Nutrition and Health Benefits of Honey
Famous as a sweet treat, the nutrition and health benefits of honey are added incentive to consume this bee staple.
Sunflower honey tends to be bright yellow, buckwheat is most often dark, and orange blossom honey can be almost clear.
Folks have been consuming honey for thousands of years. In fact, for many of those thousands of years, it was the only significant source of relatively concentrated energy in the form of sugar. No wonder the stuff was once considered to be a gift from the gods and to convey supernatural properties.
We’ve used honey in medicine, as a foodstuff, as a trade good, and even in the fermentation of beverages. More recently, honey conjures images of golden sweet goodness dripping from oven-fresh corn bread, or hot tea and lemon with the tartness tempered, but there’s much more to honey than the sweet
Turns out that honey’s color ranges from clear to almost black, and the stuff contains so much more than sugar that you might consider adding it to your diet to enhance nutrition – and health. Honey keeps the beehive going, and the bees that make it pack it with antioxidants, fructose and glucose, along with some minerals, organic acids and other nutrients. Raw honey in particular may be useful for helping you fight the effects of local allergens, thanks to pollen and other particulates it can contain.
What it is
Honey is a highly variable mixture of plant sugars (including fructose, glucose, maltose sucrose and others), water, organic acids (which are largely responsible for the flavor), and small quantities of minerals like potassium.
Some protein in the form of enzymes from bee saliva is also present, including enzymes that convert one sugar into another and that modify the structure of a particular sugar. The amount of enzymatic protein in “pure” honey is negligible from the standpoint of nutrition, but it can affect the sugar composition, and, in some cases, it can be used to help establish how fresh or pure a suspect honey is – of course, it takes thousands of dollars worth of lab instrumentation to do the analyses.
Particulate protein in the form of pollen may also be present in the honey. Pollen can have some nutritional value and may contribute to other putative health benefits.
The honey’s water concentration directly affects its storage ability. Most honey produced in the United States contains around 17 percent water by weight (on average) as it comes from the hive. This is sufficiently low to keep most bacterial and fungal organisms from setting up shop on/in the honey, and it is part of the reason honey has such a long shelf life without pasteurization. When the water concentration is greater than 18 percent, fermentation and other forms of spoilage can be an issue. To ensure a long, stable shelf life, large honey processors use various means to remove excess water from honey that is more than 18 percent water.
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