The Honey Diet: It’s More Than Just Swapping Honey For Sugar

Just eat honey instead of sugar, and drink a teaspoon of honey (some say a few tablespoons of honey is better) mixed with hot water before bed – and lose three pounds a week?

Sign us up.

That’s the way the Honey Diet, the brainchild of nutritionist Mike McInnes, is being pitched. It’s a seductive, seemingly easy way to drop weight easily and painlessly.

However, as with most things that seem too good to be true, there’s more to the honey diet than just honey. Don’t plan on dropping a few dress sizes in the next month or two just yet.

Let’s take a closer look at what this dieting plan will and won’t do, and the science behind the story.

Isn’t Honey Just Another Form of Sugar?

That’s absolutely correct. Honey basically is sugar. Almost 100% of honey’s content is either glucose and fructose (two forms of sugar) or water, with only slight traces of vitamins, minerals, enzymes and proteins making up the difference.

But when McInnes – and scientists – typically compare honey and sugar, they’re referring to “refined” sugar, the table sugar you put in your coffee, or use for cooking and baking.

One other important fact: when discussing honey’s health benefits, it’s important to realize that most of those benefits are contained in raw honey, not the stuff you grab from the supermarket shelf. Raw honey hasn’t been pasteurized or heavily filtered, so it retains the healthy benefits contributed by tiny bits of bee glue (propolis), beeswax and pollen that are in natural honey.

So in that sense, the arguments made for substituting honey for sugar are good ones. Raw honey is healthier than refined sugar, for reasons we’ll explore shortly.

The Reasons for Replacing Sugar with Honey

There’s really no argument when it comes to one of the foundational beliefs behind the honey diet: the health benefits of honey.

That doesn’t mean you should make honey your new go-to snack, however.

Honey actually contains more calories per teaspoon than refined sugar, although when you consider the fact that you normally use less of it (because it’s sweeter than sugar), the calorie numbers are comparable.

And eating a lot of honey, just like eating a lot of sugar, can cause weight gain. It can also increase blood sugar levels, which is a particular problem for diabetics – although a similar amount of sugar would increase blood sugar even more.

Bottom line: the benefits of honey do make it healthier than refined sugar. But it’s only good for you when eaten in moderation.

With that in mind, let’s look closer at the Honey Diet.

Why Would Honey Be So Powerful?

All of the publicity surrounding the Honey Diet has focused on the central concept of replacing sugar with honey, and having a spoonful of honey before bed.

McInnes, the originator of the diet, claims there are two reasons why those steps would make such a difference.

First, he says, the hidden sugars and white flour contained in processed food force the body’s glucose levels to unhealthy levels all day long. That leads to higher-than-normal insulin levels, and the excess insulin is stored as fat.

Second, McInnes claims that the brain has a complicated system that regulates what we know as “sugar cravings.” He says that system can be easily overloaded by the amount of sugar-loaded food that most of us eat on a daily basis, leaving us with even more cravings – and leading us to eat more calorie-loaded sweet stuff to satisfy them.

What does honey have to do with all of this?

McInnes cites studies showing that unlike sugar, honey does not shut off the brain’s “craving regulatory system” because the body reacts differently to its micronutrients. And supposedly, the nighttime honey regimen allows the body to sleep better, repair itself and speed up fat burning.

“Just use honey instead of sugar” sounds like an easy diet to follow. As it turns out, though, there’s a lot more to the Honey Diet than just making that simple substitution and drinking honey before bed.

You actually have to radically alter the way you eat.

The Honey Diet Involves A Lot More Than Eating Honey

Putting honey into your tea, or mixing it into your yogurt, could be one of the most painless diets ever invented.

Unfortunately, that’s not all you have to in order to lose weight on the Honey Diet.

To start with, you have to stop eating “refined carbs.” In other words, no more white flour, white rice or white pasta for you. They must all be replaced by unrefined carbs like whole-grain bread or brown rice, because refined carbs cause blood sugar to spike and mess with the brain regulatory system we mentioned earlier. White potatoes are out as well, replaced with sweet potatoes, beans or lentils – and all carbs should be eaten in moderation, comprising less than a quarter of any meal.

The Honey Diet is a high-protein program, since protein helps you feel full and controls cravings. Lean meat and skinless poultry, fish and eggs are a centerpiece of the diet, although other foods like peanut butter and hummus can be used as protein substitutes.

You’re encouraged to eat a lot of vegetables (avocado is a great choice since it’s loaded with healthy fats) and fruit on this diet, although fruits should be low-carb choices like rhubarb and berries rather than high-carb options like apples. The diet’s guidelines recommend six to nine servings of fruit and vegetables per day with “unlimited” salads. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can load the salads with bottled dressings; a little oil and vinegar is sufficient.

Unlike most low-carb diets, though, you are allowed to eat full-fat dairy products, since low-fat milk, cheese or sour cream usually contains sugars and artificial sweeteners. You just can’t eat a lot of dairy on the Honey Diet. Only a small square of cheese or a pint of milk is allowed.

What else can’t you eat? Processed foods, junk food, fried food, soda, snacks and desserts containing sugar – you get the idea. Oh, and as we’ve already mentioned, potatoes.

And one more thing: One day a week you have to go completely carb-free, eliminating even unrefined carbs made from whole grains. The purpose is to force the body’s insulin levels to drop even lower than they normally would on the Honey Diet. Theoretically, that will reset the brain’s craving regulatory system for the rest of the week.

This Diet Sounds Very Familiar

If all of the rules we just listed sound oddly familiar, it’s because they’re very similar to the guidelines you have to follow on many low-carb, high-protein diets. In fact, they’re much like the rules of established programs like the Atkins Diet, with just a few variations.

Of course, the honey-instead-of-sugar and honey-before-bed elements make the Honey Diet unique. Eating natural foods like lean proteins, vegetables and fruits, reducing carb intake, and substituting whole grains for refined ones, however, is not just the foundation of high-protein diets. It’s an integral part of most common-sense diet approaches.

That makes the Honey Diet a lot harder to follow than you’d first expect from reading news stories about it, but also explains why it’s a viable diet for weight loss.

Does The Honey Diet Work?

As you now know, there’s a lot more to the Honey Diet than honey. In truth, it’s a fairly-standard high-protein, low-carb diet like the ones which have helped millions of people drop a significant amount of weight, while improving their overall health and fitness.

So yes, the Honey Diet can work if you follow it religiously. And the added benefit of judiciously replacing sugar with honey (without overdoing the honey part) makes a lot of sense in terms of providing additional health benefits.

The jury’s still out on the “honey before bed” element of this diet. Whether or not it actually works the way that McInnes describes, however, the rest of the Honey Diet is a good choice for those who are serious about following a rigorous diet plan. And it’s certainly a lot less difficult to stay with than a vegan or limited-calorie diet.