Is Honey Paleo?

Raw-Honey-300x199.pngRaw honey is a popular ingredient found in many Paleo recipes. But is it really Paleo, and how can you decide whether or not to include it in your diet?

Nutritional Value of Raw Honey

Serving Size: 1 Tablespoon (21 g)

  • Calories: 64
  • Total Fat: 0 g
  • Saturated fat: 0 g
  • Monounsaturated fat: <1 g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: < 1 g
  • Trans fat: 0 g
  • Lauric acid: 0 g
  • Carbohydrate: 17 g
  • Sugar: 17 g
  • Protein: 0 g
  • Sodium: 1 mg
  • Fiber: 0 g

Health Benefits of Raw Honey

Raw honey is considered a “functional food,” meaning that it is a food that exists in it’s natural state and has health benefits. Pasteurized honey is not a functional food and does not have these same benefits because it is refined at high heats and processed with chemicals, which destroys the nutrients that the honey contains. It also increases the sugar content. Raw honey contains many nutrients, including antioxidants, enzymes, vitamins and minerals including iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, selenium, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and vitamin C. Because of the antioxidants that it contains, raw honey is effective at countering free radical damage in the body.

Benefits of Honey

  • Promoting good bacteria colonization in the intestines by supporting bifidobacteria
  • Can be used to help naturally counter pollen allergies
  • Reduces homocysteine levels, which makes it beneficial for heart health and reducing inflammation
  • Great source for pre- and post-exercise energy because it supplies the liver with glycogen
  • Boosts immunity – Maintains pH balance within the body
  • Aids in weight loss because it helps the body release fat
  • Slows effects of aging by replenishing enzyme supply
  • Has been clinically shown to lower triglycerides, C-Reactive Protein and total cholesterol while increasing HDL (the good) cholesterol

Some clinical evidence even suggests that consuming 1-2 grams of honey daily can improve management of diabetes.

There have been over 4,000 medical studies done on healing effects of honey, and more than 1,000 of these studies looked at honey as a medical treatment, while more than 100 specifically related to the antioxidants that honey contains.

Where To Buy Raw Honey

Raw honey is best purchased from local, organic sources as even honey can be contaminated from pesticides and other chemicals. To achieve benefits of allergy relieve, it must be purchased from your immediate area. If not for allergy relief or if no local honey sources exist, raw, organic honey can be purchased from grocery stores such as Trader Joe’s, Earthfare, Costco, and Whole Foods, as well as from online retailers like Amazon.

Raw honey needs no refrigeration, but should be stored with a lid to maintain taste. If honey is exposed to air for long amounts of time, it will develop a fermented taste. If honey crystallizes, which is normal, it can still be used. To remove crystals, heat honey on low heat. If the honey does ferment due to air exposure, it can still be used
in baking as a sweetener.

Should I Eat Raw Honey? Is Raw Honey Paleo?

Raw honey can be a superfood for many people, and is a great alternative to eating refined sugar. However, just because it has amazing health benefits does not mean that it should be eaten in large amounts. Most studies show benefits from mere teaspoons daily, and it is most likely that by eating much larger quantities, the healthful benefits would be severely reduced. At the end of the day, raw honey is still sugar and should be eaten in moderation.

Raw honey may contain spores and toxins that can cause infant botulism, a gastrointestinal infection that can be life-threatening, so it should not be consumed by children under the age of one. Additionally, raw honey should not be consumed to prevent food poisoning, especially if an immune condition is present.

While studies have shown that raw honey has a low glycemic impact, with a GL of 10 for one tablespoon, it can still increase HbA1c, which is another blood test used to measure blood glucose. It is important for diabetics to discuss their honey intake with their doctor and/or nutritionist.

As for those who are simply eating a Paleo diet and want to know whether raw honey is a good addition, the answer is yes—again, in moderation. When we start to rely on sweets, even those as nutrient dense as raw honey, instead of Paleo staples like vegetables and healthy fats, we start to lose sight of what is best for our digestive systems and health as a whole.

Raw honey is great for the occasional Paleo indulgence, or consumed daily in small amounts, but should never become a primary source of vitamins or nutrients.

Aimee McNewAimee McNew

Aimee McNew, MNT, CNTP, is a certified nutritionist who specializes in women’s health, thyroid disorders, autoimmunity, and fertility. She is the author of The Everything Guide to Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis: A Healing Plan for Managing Symptoms Naturally (Simon & Schuster, 2016). Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.