Honey For Weight Loss: Pros And Cons Of This Natural Sweetener

The pros and cons of using honey for weight loss.

An amber-hued pool of honey might seem like your idea of heaven, but could it also be the key to your weight-loss problems? While honey certainly has its share of benefits, among them its ability to aid digestion and boost your antioxidant levels, its role in weight loss isn’t as clear just yet. Still, there’s reason enough for you to consider switching to this sweetener. Read on to decide for yourself.

1. Has 64 Calories To The Spoonful

While honey is a delicious all-natural sweetener, it does have calories and sugar – and this in no small amount. There are 64 calories in one tablespoonful of honey. And of its 21 gm of weight, 17.25 gm are from sugars.1 Its glycemic index at around 61 is not too different from sucrose or “pure” sugar which clocks in at 65.2 Its high sugar content and high glycemic index mean those who are diabetic or watching their sugar intake shouldn’t overdo their honey intake. Even for others, this natural sweetener is still sugary enough to warrant consumption in small amounts.


2. But Is Much More Than Just “Empty Calories”

[pullquote]The calories and sugar in honey mean that you need to go easy on this food if you are struggling with weight issues. That said, honey brings many other weight-loss related benefits to the table, making it a worthwhile addition to your diet plan, especially in lieu of other sweeteners.[/pullquote]

While you can’t go overboard with honey, it is a more natural, nutrient-rich alternative to other sweeteners. It has some amount of protein, vitamins, and minerals, making it relatively more nutritious.3 Its list of nutrients features ascorbic acid, niacin, riboflavin, calcium, iron, copper, potassium, zinc, manganese, magnesium, and iron.4


3. Offers Better Weight And Fat Control Than Sugar

There’s more reason to use honey instead of sugar if you need to keep your weight under control. One piece of research found that when honey was given instead of sucrose to overweight or obese subjects, it led to a slight reduction in body weight and body fat.5 Animal studies also confirm that it contributes less to weight gain as well as body fat when used instead of sugar or sucrose.6

What makes it even more attractive is that it could also help cholesterol levels, something people who are overweight or obese often also struggle with. Test subjects who already had normal values of cholesterol saw a reduction in total and bad low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and an increase in the level of good high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, while those with elevated variables saw an even greater reduction in total and LDL cholesterol.7


4. May Help Suppress Your Appetite

There has also been some buzz that honey could suppress your appetite, which in turn could aid weight loss. One piece of research found that when honey was taken instead of sucrose, it contributed less to weight gain as well as body fat in test animals. Test animals on the honey-based diet consumed 13.3% less food or energy. The researchers suggested that this effect could be attributed to lower food intake.8

Another small study on women found that honey could alter meal-induced responses of appetite-stimulating hormones like ghrelin and gut hormone PYY(3-36) to suppress the appetite. However, further research on this front is warranted to check if this holds true for everyone.9


5. Aids Digestion And Gut Health

Honey could also help your digestion by improving your gut health. The sweetener has prebiotic benefits, which means it can support the proliferation of good bacteria in your digestive system. The bifidobacteria in honey are specifically responsible for the prebiotic effect. These good bacteria, in turn, improve not just overall immune health but also help with digestion.10 Researchers have also found that there may be a link between obesity and gut health. Good gut health and manipulating the microbiota in your gut could even help with weight loss as per some studies.11

6. Can Help During Endurance Training

If you are getting serious about your fitness program to lose weight and have started endurance training, you may require a quick energy source like glucose. Honey is a good natural alternative of readily available carbs and allows you to maintain muscle glycogen (stored carbohydrates), which are the fuel that powers your workouts. Taken before and during the workout, it can help delay fatigue. After a workout, combined with protein and carbs, it can refuel the body and reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness.12


7. Can Fight Oxidative Stress And Inflammation Linked To Obesity

Raw honey is rich in antioxidant compounds like flavonoids. In fact, research has compared its action to that of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids – minus the side effects.13 Consuming honey can boost antioxidant levels and protect your body from oxidative stress, something that you might experience due to the extra weight you’re carrying around.14 15

Obesity and metabolic disorder have also been linked to chronic low-grade inflammation.16 If you are overweight, the anti-inflammatory properties of honey may be beneficial, though research is yet to find a direct connect.17


Combine Your Honey With Warm Water And Cinnamon For More Benefits

So, how do you take your honey in to cash in on these benefits? For starters, cut your intake of other sweeteners, taking honey instead – but do remember that you cannot go overboard with honey either.

Another option? Drinking a glass of warm water when you wake up is often recommended in alternative medicine and ayurveda to help kickstart your metabolism and digestive process.18 Why not boost its goodness with a couple of other ingredients, including cinnamon and honey? While cinnamon, like honey, isn’t directly linked to weight loss, its effects on glucose and lipid metabolism could help in your overall efforts to lose weight. It also helps those with metabolic syndrome, a condition that’s been linked to weight gain. So if that’s an underlying cause of your extra pounds, you may benefit from this remedy.19 Since this is all strong tasting and even a little bitter, people often sweeten this drink with a little sugar or honey to make it go down easier. Avoid the sugar and stick with honey as a sweetener so you can tap its benefits too!


[pullquote]Recipes for cinnamon with honey often suggest combining two parts of honey with one part cinnamon or equal amounts of both and adding these to a cup of lukewarm water. Have half a cup in every morning and again at night before bed.[/pullquote]

This can be useful especially to those with sugar regulation problems like diabetics. Of course, do take care to loop your doctor in if you are already on medication that is designed to lower your blood sugar levels. This is to prevent an extreme dip in blood sugar levels or hypoglycemia which can be problematic.

Or Add Lemon To Boost Metabolism And Aid Digestion

Another great addition to your honey-warm water regimen is lemon juice. It could help stimulate muscular contractions and rev up your digestive system, purging it of toxins.20 More importantly, for someone who is concerned about weight loss, it has one other important benefit. It could also kickstart your metabolism.21 But lemon on an empty stomach may not agree with everyone, especially if you have a sensitive stomach or digestive issues like acidity. In that case, avoid the lemon or defer this combination to later in the day.

Stick To Organic Honey From Reliable Sources

Unfortunately, not all honey is equally pure or rich in nutrients. It is best to buy pure organic honey from a reputed company to be sure of its benefits. Raw honey is generally supposed to be unheated, unpasteurized, and unprocessed and therefore assumed to be the form richest in nutrients since it hasn’t lost any during processing/heating.

Also, check the specific nutrient content of the kind you buy. Researchers have found variability not just between brands but based on where they are sourced from and this impacts their composition and medicinal benefits. Which is why it may be a while yet before they can be suggested as a medicinal agent on a larger scale.22