Honey Benefits You Have Never Heard Of

Nutritional Profile

  •  Energy value (calories per serving): High
  • Protein: Trace
  • Fat: None Saturated fat: None Cholesterol: None
  • Carbohydrates: High
  • Fiber: None
  • Sodium: Low
  • Major vitamin contribution: B vitamins
  • Major mineral contribution: Iron, potassium

About the Nutrients in This Food

Honey is the sweet, thick fluid produced when bees metabolize the sucrose in plant nectar. Enzymes in the honeybee’s sac split the sucrose, which is a disaccharide (double sugar), into its constituent molecules, fructose and glucose. Honey is about 80 percent fructose and glucose and 17 percent water. The rest is dextrin (formed when starch molecules are split apart), a trace of protein and small amounts of iron, potassium, and B vitamins.

Recent studies at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) and Clemson University (South Carolina) show that honey is also a source of antioxidants, substances that prevent molecule fragments from hooking up with other fragments to produce compounds that damage body cells and may cause heart disease, cancer, memory loss, and other conditions associated with aging or damaged cells. One antioxidant, pinocembrin, is found only in honey. In general, honey’s antioxidant activity is linked to its color. The darker the honey, the more potent it is as an antioxidant. Two exceptions: light sweet clover honey (high in antioxidants) and dark mesquite honey (low in antioxidants).

Diets That May Restrict or Exclude This Food

Low-carbohydrate diet Low-sugar diet

Buying This Food

Look for: Tightly sealed jars of honey. All honeys are natural products. They may be dark or light (depending on the plant from which the bees drew their nectar). Raw, unprocessed honey is thick and cloudy. Commercial honey is clear because it has been filtered. It pours more easily than raw honey because it has been heated to make it less viscous as well as to destroy potentially harmful bacteria and yeasts that might spoil the honey by turning its sugars into alcohol and other undesirable products.

The following table lists some of the plants most

commonly used to make honey in the United States.                                         

Plant Where it grows Color of honey Flavor of honey
Alfalfa Utah, Nevada, White or light amber Mild
  Idaho, Oregon    
Basswood Alabama, Texas White Strong, sharp
Clover Throughout U.S. White to amber Mild
Orange blossom Arizona, California, Light amber Orangey
  Florida, Texas    
Sage California White Mild
Tulip poplar Southern New Dark amber Medium
  England, Midwest    
Tupelo tree Florida, Georgia White, light amber Mild

Source: The National Honey Board

Storing This Food

Store opened jars of honey in the refrigerator, tightly closed to keep the honey from absorbing moisture or picking up microorganisms from the air. Ordinarily, bacteria do not proliferate in honey, which is an acid solution. However, if the honey absorbs extra water or if its sugars precipitate out of solution and crystallize, the sugar/water ratio that makes honey acid will be upset and the honey will become more hospitable to microorganisms. Refrigeration offers some protection because it chills the honey and slows the growth of bacteria or mold.

Preparing This Food

To measure honey easily, coat your measuring spoon or cup with vegetable oil: the honey will slide right out of the measure. To combine honey smoothly with dry ingredients, warm it with the liquids in the recipe first. And remember to reduce the liquid in a recipe when you substitute honey for sugar. For precise amounts, check the individual recipe.

What Happens When You Cook This Food

When honey is heated, the bonds between its molecules relax and the honey becomes more liquid. If you heat it too long, however, its moisture will evaporate, the honey will become more viscous, and its sugar will burn.

In baking, honey is useful because it is more hydrophilic (water-loving) than granu- lated sugar. It retains moisture longer while a cake or bread is baking, and it may even extract moisture from the air into the finished product. As a result, breads and cakes made with honey stay moist longer than those made with sugar.

Honey also appears to enhance the Maillard reaction, a heat-triggered transformation of sugars that turns toast brown, caramelizes custards, and crisps the surface of meats. The Maillard reaction creates antioxidants that slow down fat’s natural oxidation (rancidity). As a result, adding honey to meat dishes appears to slow the development of the characteristic warmed-over flavor associated with cooked meat that is refrigerated and then reheated. In studies at Clemson University, after two days in the refrigerator, cooked turkey roll com- posed of turkey pieces plus honey (15 percent by weight) showed 85 percent less fat oxidation than turkey roll made without honey.

Medical Uses and/or Benefits

Antioxidant activity. Honey is rich in naturally occurring antioxidants such as the pigment beta-carotene (a precursor of vitamin A) and pinocembrin (found only in honey) that prevent molecule fragments from linking up to form compounds that damage body cells. As a rule, the darker the honey, the more potent it is as an antioxidant. Two exceptions: Light, sweet clover honey is high in antioxidants and dark mesquite honey is low.

The antibacterial activity of antioxidants may be at least partly responsible for honey’s age-old reputation as a wound healer. Greek and Roman generals used it as first aid; modern medicine points to several hundred controlled studies showing that animal and human wounds heal faster, cleaner, and less painfully when dressed with sterile, medical grade honey.

Soothing dressing. Like other sugars, honey is a demulcent, a substance that coats and soothes irritated mucous membranes. For example, warm tea with honey is often used to soothe a sore throat.

Adverse Effects Associated with This Food

Infant botulism.  Clostridium botulinum, the organism that produces toxins that cause botulinum

poisoning, does not grow in the intestines of an adult or an older child. Botulism poisoning in adults and older children is caused by toxins produced when the botulinum spores, which are anerobic (require an airless environment), germinate in an oxygen-starved place like a sealed can of food. However, botulinum spores do grow in an infant’s digestive tract, and infants have been poisoned by foods that have spores but no toxins. Since honey is sometimes contami- nated with the botulinum spores, the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend against feeding honey to any child younger than 12 months.

Tooth decay. Like all sugars, honey is used by bacteria in your mouth to make tooth-eating acids.

Wild honey poisoning. Like wild greens or wild mushrooms, wild honeys may be toxic and are best avoided in favor of the commercial product.

Next Post
ADVERTISEMENT