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Does Honey Break a Fast?

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Kasparas Aleknavičius, MD December 18, 2022

Intermittent fasting periods can be difficult, especially when you’re just starting out. A good way to stay on track is to satisfy those sugar cravings every once in a while. There are numerous of nutritive and non-nutritive sweeteners you can add to your drink while fasting. But is honey one of them?

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Does Honey Break a Fast?

Yes, consuming honey will break your fast. In fact, even a teaspoon of honey will prevent your body from reaching ketosis and stop you from reaping other benefits of intermittent fasting.

So how does honey break a fast exactly? Let’s start from the beginning.

Intermittent fasting is defined by periods of eating and fasting. This means that you can’t consume any calories during your fasting period. When you’re in a fasted state, your insulin levels drop allowing your body to burn stored fat for energy.

Honey, on the other hand, is a natural sweetener that’s high in sugar content and, in turn, calories. These natural sugars are the main reason why honey drives up your insulin levels and immediately breaks your fast.

Honey may be out of the picture for your fasting windows, but you can definitely incorporate it into your diet when you’re eating. To make things easier, check out the DoFasting app specializing in intermittent fasting.

Successfully track your calorie intake by logging in your meals and drinks. And when you’re out of ideas of how to substitute honey, have a look at the Meals section for inspiration.

4 Unique Health Benefits of Honey

Honey has been used to treat ailments for centuries and for good reason. Nowadays, however, it’s most commonly used to calm a cough. Honey is rich in essential nutrients and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Adding honey to your tea or even eating it in small quantities can improve your overall health.

1. Rich in health-promoting nutrients

A tablespoon of honey averages around 64 calories and contains:

  • Carbohydrates: 17.3g
  • Sugars: 17.2g
  • Fructose: 8.59g
  • Glucose: 7.52g
  • Protein: 0g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Fat: 0g

As you can see, honey is mostly made up of sugars and doesn’t offer any dietary value. Funnily enough, honey has more calories than white sugar.

It also has traces of potassium, fluoride, calcium, and sodium. However, people generally consume honey in such small amounts that it doesn’t contribute to their daily intake of essential nutrients.

It’s important to note that honey will lose antioxidant and antibacterial benefits if you add it to hot beverages like tea and coffee. This is because heat over 98 F° starts reducing its nutritional value.

You can preserve its health benefits by letting your cup of tea cool down a bit and only then adding honey.

2. Rich in antioxidants

Natural honey is rich in flavonoids, phytochemicals, and vitamin C, all of which have antioxidant abilities. Natural honey is defined as a type of honey that hasn’t been processed or its processing has been minimal. This type of honey generally doesn’t have any additives such as coloring, artificial flavor, or added sugars.

Antioxidants minimize the effects of free radical damage and protect your body from inflammation. They’re crucial to a healthy body as free radicals increase the risk of heart disease, cataract, and even cancer.

It’s important to note that highly processed honey, the one you usually find in stores, has a much lower antioxidant content than raw honey.

3. May improve heart health

Honey’s effects on the heart are directly linked to its antioxidant content.

Some studies have shown that antioxidants found in honey, specifically ascorbic acid, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, and thiamine, may improve cholesterol levels. High cholesterol has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease meaning that taking honey instead of other sweeteners like sugar can actually promote heart health.

Another factor that contributes to a healthy heart is propolis. Propolis, often referred to as bee glue, is used to build beehives and can be found in raw honey. Its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory abilities can prevent certain heart diseases.

4. Better for blood sugar levels than regular sugar

Honey is a healthier alternative to sugar, especially when it comes to managing blood sugar levels.

Honey has a slightly lower glycemic index (GI) than sugar. GI measures how quickly different types of foods will raise your blood sugar levels. Eating foods with a low value of GI will not affect your blood glucose much. A high value of GI, on the other hand, will raise your blood sugar and spike insulin production.

Scientists have found that honey can raise adiponectin levels. High adiponectin levels are linked to improved insulin sensitivity and reduced inflammation.

One of the main advantages honey has over sugar is that honey has nutritional value.

In addition, honey is sweeter than sugar meaning you don’t have to use as much to achieve the same level of sweetness.

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Does Honey Have Any Health Risks?

Honey is generally safe to consume.

It’s important to remember that honey is high in sugar, therefore, you should consume it in moderate amounts. Furthermore, some brands contain added sugar making them a complete sugar bomb. What’s more, added sugar is bad for your overall health.

However, it’s a risk factor for individuals with bee pollen allergies. It also shouldn’t be given to infants as it may cause a condition called infant botulism.

Alternatives That Will Make Your Hot Beverage Tasty During Fasting

Abstaining from food for long periods of time can be challenging. Healthy drinks can help you make this period more bearable. While you can’t add honey to your tea, there are plenty of alternatives that will make your drink more flavorful and won’t break your fast.

Please note that most of these honey alternatives contain calories. A general consensus is that you can consume up to 50 calories per fasting period without getting out of a fasted state.

Almond milk

Almond milk is a nondairy milk alternative. A glass of unsweetened almond milk contains 39 calories making it safe to drink while fasting.

It’s packed with vitamin E which greatly contributes to maintaining eye health and strengthening the immune system.

If you’re considering adding almond milk to your beverage during a fast, make sure to buy its unsweetened version. Only unsweetened almond milk will not break your fast. This is because other versions of almond milk are often infused with added sugars which will most definitely break your fast.

If you have any type of nut allergy, however, you want to stay away from almond milk.

Coffee creamer

This is a tricky one. Coffee creamer is not exactly good for you. Most varieties tend to be high in added sugars and artificial additives.

Whether a coffee creamer will break your fast depends directly on the type of coffee creamer you’ve purchased. The variety is huge but when you’re looking for a fasting-safe option, opt for zero-calorie or sugar-free coffee creamers. A tablespoon of sugar-free coffee creamer contains around 11 calories.

In addition, you should track how much creamer you add to your drink. Instead of just splashing it without any consideration, measure no more than one tablespoon of coffee creamer into your cup.

Furthermore, you should always check the nutritional value of the brand you’ve bought to ensure you don’t go over the allowed 50-calorie per fast rule.

Natural sweeteners

Natural sweeteners are a good option for their low-calorie content. Some of the most popular natural sweeteners during intermittent fasting include:

Opting for natural sweeteners instead of sugar or artificial sweeteners will give you that sweet taste without an insulin spike. Moreover, most of them have zero calories so you have no risk of accidentally breaking your fast.

Keep in mind that all of these sweeteners have a specific aftertaste that’s different from sugar.

Lemon and mint

Lemon is a great source of vitamin C that’s crucial for proper immune function and healthy-looking skin. Its acidic properties also promote digestion.

A glass of lemon water contains up to 9 calories. If you allow yourself to consume 50 calories per fast, then adding lemon into the mix is A-OK.

You can squeeze a little bit of lemon juice into herbal tea or make lemon water. While you’re fasting and can’t enjoy honey lemon water, a cult favorite, opt for plain lemon water or lemon tea instead.

Two leaves of the common mint contain less than 1 calorie making it a perfect addition to any drink during your fasting window. Aside from giving you that fresh breath, mint can also soothe your stomach and help with indigestion.

Cinnamon

Cinnamon is a spice often sprinkled on hot beverages like coffee and tea. It can be used in small quantities during a fasting window since a teaspoon of cinnamon only contains around 6 calories.

Interestingly, cinnamon has a similar effect on blood glucose as intermittent fasting. Numerous studies have shown that cinnamon can lower blood sugar levels. This means that consuming small amounts of cinnamon will not cause an insulin spike and may even reduce insulin resistance.

Cinnamon has been shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties. Consistent consumption of cinnamon may also help with lowering blood pressure in the short term.

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Does Honey Break a Fast: Final Thoughts

For some people, the most challenging aspect of intermittent fasting is fighting off sugar cravings. Unfortunately, you can’t have honey while fasting as it will break your fast and stop your body from burning fat due to its high sugar content.

Not all is lost, however. You can consume honey during your eating window as long as it’s in moderation. Honey provides a myriad of health benefits including better blood sugar management and heart disease prevention.

Author

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Kasparas Aleknavičius, MD
  • Head of Medical Affairs at Kilo Health
  • Medical Doctor at Vilnius University, Lithuania
  • Partnering with the EU-funded Young50 and EUPAP projects

Kasparas Aleknavicius is a medical doctor that graduated from Vilnius University, working as head of medical affairs at Kilo Health. After nearly 5 years in the industry, Kasparas focuses on digital health and is looking for innovative ways to help people lead healthy lifestyles through digital health and wellness platforms.

You can find Kasparas on LinkedIn and follow his latest research on Medium.

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