Honey is a sweet, golden liquid made by honeybees. It contains sugars like glucose and fructose which means it is high in carbohydrates. The keto diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet. So how much honey can you have on keto?
What is the keto diet?
The ketogenic or “keto” diet is a way of eating that focuses on high fat, adequate protein and very low carbohydrate intake. The goal is to reach a metabolic state called ketosis where your body switches from primarily burning glucose for energy to burning fat and ketones instead.
To reach this state, most keto resources recommend keeping your net carbs (total carbs minus fiber) below 20-50 grams per day. Some may go as high as 75 or 100 grams once they are keto adapted but staying under 20-50g is generally recommended, especially when starting out.
On keto, your macros or macronutrient ratios will look something like:
- 75% of calories from fat
- 20% of calories from protein
- 5% of calories from net carbs
Following these macro guidelines along with restricting overall calories will typically lead to ketosis and its weight loss and health benefits.
Benefits of a keto diet
The keto diet was originally developed to help control seizures in epileptic patients. But it has since gained popularity as a weight loss diet due to its ability to:
- Reduce hunger and appetite – Ketones help control hunger hormones.
- Increase fat burning – Your body becomes adapted to using fat for fuel.
- Improve focus and mental clarity – Ketones provide an efficient energy source for the brain.
The diet has also been shown to lower blood sugar and insulin levels, control blood pressure, and improve markers for heart disease in some people.
What foods can you eat on keto?
Here are examples of the main foods you can eat on a ketogenic diet:
- Healthy fats – Olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, fatty fish, nuts and seeds.
- Proteins – Meat, poultry, eggs, fish, tofu, tempeh.
- Non-starchy vegetables – Leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini.
- Low carb fruits – Berries, lemons, limes.
- Dairy – Full fat milk, cheese, plain yogurt.
Foods to avoid due to their high carb content include grains, legumes, most fruit, starchy vegetables, sweets, and sugar-sweetened beverages.
Counting net carbs
On keto, the goal is to stay under a certain carb limit for the day. But not all carbs are created equal. We have to pay attention to net carbs, not just total carbs.
Net carbs are total carbs minus fiber. Fiber does not significantly impact blood sugar levels, so we can essentially subtract it from the total carb count.
For example, 1 cup of broccoli has 6g total carbs and 2.4g fiber. So the net carbs would be 6g – 2.4g = 3.6g.
To stay in ketosis, aim for under 50g net carbs per day when starting out. More experienced keto dieters may be able to go a bit higher.
Honey and keto
Now we come to the key question… is honey keto-friendly?
The simple answer is no, honey is not keto. Let’s look at why.
One tablespoon of honey has about 17 grams of total carbs and 0 grams of fiber. So the net carbs in 1 tbsp honey is the full 17g.
That is already over a third of the 50g net carb limit just from one tablespoon! And that doesn’t leave much room for other carb sources throughout the day.
|Nutrition Facts for 1 tbsp Honey|
Honey is mostly fructose and glucose, which are simple sugars. It causes a spike in blood sugar and insulin compared to non-starchy vegetables and high fat foods.
So most of the time, honey should be avoided on keto. But what if you really want to include a touch of sweetness? Are there any scenarios where a small amount of honey may fit into your macros?
How much honey can you have per day?
Technically, you can have a very small amount of honey if it fits within your carb limit for the day. But this would likely be around 1 teaspoon or less.
Let’s say your net carb limit is 50g per day. Here is how much honey you could theoretically have:
- 1 tsp honey: about 5g net carbs
- 1 tbsp honey: about 17g net carbs (over 1/3 of 50g limit)
As you can see, one tablespoon is too high to fit within a standard keto diet. But a teaspoon or two may be possible if you carefully account for it in your overall macros.
However, most keto experts still recommend avoiding all forms of added sugar, including honey, as they can trigger cravings and hunger. Even a small amount of sweetener can make it harder to control your carb intake.
Healthier keto-friendly alternatives to honey
Rather than trying to squeeze honey into your diet, you have better options to create sweetness that won’t kick you out of ketosis.
Try these delicious keto sweeteners instead:
- Stevia – This natural, plant-derived sweetener has zero net carbs and calories.
- Monk fruit or erythritol – Low-carb sugar alcohols that don’t impact blood sugar.
- Unsweetened cocoa powder – Has a mild sweet taste and contains antioxidants.
- Cinnamon – Provides sweetness with antioxidants and may help control blood sugar.
- Nut butter – Try adding a spoonful to smoothies for a touch of natural sweetness.
- Dark chocolate – The darker, the better. Go for at least 70% cacao.
- Berries – Raspberries and blackberries make a nice sweet treat in moderation.
These options won’t spike your blood sugar like honey. By combining several low-carb sweeteners, you can often create dessert-like treats that satisfy any sweet cravings.
Keto honey alternatives for recipes
You can also substitute honey in recipes with these keto-friendly ingredients:
- Maple syrup – Use sugar-free maple syrup.
- Agave nectar – Swap for monk fruit or allulose syrup.
- Granola – Make keto granola with unsweetened coconut.
- Salad dressings – Sweeten with stevia instead.
- Baked goods – Use almond flour, low-carb sweeteners and healthy fats in place of sugar.
With a little creativity, you can recreate many honey-sweetened favorites to stay keto. Track your net carbs and ingredients to be sure.
Health benefits of honey
Honey does have some health benefits, so why exactly is it restricted on keto?
Here are some of the ways honey can be good for you:
- Contains antioxidants like phenolic compounds
- May improve cholesterol levels
- Provides small amounts of nutrients like calcium, potassium and magnesium
- Has antibacterial, anti-fungal and antimicrobial properties
- Can help relieve coughs and throat irritation
- Aids in wound healing
However, almost all of honey’s benefits are linked to antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. You can get similar benefits from foods like berries, dark chocolate, tea, avocados and nuts which are lower in sugar and allowed on keto.
For coughs and wound care, small amounts of manuka honey may provide advantage. But for general health, the sugar content of honey outweighs any small benefits.
Risks of eating too much honey
Here are some potential downsides of having too much honey:
- Raises blood sugar and insulin
- Can lead to weight gain
- Contributes extra calories and sugar
- May increase inflammation
- Less nutrient dense compared to other carb sources like vegetables
- Linked to dental cavities and erosion due to acidity
In moderation honey is fine for most people. But on keto, even small amounts can make it hard to maintain the carb restrictions needed to stay in ketosis.
Tips for using honey on keto
Here are some tips if you still want to incorporate a small drizzle of honey into your keto diet:
- Use sparingly as a topping – Add just 1 tsp to full-fat Greek yogurt or cottage cheese.
- Mix into sauces and dressings – Stir in a dash to balance acidity and flavors. Balsamic glaze can be nice too.
- Drizzle on nuts or cheese – Just a touch enhances flavor.
- Add to smoothies – A teaspoon can add sweetness but calculate net carbs.
- Combine with spices – Cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and cloves enhance honey’s flavor.
- Use raw honey – It has more antioxidants than regular honey.
- Skip it in baking – Heat destroys nutrients and makes honey’s impact on blood sugar higher.
The key is keeping serving sizes small, counting net carbs and not overdoing it.
Manuka honey on keto
Manuka honey is a unique type of honey produced in New Zealand and Australia from the nectar of the manuka tree. It is prized for its high antibacterial activity and wound healing benefits.
Nutritionally, manuka honey contains about the same amount of carbs and sugar as regular honey. So the same keto rules apply.
However, manuka honey may have specific benefits for keto dieters in small amounts:
- Aids digestion – Its antimicrobial properties may relieve gut issues like SIBO.
- Soothes sore throat – Can ease coughs and irritation.
- Heals cuts and wounds – Helps prevent infection in minor scrapes and cuts.
- Reduces acne – Its antibacterial action may improve skin complaints.
For these uses, 1 teaspoon a few times per week is unlikely to impact ketosis much. But it should still be accounted for in your daily carb limit.
Choosing manuka honey
Not all manuka honey is created equal. Here’s what to look for on labels:
- UMF rating – This measures the honey’s antibacterial potency. Aim for at least UMF 10+.
- MGO rating – Another scale rating the methylglyoxal content. Look for at least 250+ MGO.
- New Zealand or Australian source – Should be labeled as from these countries.
- Raw and unpasteurized – Ensures active enzymes.
For overall health, regular raw honey has benefits too. But for targeted uses like wound healing, quality therapeutic manuka honey is worth the splurge.
The bottom line
Honey is high in sugar and carbs so it is not keto-friendly in larger amounts. A teaspoon may be occasional possible, but it’s better to satisfy your sweet tooth with low-carb options like stevia, cocoa and dark chocolate.
Manuka honey offers unique antibacterial and wound healing benefits. A teaspoon a few times a week may be fine if you account for the carbs.
Focus on getting nutrients from keto superfoods instead of honey. But in a pinch, a touch of honey can add flavor and sweetness if portioned carefully.