Is Honey OK on a Low-Carb Diet? Best Insights

In this article, we’ll explore the compatibility of honey with low-carb diets, examining its nutritional content and considering alternative sweeteners. By the end, you’ll know if honey is the right choice for your low-carb lifestyle.

Starting a low-carb diet often raises questions about including natural sweeteners like honey. While honey is known for its health benefits and natural sweetness, it’s essential to determine if it fits within a low-carb diet.

We’ll discuss honey’s suitability for low-carb diets, analyse its nutritional content, and suggest alternative sweeteners to help you make the best decision for your dietary plan.

Low-Carb Diets Overview

Low-carb diets focus on limiting the intake of carbohydrates to promote weight loss and better overall health. These diets restrict grains, legumes, fruits, bread, sweets, pasta, and starchy vegetables. 

However, some plans allow small amounts of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, depending on the daily carb limit Mayo Clinic.

Following a low-carb diet, we consume more non-starchy vegetables, meats, eggs, low-sugar fruits, dairy foods, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats. These foods help us feel satisfied and provide essential nutrients Verywell Fit.

Low-carb diets can have varying carb limits, typically ranging from 20 to 100 grams daily. The daily carb intake varies based on individual preferences, goals, and nutritional needs.

Here are some critical elements of a low-carb diet:

  • High in natural fats and protein: A low-carb diet emphasises consuming foods rich in natural fats and protein. 

Examples: include lean meats like chicken, turkey, and fish, as well as healthy fats from sources such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil.

  • Foods low in sugar and starch: The cornerstone of a low-carb diet is to minimise the intake of sugary and starchy foods. 

Opt for: low-sugar fruits like berries, and avoid high-sugar fruits like grapes and bananas. Replace starchy foods like white rice and potatoes with cauliflower or sweet potatoes.

  • Focus on non-starchy vegetables: Non-starchy vegetables are a crucial component of a low-carb diet as they are rich in fibre, vitamins, and minerals but low in carbohydrates. 

Examples: leafy greens (spinach, kale, arugula), cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts), and other vegetables like zucchini, bell peppers, and eggplant.

  • Reduced intake of grains and legumes: Grains and legumes are high in carbohydrates and should be consumed in moderation or replaced with low-carb alternatives. 

For example: substitute traditional pasta with zucchini noodles, spaghetti squash, or shirataki noodles, and limit the consumption of legumes like beans, lentils, and chickpeas.

Honey: Nutritional Profile

We often wonder about the nutritional aspects of honey, especially when considering its compatibility with a low-carb diet. This section will discuss the carbohydrate, sugar, and health benefits of honey.

Carbohydrate Content

Honey is a rich source of carbohydrates, predominantly in the form of sugar. One tablespoon (21 grams) of honey contains about 17 grams of carbs, a significant amount for those following a low-carb diet (Dr Becky Fitness). 

While there is no official range for a low-carb diet, it is generally accepted that the absolute upper limit is 125 grams per day.

Sugar Content

The sugar content in honey is relatively high. According to Verywell Fit, one tablespoon (21 grams) of honey provides 17 grams of sugar, the primary source of its calories. 

This high sugar content makes honey a less-than-ideal option for individuals on low-carb diets.

Health Benefits

Despite its high sugar content, honey offers several health benefits. For example, it is known for its natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties (Healthline). 

Honey has also been used for decades as a remedy for various ailments and is considered a healthier alternative to processed sugar due to its antioxidant content. 

However, it is essential to remember that these benefits may not outweigh the impact of its high carbohydrate and sugar content on a low-carb diet.

Honey in Low-Carb Diets

As we look at honey’s role in low-carb diets, it’s essential to understand its nutritional content and how it compares to other sweeteners. We’ll also discuss portion control and alternative options for those following a low-carb lifestyle.

Comparing Sweeteners

When compared to other sweeteners, honey is not considered a low-carb food. It contains about 17 grams of carbs per tablespoon, which is substantial for most low-carb dieters (source). In contrast, some popular low-carb sweeteners, such as stevia or erythritol, contain little to no carbohydrates.

Portion Control

While honey may not be the best choice for a low-carb diet, it’s possible to include it in small amounts, depending on your daily carb limit. 

For example, athletes following a Targeted Ketogenic Diet could consume a tablespoon of honey before or after their workout. This diet allows 20-50 grams of extra carbs daily during the workout window (source).

However, avoiding honey is generally recommended for those following a strict ketogenic diet, as it can interfere with ketosis (source).


If you’re looking for sweetener alternatives that align with a low-carb lifestyle, consider options like the following:

  • Stevia: A natural, zero-calorie sweetener derived from the Stevia plant.
  • Erythritol: A sugar alcohol with low calories and low carbs, making it keto-friendly.
  • Monk fruit sweetener: A natural sweetener with zero calories and carbs, suitable for low-carb diets.

 Low-Carb Diet Plan – Daily Limits

The following is an overview of the carbohydrate limits associated with some popular low-carb diets:

  1. Ketogenic diet: The ketogenic diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet designed to induce ketosis, a metabolic state where the body burns fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. Typically, the daily carb limit for a ketogenic diet ranges from 20 to 50 grams of net carbs (total carbs minus fibre) per day.
  2. Low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diet: An LCHF diet is a more moderate approach to low-carb eating, with a daily carb limit that usually falls between 50 to 150 grams of net carbs daily. This diet emphasises whole, unprocessed foods and focuses on healthy fats and proteins.
  3. Atkins diet: The Atkins diet is a phased approach to low-carb eating. In the initial phase, the daily carb limit is set at 20 grams of net carbs per day. As individuals progress through the subsequent stages, their daily carb allowance gradually increases, reaching up to 100 grams of net carbs per day in the maintenance phase.
  4. Paleo diet: While the Paleo diet has no specific carbohydrate limit, it generally encourages a lower carb intake by emphasising whole, unprocessed foods and eliminating grains, legumes, and refined sugars. Daily carb intake on a Paleo diet can vary significantly depending on individual food choices.

Thus, incorporating honey into a ketogenic or Atkins (initial phase) diet may not be feasible, as it could contribute a significant portion of the daily carb allowance. 

Moderate honey consumption may be acceptable for other low-carb diets, such as LCHF and Paleo, depending on the individual’s daily carb intake and personal dietary goals.

Sweet Truths: Healthy Sugar Alternatives!

Dive into this lively video with Dr Paul Saladino as he untangles myths around fruit and honey fructose. He differentiates our daily sugars and warns about the high-fructose corn syrup trap.

He debunks fears, exposes the keto diet’s potential harm, and endorses honey and fruit as healthier, tasty sugar alternatives. A fun, knowledge-packed watch!


In this article, we have discussed whether honey is suitable for a low-carb diet. Our research found that honey is not a low-carb food as it contains about 17 grams of carbs per tablespoon, which is significant for most low-carb dieters.

While honey may have some health benefits, such as its natural enzymes, proteins, vitamins, and minerals, it does not align with a low-carb lifestyle

Consuming honey on a low-carb diet might prevent or hinder your progress in achieving ketosis and maintaining a state of fat-burning while on a diet.

For those pursuing a low-carb or ketogenic diet, other alternatives are available, such as coconut sugar, which has a lower glycemic index and is absorbed more slowly than regular sugar. Choosing the suitable sweetener for your specific dietary needs and goals is essential.

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