Raw honey has been used in traditional medicine practices around the world for thousands of years. Though its health advantages weren’t described in words like low glycemic index or prebiotic, it was used topically and eaten from the comb as a form of natural food medicine. Now, with the help of modern science, the wellness benefits of raw honey are explicitly known—some of which have come to light for people with diabetes and those keeping a close eye on their blood sugar levels.
The best source of raw honey is honeycomb. Unlike liquid honey which can be adulterated in ways that compromise its properties, the honey within the cell walls of honeycomb can’t be tampered with. This makes it a superior natural sweetener. It’s even recommended by many registered dietitians and nutritionists.
Before we dig into the details of what makes honeycomb a great alternative to sugar, let’s break down the basics of what diabetes is.
Diabetes & Blood Glucose Explained
When you eat carbohydrates, your body breaks them down into simple sugars (glucose). Glucose is the primary energy source in your body. Once the glucose is in the blood, insulin helps the cells absorb the glucose directly from the bloodstream.
For people with diabetes or prediabetes, their body isn’t producing enough insulin or isn’t responding to insulin.
- Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the body can’t make enough insulin.
- Type 2 diabetes is when the body doesn’t respond properly to insulin.
- Prediabetes is when blood sugar levels are higher than normal, and the body is starting to be resistant to insulin.
Through a balanced diet and careful monitoring of blood glucose levels, people with diabetes or insulin resistance can continue to eat foods they enjoy. Finding healthier alternatives to sugar can help people with diabetes have more flexibility and freedom in their diet.
3 Reasons Why Honeycomb is Better Than Sugar
You may have heard that “sugar is sugar.” But not all sugary foods are processed by the body in the same way. Here’s what makes honeycomb the best sweetener for health and wellness.
Honeycomb Has a Low Glycemic Index
Honey is made up of mostly simple sugars, which is why the golden nectar is so sweet. But when you eat honeycomb, you’re also eating water, bits of bee pollen, propolis, and royal jelly. These add-ins from the bees bring balance to the glucose and fructose, giving honeycomb a low glycemic index (GI) of 35-55. In comparison, processed sugars can have a GI of up to 110. Yikes!
As a low GI food, honeycomb won’t spike blood sugar levels as sharply as many other sweeteners. It will boost your blood glucose, but the ups and downs aren’t as dramatic as with sugar.
Anyone can use honeycomb to replace other sweeteners in drinks and recipes. Diabetics can keep pre-portioned honeycomb on hand as a snack for when their blood sugar goes low.
Honey vs. Sugar: Sweetness Matters
Although we each have a different taste experience, most people consider the honey in honeycomb to be far sweeter than sugar. In fact, before the agricultural means of mass-producing sugar became available, honey was the only sweetener. The first known beekeepers of ancient Greece were the first to understand the cultivation of the sweet nectar.
What do the Greeks have to teach us today? That if you want to add something sweet to your favorite salad, sandwich, or dessert, you don’t have to use much of a honeycomb. In fact, you can use a lot less than you would cane sugar. This is a huge win for people with diabetes—less sweetener with a lower GI means less insulin is needed to balance blood sugar.
Honeycomb: A Sweetener With Benefits
Whereas sugar’s main job is to make something taste sweet, honeycomb has a wide range of compounds. Here are some of its components.
- Honey polyphenols – Polyphenol is a generic term for plant-based antioxidants. These antioxidants protect cells, helping to prevent health challenges such as cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease, and diabetes.(1) Antioxidants in beeswax have also been found to help improve insulin resistance in people with fatty liver disease, which is closely linked to prediabetes.(2)
- B-vitamins – Vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B8, and B9 are all found in pollen and royal jelly, which is a source of food for adult queen bees and their larvae.(3) Pollen and royal jelly are found packed between the cells walls in honeycomb.
- Amino acids and digestive enzymes – Amino acids and digestive enzymes slow the speed of sugar digestion. This keeps the blood glucose levels from spiking as sharply.
- Fiber and vitamin A – Also included in the honeycomb is the edible beeswax that makes up the hexagons. While very low in nutrients, it does come with trace amounts of fiber and vitamin A.
In comparison to sugar, which contains nothing but itself, honeycomb brings more to the table.
Honeycomb & Diabetes
Everybody needs a sweet treat now and then. If you’re going to use a sweetener, why not use one that won’t strap you into a blood sugar rollercoaster? Honeycomb’s low GI, antioxidants, and nutrients make it an ideal low blood sugar snack or everyday sweetener. Swap sugar for honeycomb to give your body the balanced energy it craves.