You may like to use honey to sweeten the taste of your food and drinks – but it is not low FODMAP.
In this article, we will discuss the FODMAP content of honey, if it has any health benefits, and low FODMAP alternatives.
WHAT IS HONEY?
Honey is a natural sweetener produced by bees from flower nectar or honeydew. Honeydew is the sweet secretions of some insects, such as aphids (1).
Honey is stored by bees in honeycomb cells where the maturation of honey continues (1).
There is a wide variety of honey. They differ by colour, flavour, and texture. Some of the most common honeys are:
- Manuka honey
- Clover honey
- Buckwheat honey
- Wild cherry honey
- Orange blossom honey (2).
Honey is widely used as a sweetener in granola bars, cookies, and candy.
IS HONEY LOW FODMAP?
Honey consists mostly of sugars, especially fructose, which is a type of FODMAP.
Standard shop-bought available honey is low FODMAP at 7g, which is roughly 1 teaspoon (5).
Monash has also tested Clover honey, which is made from the nectar of clover plants. Clover honey contains more fructose, due to the higher content of fructose in clover pollen. It is low FODMAP at half a teaspoon (5).
ARE THERE ANY HEALTH BENEFITS OF HONEY?
Research shows that honey has multiple properties which have the potential to provide health benefits. Honey contains polyphenols, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (6).
There has been speculation that Manuka honey may help reduce inflammation in the gut and therefore improve IBS symptoms. However, there are no human studies that have shown this. In fact, due to the FODMAP content, it may trigger some people’s symptoms.
SHOULD YOU EAT HONEY IF YOU HAVE IBS?
If you are sensitive to the FODMAP fructose, then you may only be able to tolerate up to 1 teaspoon, as discussed. That means it could easily cause discomfort when not measuring it carefully, however, your tolerance will be personal to you.
If you like the flavour of honey but are sensitive to fructose, then enjoy it in the small quantities provided. Pay attention to FODMAP stacking, which can happen when combining honey and especially fruits, which also contain fructose.
You can work with a Registered Dietitian to work out which FODMAPs you are sensitive to, including your tolerance for each one.
WHAT ALTERNATIVES ARE THERE TO HONEY?
There are alternative ingredients that you can use to sweeten your meal or drink.
Instead of honey, you can easily swap it with a variety of low FODMAP sugars.
If you are looking to reduce your added sugar consumption, then you could use a low FODMAP sweetener, such as:
Although there may be some potential health benefits of honey, there is no evidence to suggest that it can help your IBS symptoms.
Honey may trigger your symptoms if you are sensitive to the FODMAP fructose. If this is the case, there are many low FODMAP alternatives available.
Written by Barbara Lešnik, Student Dietitian and reviewed by Beth Willson BSc Hons RD Specialist Surgical Dietitian
Beth is UK HCPC Registered Dietitian who specialises in gastrointestinal surgery. Beth graduated from University of Surrey in 2020 with a degree in Nutrition and Dietetics.