Many people use honey as a natural sweetener or for its medicinal properties. But does it also increase blood sugar? Can diabetics take it? The glycemic index of honey can give us an answer and open up new questions.
The concept of the glycemic index (GI) appeared about thirty years ago and is used to classify foods that contain carbohydrates, based on the rate at which blood glucose values rise.
Each food is compared on the basis of its values. The reference food is glucose, which has a glycemic index of 100, the rest is classified in a range from 0 to 100.
- Low glycemic index (below 55): most dairy products, fruit, vegetables, legumes and some varieties of pasta.
- Medium (between 55 and 69): Rice, bread, and some breakfast cereals.
- High (more than 70): in this group we find white bread, potatoes or pastries.
The glycemic index of honey
Honey is a food composed mainly of carbohydrates (80%) and water. Glucose and fructose are the two elements it contains in greater quantities. The percentages of these two sugars can differ depending on the variety of honey we are talking about.
In general, floral varieties tend to have higher amounts of fructose, consequently they have a lower GI. In this case, the glycemic index of honey is around 61, but it can vary by 3 points upwards or downwards.
In summary, the glycemic index of honey changes according to the variety and the percentage of glucose-fructose. In any case, it belongs to the foods of the group with the medium glycemic index.
GI in relation to nutrition and health
Many nutrition experts and professionals recommend a diet based on the glycemic index of foods. Those with low GI should abound, while those in the high GI group should be eliminated or limited.
These diets prove effective because foods with a lower GI are digested and absorbed more slowly. As a result, they do not cause sudden blood sugar spikes.
This eating style is particularly suitable for those suffering from diabetes, as the body cannot process sugars effectively. In these cases, good glycemic control would help delay the onset of disease-related complications, such as kidney, nerve damage, or an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
In addition to this, scientific evidence attributes the following benefits to diets based on low glycemic index foods:
- Reduction of LDL cholesterol.
- Lower risk of suffering from cancer of any type (colorectal, breast, endometrial).
- Reduces the risk of heart disease.
The glycemic index also has its cons
In the nutritional sciences, focusing only on the glycemic index is not considered a good strategy, because it does not allow you to evaluate the nutritional properties of a food as a whole. Regarding the glycemic index, it is worth considering the following factors:
- The values of the glycemic index of a food change according to the studies consulted.
- Not all people respond equally to various foods, as insulin sensitivity varies in each individual.
- Generally we don’t eat a single food, we tend to mix them in the same meal and this alters the individual glycemic values. For example, the presence of fats or proteins regulates the absorption of glucose and its consequent increase in the blood.
- Finally, based on the glycemic index alone does not allow to consider other important aspects such as nutrient density, the possible probiotic effect or the satiating capacity, among others.
What does the glycemic index of honey tell us?
For millennia, honey has been used as a food for its nutritional and therapeutic value. This is due to its nutritional composition, which includes antioxidants, phenols, organic acids and trace amounts of vitamins and minerals.
Today it is used as a natural sweetener and is the basis of many natural remedies. There is scientific evidence to suggest that a small amount of honey can have huge health benefits. Without going into too much detail, we can summarize its properties as follows:
- Antioxidant capacity.
- Reduction of the analytical indicators of inflammation.
- Protection of cardiovascular health, improvement of blood cholesterol, reduction of triglycerides, with a slight decrease in body fat.
- Antibacterial effects that can be positive in cases of gastroenteritis or Helicobater pylori.
Despite possessing numerous properties and presenting a medium glycemic index, the abuse of honey is not recommended.
Compared to refined sugar and some artificial sweeteners it may be a better option, but don’t forget that excess added sugars cause several long-term health problems. It is not recommended to exceed 25-50 grams of honey per day.
Honey yes, honey no?
The glycemic index is a value for classifying the response of blood glucose levels after eating foods rich in carbohydrates. One of these is honey, which is made up of two sugars: glucose and fructose.
Honey has a medium GI, making it a valid alternative to sweeten our favorite dishes or drinks. Nonetheless, we must take into account the problems associated with a high sugar intake in the diet.