Honey Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits


Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Honey is a source of natural sugar. Honey can complement a healthy eating plan and offer some intriguing benefits when used in moderation. However, honey is not a food that should be overused, especially if you have diabetes, because it is high in sugar and calories. Here's the buzz on honey's nutrition facts and scientific research.

Honey Nutrition Facts

The USDA provides the following honey nutrition facts information for 1 tablespoon (21 grams) of honey.

  • Calories: 64
  • Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 0mg
  • Carbohydrates: 17g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 17g
  • Protein: 0.1g
  • Potassium: 10.9mg
  • Iron: 0.1mg
  • Calcium: 1.3mg


The calories in honey come from carbohydrates, specifically sugar. The sugar in honey is about 50% glucose and 50% fructose. The glycemic index of honey is estimated to be around 60. A teaspoon has a glycemic load of approximately 3.5. For comparison, the glycemic index of table sugar (sucrose) is 65.


There is no fat in honey. 


Honey contains trace amounts of protein, but not enough to contribute to your daily protein requirements.

Vitamins and Minerals

The vitamins and minerals in honey may include B vitamins, calcium, copper, iron, zinc, and others, which are mainly derived from the soil and nectar‐producing plants. The quality of honey and its mineral content are determined by where it is grown and how it is processed.

Generally, darker honey provides more vitamins and minerals than pale honey, but honey is usually consumed in such small amounts that it will not significantly contribute to meeting your daily vitamin and mineral needs.


A tablespoon of honey provides 64 calories, almost all of which come from carbohydrate in the form of sugar.

Health Benefits

Certain varieties of honey have been shown to offer promising healing powers. When applying these characteristics to everyday life, it's essential to balance honey's purported health benefits with the nutritional cost (high sugar content).

Also, it is important to remember that honey is often consumed in small quantities that may not be equivalent to amounts used in studies to investigate potential benefits.

May Soothe a Cough

Research suggests honey may help calm a cough. A review of six studies treating coughs in children found that a spoonful of honey suppresses a cough as well as dextromethorphan—the cough suppressant found in Robitussin DM—and better than Benadryl (diphenhydramine) or no treatment. The research also found honey may provide longer relief than Albuterol (salbutamol). 

May Promote Regularity

Studies have suggested that honey might have a positive impact on the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Researchers theorize that phytochemicals and flavonoids may help aid digestive processes in the body. But so far studies that support this benefit are limited in size and scope.

For instance, one study involving rats showed that raw honey soothed the stomach and reduced diarrhea and constipation symptoms. Honey reduces the severity and duration of viral diarrhea better than conventional antiviral treatment. But the benefit has not been replicated in humans.

May Support Reproductive Health

A type of honey called royal jelly, has numerous effects on female reproductive health. Royal jelly has been found to reduce premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menopausal symptoms.

The antioxidants in royal jelly may help reduce oxidative damage associated with the aging of the ovaries. Preliminary animal studies also suggest that royal jelly improves sperm quality for men. Although promising, this effect has yet to be proven in humans.

Aids Wound Healing

Propolis, a component in honey, is made up of 50% resin, 30% wax, 10% essential oils, 5% pollen, and 5% other organic compounds. Propolis suppresses the activity of free radicals and promotes the synthesis of collagen, both beneficial for wound healing.

The ability of propolis to promote wound healing has been suggested for diabetic foot ulcers and certain types of acne when used topically.

May Reduce Cancer Risk

Honey may impact the development of cancer during multiple stages of the progression of the disease. Honey has been shown to induce tumor cell apoptosis (cell death), reduce inflammation, and inhibit tumor growth in in-vitro (test tube) studies.

Studies in humans have yet to show this benefit. Although honey is not an effective treatment for cancer in itself, preliminary studies suggest the need for further investigation.


Honey is not a common allergen. However, case studies of anaphylaxis caused by honey have been reported. Anaphylaxis from the consumption of honey is an IgE-mediated reaction (a true food allergy).

Propolis can be a contact allergen for those involved in the collection of honey. If you suspect an allergy to honey, see your healthcare provider for a full evaluation.

Adverse Effects

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to never give honey to babies during the first year of life. It is a potential source of botulism-causing spores which can lead to severe illness in young babies.

If you are on a low-sugar or low-carbohydrate eating plan for medical reasons, you should limit your intake of honey. Honey is almost pure sugar (carbohydrates). Despite its associated health benefits, honey still raises blood glucose levels and must be accounted for when considering total carbohydrate intake.


There are more than 300 varieties of honey in the United States, each originating from unique flower sources or different climate conditions. Examples include clover honey, wildflower honey, orange blossom honey, buckwheat honey, avocado honey, and alfalfa honey. Honey purchased from the store may be raw or pasteurized.

  • Raw honey comes directly from the beehive and is not processed, heated, or pasteurized. Raw honey calories are the same as pasteurized varieties.
  • Pasteurized honey is filtered and processed to create a clear-looking product that is easier to package and pour.

Pasteurization may eliminate some of the trace minerals associated with honey's health benefits. If the food label specifies "pure honey," that means no other substances were added during food processing.

When It's Best

For maximum nutrition, choose raw honey from a local farmer's market. If you enjoy the taste of honey, go for the darker varieties, which have a stronger flavor, allowing you to use less of it for the same taste effect. Honey can be found at any time of the year packaged in glass or plastic bottles.

Storage and Food Safety

Raw and processed honey should be stored below 32 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent crystallization and color/aroma changes. Honey is naturally antimicrobial but should be protected from outside moisture.

The general recommendation for the shelf-life of honey is two years, however, this can vary. Airtight, sanitized containers help preserve the shelf-life and safety of honey.

How to Prepare

Honey is a versatile sweetener, so there are countless ways to use it in the kitchen. However, some cooks struggle when they cook with honey because it can be messy. Spray your spoon or measuring cup with cooking spray first so that the honey slides off with no mess and no fuss.

When substituting honey for granulated sugar in recipes, it's important to remember that honey has a stronger flavor, greater acidity, and higher moisture content than sugar. 

Baking experts recommend using 1/2 to 3/4 cup of honey for each cup of sugar in the recipe, and also reducing the liquid by 1/4 cup for each cup of sugar replaced. In addition, if the recipe does not already include baking soda, add 1/4 teaspoon for each cup of sugar replaced. You should also lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees Fahrenheit and watch carefully for doneness.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the health benefits of honey?

    Honey is a source of quick energy and may have some health benefits such as soothing coughs and wound healing. There's also some evidence honey can improve symptoms of PMS.

  • Is honey better for you than sugar?

    Honey is not better for you than sugar, although it may provide some health benefits that sugar does not. Normal serving sizes of honey are not likely to provide enough health benefits to warrant it being a better nutritional choice than white sugar.

  • Is a spoonful of honey a day good for you?

    Consuming a spoonful of honey each day will not provide any noticeable health benefits. However, some research shows a spoon of honey may help relieve irritable throat if you have a cough.

10 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. University of Sydney. Sweet as honey. Glycemic Index Research and GI News.

  3. Cianciosi D, Forbes-Hernández TY, Afrin S, et al. Phenolic compounds in honey and their associated health benefits: A review. Molecules. 2018;23(9):2322. doi:10.3390/molecules23092322

  4. Oduwole O, Udoh EE, Oyo-Ita A, Meremikwu MM. Honey for acute cough in children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2018;4:CD007094. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD007094.pub5

  5. Pasupuleti VR, Sammugam L, Ramesh N, Gan SH. Honey, propolis, and royal jelly: A comprehensive review of their biological actions and health benefits. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2017;2017:1259510. doi:10.1155/2017/1259510

  6. Zhang S, Jiao T, Chen Y, Gao N, Zhang L, Jiang M. Methylglyoxal induces systemic symptoms of irritable bowel syndromePLOS ONE. 2014;9(8):e105307 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0105307

  7. Othman NH. Does honey have the characteristics of natural cancer vaccine?J Tradit Complement Med. 2012;2(4):276-283. doi:10.1016/s2225-4110(16)30113-4

  8. Aguiar R, Duarte FC, Mendes A, Bartolomé B, Barbosa MP. Anaphylaxis caused by honey: A case report. Asia Pac Allergy. 2017;7(1):48-50. doi:10.5415/apallergy.2017.7.1.48

  9. American Academy of Pediatrics. Botulism.

  10. National Honey Board. Honey varietals.

By Malia Frey, M.A., ACE-CHC, CPT
 Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.