What Food Group Is Honey In?

Written On: by Theo The Beekeeper

Honey is a natural food item that many people rely on as a healthy alternative to sugar. This ancient old liquid gold is delicious and chock full of nutritional benefits. But, first, it’s essential to understand the restrictions – knowing which food group it belongs to is the perfect start.

According to the FDA, honey belongs to the group of carbohydrates and categorizes as sugar and a nutritive sweetener. Honey’s sugar derives from flowers’ nectar and tastes sweeter than refined sugar. Honey also contains more nutrients and a lower glycemic index.

The web is full of peculiar opinions and rumors that place honey into incorrect categories. So, to clear the air for good, here’s the food group honey belongs to and why.

What Food Group Is Honey In?

There’s great confusion about which food category honey belongs to.

A rumor across the internet claims that the FDA classifies honey as raw meat. 

If you were part of the gullible group of people, the fog has finally lifted. Honey is not classified as a protein or raw meat. Instead, it’s a carbohydrate with additional vitamins and minerals. 

Honey is a simple sugar. While the season, environment, and nectar source influence honey’s composition, the primary nutritional constituents divert back to carbohydrates.  

The UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the USA classify honey as a sweetener and sugar. And therefore, we can confidently say that honey is included in the carbohydrates group.

Honey is also categorized as a nutritive sweetener. 

According to the FDA, a nutritive sweetener is a caloric sweetener or sugar that provides energy in the form of carbs. These nutritive sweeteners are present in foods like fresh fruit and honey. 

Other nutritive sugars include fructose in fresh fruit, maple syrup, agave, and high fructose corn syrup. In comparison, non-nutritive sweeteners are zero- or- low-calorie alternatives to nutritive sweeteners. Examples include stevia, aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose.

While sucrose or table sugar contains primary carbohydrate atoms extracted from sugar beets and cane, honey’s composition differs slightly.

Instead, honey is derived from bees that turn flower nectar into a natural, sweet liquid. Therefore, it does not categorize as food but as a type of sugar under the carbohydrates group.

Is Honey Part of The Food Pyramid?

There are essentially five main groups in the food pyramid. The US Department of Agriculture introduced the Food Guide Pyramid in 1992, tweaking it in 2005 to create a more user-friendly model for readers. 

The five food groups consist of categories with the same biological classifications or similar nutritional properties. The food groups are then given a recommended dietary allowance to ensure a healthy and well-balanced diet.

After scanning the vertical list of recommendations, we noticed that honey is not featured as part of the pyramid. This is because honey’s unique characteristics prevent it from it strictly belonging to a specific food group.

In addition, most people exclude this delicious sweetener from their daily diet and only consume it occasionally and in limited amounts.

Although the Food Guide Pyramid does not include honey, we can imply that honey falls under the carbohydrates group.

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According to the FDA, honey is an “added sugar” as it isn’t naturally present in grains, fruits, vegetables, milk, and other natural foods. Instead, honey falls in the same category as table sugar, corn syrup, molasses, and other sweeteners.

The Food Pyramid incorporates visualization of sugars at the tip of the pyramid. Therefore, it indicates that sugar plays a minimal role in your diet. 

Yes, even honey needs to be used sparingly.

What Is Honey?

Honey is an organic, natural sugar or sweetener produced by bees. The tireless working bees suck up nectar and regurgitate it in their special belly – aka honey sac. 

The bees then spit the honey into their perfect hexagon honeycombs. Next, the bees flap their tiny wings to allow the water to evaporate and thicken. Lastly, worker bees cap the honey with beeswax.

Honey has a thick, viscous, and gooey texture and serves as an alternative sweetener without any unhealthy additives.

Honey is a famous sweetening agent for foods, baked goods, and beverages. However, honey is frequently used as a moisturizer, lip balm, and natural cough remedy.

Why Is Honey A Carbohydrate?

Strictly speaking, honey falls under the carbohydrate classification because it is a form of sugar. 

While honey isn’t a food carbohydrate, it’s a type of simple sugar, allowing it to fall under the carbohydrate category. 

The sugars in honey are ‘free sugars’ as they occur naturally. 

What Are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are the total sugar building blocks. Carbs can further be classified into three groups based on the total sugar units present in the molecules. 

The three groups of carbohydrates include:

  • Monosaccharides: Monosaccharides are single-unit sugars consisting of glucose, fructose, and galactose. They are often found in honey, fruit, veggies, and glucose-fructose syrups. 
  • Disaccharides: Disaccharides are double-unit sugars known are sucrose (table sugar), lactose (milk or dairy sugars), and maltose (malt sugar). 
  • Polysaccharides: Polyols or polysaccharides are complex carbs, primarily found in starch, including root veggies and whole grains.

Is Honey Healthy?

First, by linking honey back to its carbohydrate food group, carbs are essential to our diet. Most importantly, carbs provide energy, helping our bodies function. 

Alongside fat and protein, carbs are one of three essential macronutrients in our diet, with the primary function of providing energy to our bodies. 

Our bodies break down the sugars into glucose and convert them into energy sources to get our muscles, brain, and body cells up and running. 

Honey consists of natural, simple sugars, namely fructose, and glucose. Although natural, your body can’t differentiate between natural and added sugars. As a result, your body processes different sugars in the same way to release energy.

However, natural sugars have a one-up as they provide vitamins, minerals, and occasionally fiber.

Pharmacognosy Research explains that the compounds in honey contain antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer effects. As a result, honey can:

  • Honey can kill harmful bacteria and fungi due to its natural antiseptic properties and hydrogen peroxide content.
  • Medical-grade, raw honey can speed up wound recovery and tissue regeneration thanks to its germ-killing properties.
  • Honey can help treat digestive issues like diarrhea and stomach ulcers. In addition, honey nourishes healthy bacteria by serving as a potent prebiotic.
  • Honey can help soothe a sore throat. Add some honey to your hot lemon-infused tea for the best results. In addition, honey helps to suppress a cough.
  • Raw honey contains phytonutrients with excellent antioxidant, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. As a result, honey can boost your immune system.
  • Honey’s anti-inflammatory properties help reduce swelling and inflammation in the body.
  • The flavonoids and polyphenols in raw honey act as powerful antioxidants to help prevent cell damage and nervous system complications.
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However, before gulping down gallons of this liquid gold, it’s essential to note that having too much honey can be unhealthy. Honey can quickly equal consuming hundreds of calories without even realizing it. So, restrict your intake to ensure a healthy weight and blood sugar levels.

Honey Components and Health Benefits

Honey’s primary nutritional components vary slightly depending on the nectar source. However, on average, one tablespoon of honey contains:

  • Calories: 64
  • Carbohydrates: 15 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Protein: 0.3 grams
  • Copper: 1% of DV
  • Riboflavin: 1% of DV

Honey is primarily composed of the following ingredients:

Sugar

The two primary forms of sugar in honey are fructose and glucose. However, it also has a tiny amount of maltose. Honey can consist of 80 to 90% sugars.

Water

Honey contains around 15 to 18% of water content.

Minerals

Honey contains about 4% of minerals. Some trace minerals in honey include potassium, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, selenium, phosphorus, and sodium.

B vitamins

B vitamins are crucial for the healthy development of body cells and the nervous system. These trace elements include riboflavin, niacin, thiamine, pyridoxine, and pantothenic acid.   

Enzymes

There are traces of enzymes present in honey sugars. However, most of these enzymes break down in amino acids. They also help convert starch into sugars.

Protein 

Honey includes tiny amounts of proteins (around 0,3 to 1%). These proteins are made up of 18 different types of amino acids. The amino acids are critical for proper cell function.

Antioxidants

Honey contains plenty of antioxidants that protect your body’s cells from free radical damage. As a result, antioxidants can protect your body from the adverse effects of stress, a poor diet, or unhealthy lifestyle choices that may impact your health over a long period. 

These powerful antioxidants can also help prevent certain cancers and the development of heart diseases.

Can You Replace Sugar With Honey?

Honey is often promoted for its health benefits and is commonly used as a healthier alternative to table sugar made from sweet beets or sugar cane.

However, to achieve a genuinely beneficial swap, you’ll have to consider the process the honey undergoes before its sold.

We recommend only using raw, unheated, and unpasteurized honey. Otherwise, you won’t reap the range of benefits like antioxidants and minerals.

Raw, organic honey contains beneficial flavonoids and polyphenols (antioxidants) that help prevent cell damage. Honey can even offer protective effects for treating health conditions like diabetes.

Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity research show that honey can help manage diabetes by regulating high blood sugar. In addition, it can help protect your organs from the numerous complications of diabetes by regulating high blood sugar levels.

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Not all sugars have an equally high glycemic index. Here’s a brief overview of the glycemic index of some sugars to give you a perspective of why honey is a better option.

SugarsGlycemic Index (GI) Value
Sucrose (Table Sugar)65
Corn Syrup90
Maltose105
Agave nectar10
Caramel60
Honey50

Now that you have a slight idea of the GI’s of different forms of sugar, picture getting on a roller-coaster with many ups and downs. This is a simple way to explain your blood sugar and insulin levels throughout the day.

They reach a high after a snack or meal and drop later on. Learning how to control your blood sugar helps pave a roller coaster with gentle ups and downs instead of a “hang on tight” roller coaster that negatively influences your health.

So, by using healthier sweeteners like honey and agave, you can strategically keep your blood sugar under control.

Even if you don’t have diabetes, organic honey is an excellent alternative to table sugar to help keep your weight under control. In addition, low GI diets are linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, and other conditions.

How Much Honey Can I Eat Per Day?

The MyPyramid guidelines do not include a specific restriction for added sugar or honey. However, they encourage individuals to be mindful of their consumption.

The American Health Association (AHA) suggests limiting added sugar consumption, including honey. According to the AHA’s recommendations, women should limit their added sugar intake to 100 calories (6 teaspoons or 24 grams) per day. In comparison, most men can consume up to 150 calories (9 teaspoons or 36 grams) per day of added sugars.

Honey is a healthier option that allows us to avoid refined or table sugar’s unhealthy and empty calories. However, despite the “sugar upgrade,” copious amounts of honey are still harmful.

Even though honey offers nutrients and health benefits, the nutrient quantity is less than one percent of the recommended amount needed in a day.

Therefore, treat honey equally to other added sugars by only including limited amounts into your diet.

Women should limit their honey intake to a maximum of 6 teaspoons or 24 grams per day. At the same time, men can enjoy up to 9 teaspoons or 36 grams at most. Note that if you consume other forms of added sugar, reduce your honey intake.

Again, if you feel like you have to ditch the gooey, yummy liquid gold for good – don’t; however, treat it as other types of added sugar and limit your portions throughout the day.

Conclusion

Honey is a form of natural, added sugar and falls into the carbohydrate category. Honey is a healthier alternative to table sugar. However, the nutrients are sparse. MyPyramid does not include specific restrictions regarding added sugar intake. However, it suggests crafting them into your diet in limited amounts.

Resources

https://www.livestrong.com/article/456858-what-is-honey-considered-on-the-food-pyramid/

https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/honey-vs-sugar#benefits-of-honey

https://www.eufic.org/en/healthy-living/article/the-health-benefits-of-honey-and-its-nutritional-value

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15416-carbohydrates https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/317728#Benefits-of-honey

Author

Theo The Beekeeper

When I was a kid, my dad used to keep bees around the small farm we had, and I absolutely loved helping him. In the past few years, we’ve picked up the hobby again, and I’ve been doing a lot more research. This website is the accumulation of things I’ve learned along the way! You can learn more about my journey and the resources I’ve developed on my about page.

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