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.

| GRIT's Guide to Backyard Bees and Honey 2011

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
amber glow.

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.

Earth Chik
6/7/2011 6:36:40 PM

You overlooked Sourwood honey. Sourwood is a tree that only grows in the Appalachian Mountains and usually goes into full bloom in July. Sourwood honey is a premium honey made from the white tassels that hang from the trees. I am a beekeeper and Sourwood honey is a popular honey all across the country.

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