Can Honey Make You Fat?

Above:  A small spoon of honey.  But can honey make you fat?

Many people are concerned about their diet: nutritional balance; environmental impact; calorie content.  Unfortunately there is a lot of incorrect information available that can mislead people into making poor decisions regarding their diet.  One question frequently asked is: “Can eating honey make me fat?”  So, let’s have a look at whether or not honey should be considered a dietary hazard for anyone trying to lose weight.

Will honey make me put on weight?  Summary answer:

  • Recommended average daily calorie allowance: 2,000 calories per day for women and 2,500 per day for men (depending on factors such as age, activity level etc).
  • Honey provides 304 calories per 100gms.
  • A jar offering a 1lb of honey (about 454gms) therefore provides about 1380 calories, however, a teaspoon of honey here and there is unlikely in itself to make you fat.
  • If you consume large amounts of honey on top of your recommended requirement, you may well put on weight.

Now for the detail:

Background information worth knowing

The first thing to consider is the components of food that we use for energy.  In simple terms, to provide energy we can use:

  • carbohydrates (sugars and starches), 
  • fats and 
  • proteins. 


The body tends to use carbohydrates for the its immediate energy needs, while fats and proteins tend to be more of a long-term energy source.  However, the human body is capable of switching between these three components for energy if necessary, so that, if we eliminate carbohydrates from our diet, the body will use fats for energy, and if there is no carbohydrate or fat in the diet then the body will utilize protein for energy. 

Being a sugary, high carbohydrate food, honey is likely to be converted into energy more quickly than, for example, high protein foods.


What happens when we reduce the calories we consume?

In times of significant calorie reduction in the diet, the body will utilize its stores:

  • firstly by using carbohydrate in the form of a chemical known as glycogen, which is stored in the liver and in muscles; 
  • then by utilizing fat stores; and finally 
  • by breaking down protein to use for energy. 

The important thing to remember from this is to consider all dietary intake when calculating overall calorie consumption  – i.e. calories from all sources.  For example, if you ate nothing but pure 100% protein powder but still consumed your normal daily calorie intake, then you would not lose weight – although this is not to be recommended because of the absence of all the other important nutrients required. 

 

What happens when we consume too many calories?

The next thing to consider is what happens when we consume excess calories – i.e. take in more calories than we use in a day.  In this circumstance, some excess calories are converted to glycogen for generating immediate energy when the body needs it, but when the body has stored about only 500gms of glycogen (in the liver and muscles), the remaining excess calories are converted to fat. 

Put simply – if you consume more calories than you use, then you will store fat!

This leads to the question: 

How many calories does honey provide, and if I eat too much will it make me get fat?

First let's remind ourselves of the recommended daily calorie intake. 

The NHS in the United Kingdom recommends:

  • 2,000 calories per day for women and 
  • 2,500 per day for men;


although it must be pointed out that these are ‘average’ figures, and the exact requirement varies depending on age and normal level of physical activity. 

The next question to consider is how many calories are in honey?  According to nutritional data, honey provides 304 calories per 100gms, so to generate your entire daily calorie intake from honey would require between 700gms and 800gms of honey each day. 

A jar offering 1lb of honey (about 454gms) therefore provides about 1380 calories – over half the daily requirement for either a man or a woman.  In other words, you’d need to eat a whole 1lb jar, then start on another in order to provide your full daily allowance of calories.  Who would do that?  For one thing, it may well make you ill.

Most jars of honey (in the UK) are 340gms so that a single jar of honey would contain around 1033 calories – about half the daily recommended intake for a woman and a little less than half for a man. 

 

Verdict:  Honey won't make you fat if you eat it in moderation

A spoon of honey here and there in itself is unlikely to make you put on weight.A spoon of honey here and there in itself is unlikely to make you put on weight.


Since nobody is likely to eat honey and nothing else, it’s a question of how many calories you are eating overall  and how many you are adding to your diet. 

It’s also a question of input of calories consumed versus output of energy (exercise to burn off the calories).  This will vary for individuals.

I expect that the addition of a teaspoon of honey to porridge, or a small amount of honey spread on bread or toast is unlikely in itself to make you fat.  However, if you consume large amounts of honey on top of your recommended requirement, you may well put on weight.

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