Consuming two tablespoons of honey can help balance blood sugar and improve cholesterol levels, according to a new study.
Experts said replacing added sweeteners in the diet – such as sugar in tea – with honey can lower the risks of illnesses associated with eating too much sugar, like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Researchers at the University of Toronto analysed the results of 18 trials including more than 1,100 participants and found that raw honey from a single floral source had the most positive effect on the body.
They found it lowered fasting blood glucose and the number of low-density lipoprotein (or “bad cholesterol”) in the blood.
Consuming honey also increased high-density lipoproteins (“good” cholesterol”) and showed signs of improving inflammation.
All participants in the study followed a generally healthy diet, and sugar accounted for 10 per cent or less of their daily caloric intakes.
The study found that honey from a single floral source “consistently produced either neutral or beneficial effects” on the body.
Participants were given an average of 40 grams, or about two tablespoons of honey daily over the course of eight weeks.
Most of the benefits were observed in people who consumed raw honey, from False Acacia or Black Locust trees.
However, honey lost many of its health benefits after it was heated above 65 degrees Celsius.
Tauseef Khan, a senior researcher at the University’s Faculty of Medicine, said the results were surprising because honey “is about 80 per cent sugar”.
“But honey is also a complex composition of common and rare sugars, proteins, organic acids and other bioactive compounds that very likely have health benefits,” Khan said.
Experts said the results showed that not all sugars should be treated the same by health and nutrition officials.
“We’re not saying you should start having honey if you currently avoid sugar,” Khan said. “The takeaway is more about replacement – if you’re using table sugar, syrup or another sweetener, switching those sugars for honey might lower cardiometabolic risks.”