Eating two tablespoons of honey can help balance blood sugar and improve cholesterol levels, according to a new study.
Experts say that replacing added sweeteners in the diet – such as sugar in tea – with honey can reduce the risks of diseases linked to excess sugar consumption, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Researchers from the University of Toronto analyzed the results of 18 trials involving more than 1,100 participants and found that raw honey from a single flower source had the most positive effect on the body.
They found that it reduced fasting blood glucose and the amount of low-density lipoprotein (or “bad cholesterol”) in the blood.
Honey consumption also increased high-density lipoproteins (“good” cholesterol) and showed signs of improving inflammation.
All study participants followed a generally healthy diet, with sugar accounting for 10 percent or less of their daily caloric intake.
The study found that honey from a single floral source “produced either neutral or beneficial effects on the body.”
Participants received an average of 40 grams, or about two tablespoons, of honey per day over the course of eight weeks.
Most of the benefits were seen in people who consumed raw honey from false acacia or acacia trees.
However, honey loses many of its health benefits when heated above 65 degrees Celsius.
Tauseef Khan, a senior researcher at the university’s medical school, said the results were surprising because honey “contains about 80 percent 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 equally by health and nutrition officials.
“We’re not saying you should start drinking honey if you’re currently avoiding sugar,” Khan said. “A meal like this is more about substitution – if you’re using table sugar, syrup or another sweetener, swapping those sugars for honey can reduce cardiometabolic risks.”