health logo Unprocessed raw honey, especially from a single floral source, may improve blood sugar control and cholesterol levels, according to a new study published in Nutrition Reviews.

Although honey is about 80% sugar, consuming around 2 tablespoons of raw honey per day may reduce blood sugar and LDL—the “bad” cholesterol.

Amna Ahmed, MSc, a coauthor of the study and a medical student at The University of Toronto, told Verywell in an email that, unlike table sugar, honey has a “complex composition” of sugars, vitamins, minerals, and other bioactive substances.

But more evidence is needed to support adding honey to your diet if you’re currently trying to reduce sugar intake.

How hard is it to find raw honey?

raw honey
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The study suggests that the health-promoting probiotics and enzymes in raw honey may be destroyed during processing. Therefore, the researchers said it’s best to consume raw, unprocessed honey.

However, finding raw honey is more complicated than it seems. The phrase “raw honey” is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so it may be difficult to determine exactly what type of honey you’re buying.

“Some consider raw honey to have absolutely no processing, while other producers will allow for minimal processing, such as mild warming to get the honey into the bottles,” said Geb Bastian, PhD, RDN, LN, an assistant professor in nutritional sciences at South Dakota State University who was not involved in the study.

Additional information about processing may be listed on the bottle, but this is not required by law. The FDA leaves it up to the manufacturers to ensure that the information on honey labels is accurate.

To take it a step further, the researchers noted that raw honey from a single floral source, especially Robinia and clover honey, seemed to offer the most benefits. This may be specified on the label if the producer believes it to be the primary source of the honey. However, as with the label “raw,” the FDA doesn’t require floral information to be listed on honey labels.

Some experts recommend buying honey from a local bee farmer so you can speak with the producer directly about the processing technique and floral source.

Should you use honey instead of sugar?

raw honey
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Dietary guidelines recommended limiting sugar intake to 10% of daily calories, which includes honey, said Emma Laing, PhD, RDN, director of dietetics at the University of Georgia.

She recommends using honey in place of other sweeteners only if you enjoy the taste or want variety in your diet. Since honey is sweeter than table sugar, you might be able to consume less honey to enjoy the same level of sweetness.

“Sweeteners are often vilified or feared, but consuming small amounts of sugar or honey should not cause harm among most people,” Laing said.

But more studies are needed to confirm if consuming small amounts of raw honey in place of sugar offers health benefits. Laing also warned that honey isn’t a magic pill, though it could be incorporated into a nutritious eating pattern complete with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

“It’s important to consider that positive health outcomes don’t hinge on the intake of a single food, such as honey,” she said.

A new meta-analysis suggests that raw, unprocessed honey—especially ones from a single floral source—might improve blood sugar and cholesterol control. However, it might be hard to verify the origin and manufacturing process of the honey you buy at a grocery store.

This story first appeared on

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