What is Honey?
Honey is a thick, golden liquid produced by honeybees in a honey comb. honey is made by using the nectar of flowering plants and is saved inside the beehive for eating during times of scarcity.
How do bees make honey?
Nectar is a sugary liquid which is extracted from flowers using a bee’s long, tube-shaped tongue and stored in its extra stomach, or “crop.” While sloshing around in the crop, the nectar mixes with enzymes that transform its chemical composition and pH, making it more suitable for long-term storage.
Amazing performance of honeybees
When a honeybee returns to the hive, it passes the nectar to another bee by regurgitating the liquid into the other bee’s mouth. This regurgitation process is repeated until the partially digested nectar is finally deposited into a honeycomb.
To get all that extra water out of their honey, bees set to work fanning the honeycomb with their wings in an effort to speed up the process of evaporation.
When most of the water has evaporated from the honeycomb, the bee seals the comb with a secretion of liquid from its abdomen, which eventually hardens into beeswax. Away from air and water, honey can be stored indefinitely, providing bees with the perfect food source for cold winter months.
But bees aren’t the only ones with a sweet tooth. Humans, bears, badgers and other animals have long been raiding the winter stores of their winged friends to harvest honey.
Varieties of Honey
There are more than 300 varieties of honey in the United States, each originating from unique flower sources or different climate conditions.7 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.
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.
Nutritional value of Honey
1 tablespoon of honey contain:
- Calories: 64
- Fat: 0g
- Sodium: 0mg
- Carbohydrates: 17g
- Fiber: 0g
- Sugars: 17g
- Protein: 0g
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 depends on the type that you buy, but sources estimate it to be around 58 with a glycemic load of 12. For comparison, the glycemic index of table sugar (sucrose) is 65.
Honey contains trace amounts of protein depending upon the product (up to 0.06g in some honey products), 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.2 Generally, darker honey provides more beneficial vitamins and minerals than pale honey.
Benefits of Honey
Raw honey has been used as a folk remedy throughout history and has a variety of health benefits and medical uses. It’s even used in some hospitals as a treatment for wounds. Many of these health benefits are specific to raw, or unpasteurized, honey.
Most of the honey you find in grocery stores is pasteurized. The high heat kills unwanted yeast, can improve the color and texture, removes any crystallization, and extends the shelf life. Many of the beneficial nutrients are also destroyed in the process.
A good source of antioxidants
Raw honey contains an array of plant chemicals that act as antioxidants. Some types of honey have as many antioxidants as fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants help to protect your body from cell damage due to free radicals.
Free radicals contribute to the aging process and may also contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Research shows that antioxidant compounds in honey called polyphenols may play a role in preventing heart disease.
Honey have Antibacterial and antifungal properties
Research has shown that raw honey can kill unwanted bacteria and fungus. It naturally contains hydrogen peroxide, an antiseptic. Its effectiveness as an antibacterial or antifungal varies depending on the honey, but it’s clearly more than a folk remedy for these kinds of infections.
Honey for Heal wounds
Manuka honey is used in medical settings to treat wounds because it’s been found to be an effective germ killer and also aids in tissue regeneration.
Studies show that Manuka honey can boost healing time and reduce infection. Keep in mind that the honey used in hospital settings is medical grade, meaning it’s inspected and sterile. It’s not a good idea to treat cuts with honey you buy from a store.
Honey for a sore throat
Honey is an old sore throat remedy. Add it to hot tea with lemon when a cold virus hits you.
It also works as a cough suppressant. Research has suggested that honey is as effective as dextromethorphan, a common ingredient in over-the-counter cough medication. Just take one or two teaspoonfuls, straight.
Honey for digestive issues
Honey is sometimes used to treat digestive issues such as diarrhea, though there isn’t much research to show that it works. It’s proven to be effective as a treatment for Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) bacteria, though, a common cause of stomach ulcers.
It’s also a potent prebiotic, meaning it nourishes the good bacteria that live in the intestines, which are crucial not only for digestion but overall health.
Honey as a Phytonutrient powerhouse
Phytonutrients are compounds found in plants that help protect the plant from harm. For example, some keep insects away or shield the plant from ultraviolet radiation.
The phytonutrients in honey are responsible for its antioxidant properties, as well as its antibacterial and antifungal power. They’re also thought to be the reason raw honey has shown immune-boosting and anticancer benefits. Heavy processing destroys these valuable nutrients.