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Q
Is Honey Healthy?

Is honey good or bad for type-2 diabetics? I have heard both.

A
Answer (Published 7/17/2009)

As far as carbohydrates are concerned, honey isn't any better or worse for you than sugar, whether or not you have type 2 diabetes. Honey contains fructose, glucose and water plus other sugars as well as trace enzymes, minerals, amino acids and a wide range of B vitamins. The amount of these micronutrients varies depending on where the honey comes from. In general, darker honeys contain more vitamins than lighter ones and also provide more trace minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium.

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If you consult the glycemic index, you'll see that honey and table sugar rank very close together, honey at 62 and sugar at 64. As I'm sure you know, the glycemic index measures how easily the body turns carbohydrates into glucose, provoking an insulin response. (You can view this list at www.mendosa.com/gilists.htm.) A newer and more practical concept is glycemic load, a measure of how many grams of carbohydrate a normal serving contains. For example, carrots rank high on the glycemic index, but the amount of carbohydrates you would actually consume in a normal serving is pretty low, only 6.2 grams. To calculate glycemic load you multiply a food's ranking on the glycemic index by the actual amount of carbohydrates ingested.

Although it offers no nutritional advantage over sugar, honey does have some useful and unique properties. It promotes wound healing, for example. Raw honey is an excellent first aid measure for burns, even very severe ones. (I wouldn't advise treating a serious wound with the honey you get at the supermarket or health food store. You need a medicinal honey for that, and someone with expertise to treat you.)

Individuals with diabetes should consume honey in moderation, if at all. If you are not diabetic and like honey, I recommend raw varieties, which I much prefer for their flavors and textures.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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