: In Keto baking recipes that contain yeast, sometimes a small amount of honey is used as an ingredient. You don’t have to count these carbs though, because the yeast consumes almost all the sugar in the honey. This is what kicks off the fermentation process and allows the dough to rise.[*]
- When it’s used in small amounts as a sweetener: If you like a little bit of honey in your coffee or tea, you can add very small amounts and still remain in ketosis. However, even a tiny amount will rack up the net carbs quickly.
- When it’s added in small amounts to recipes: Honey is often added in small amounts (like a teaspoon or two) to savory dishes or salad dressings to balance out acidity, bitterness, or sourness. When divided across multiple portions, this amount is generally small enough that it doesn’t impact your ketosis.
Generally, on Keto, you’ll want to limit your honey intake to no more than 1 teaspoon per day, which would contain 6 grams of net carbs. Still, it will be much easier to meet your daily carb target if you avoid honey altogether.
Who Should Avoid Honey?
Honey may not be the best idea if you’re on Keto, but tiny amounts can work.
Still, some people should avoid honey.
Honey comes from bees, so it’s not Vegan. If you eat Vegan, an alternative sweetener like maple syrup is a better choice.
Likewise, if you’re choosing to avoid all added sugars, you should steer clear of honey. Although it’s derived from a natural source, it’s still considered an added sugar because it must be added to other foods in order to sweeten them — unlike things like fruit, which are naturally sweet on their own.
Additionally, if you’re on a Carnivore diet, you may choose to avoid honey because of its high carb content. On the other hand, some people on Carnivore — and the similar Animal-Based Diet — include honey because it is an animal food.
Best Keto-Friendly Honey Alternatives
Honey is pretty unique, so it can be difficult to find an adequate substitute that’s sugar-free, Keto-friendly, and made with clean ingredients. Here are some that may work for you:
- Granulated Keto-friendly sweeteners. There are lots of Keto sweeteners available. Granulated ones may be a good replacement for honey in baked goods. Instead of artificial sweeteners like sucralose or aspartame, we prefer to stick to naturally sourced options like monk fruit sweetener, stevia, or allulose. Some of our favorites are Wholesome Allulose, Swerve, Pyure, and Lakanto.
- Keto-friendly liquid sweeteners. Keto-friendly liquid sweeteners are also available, and these are ideal for using instead of honey in drinks. The brands Pyure, Wholesome, and Lakanto have liquid options available.
- Keto-friendly coffee syrups. For something with some flavor to add to your coffee or tea, Keto-friendly coffee syrups are available. Jordan’s Skinny Syrups are really delicious, and the Naturally Sweetened varieties are sweetened with stevia.
- Keto-friendly pancake syrups. Finally, to replace regular honey when it’s drizzled directly on top of food, try a Keto-friendly pancake syrup. We like the pancake syrups from ChocZero and Lakanto.
Is honey Keto-friendly? Not really, except in certain instances in very small amounts. Honey is full of sugar, and giving it up while you’re on Keto can make it much easier to stick to your net carb goal. Still, it does offer some potential health benefits.
If you really love honey, you can make tiny amounts work on a Keto diet. A small serving divided across multiple portions of a recipe can help cut through bitterness and acidity while having no effect on your ketosis. And remember, when small amounts are used to activate yeast, you don’t need to count those carbs.
There are also plenty of delicious, natural alternatives to honey that can sweeten your day on Keto (without eating up all your net carbs).