Honey has a place in many kitchens around the world, but is it actually healthy, and is it any better for you than ordinary table sugar.
There are over 300 varieties of honey, and in the US, clover honey is the most popular of all. However, there are many more exotic honeys, such as eucalyptus honey, orange blossom honey, manuka honey and avocado honey.
Nutrition in Honey
1 tablespoon of honey contains 64 calories.
All the calories in honey come from carbohydrates, and that is from different types of sugar. Honey is mostly made up of fructose, glucose, and sucrose, as well as 18% water. It contains very small amounts of protein and fat.
The glycemic index of honey is between 45 and 64 depending on the type – the glycemic index of table sugar is 65 for comparison.
There aren’t a significant amount of vitamins or minerals in honey, especially in the small amounts we generally consume it in. The micronutrients like B vitamins, calcium, copper, iron, zinc etc. are mainly derived from the soil and the plants that make the nectar – so the minerals in your honey will depend on where it came from.
A general rule is that the darker the honey is, the more likely it is to contain beneficial nutrients.
Research on the potential of honey for health benefits has had some positive results, but it can be difficult to apply these findings because the honey in the store is probably different from the honey used in the scientific study.
Where the honey comes from, and how it’s processed matter when it comes to the benefits it can give.
Researchers have also noted that it is difficult to get health benefits due to the small amount of honey that we generally eat in one go. We would have to eat between 1/3 cup to just under 1 cup of honey daily to get any benefits – and that’s a lot of honey and calories!
Some limited studies have been done and have shown that honey may improve bone growth, could provide antioxidant benefits, and may help those suffering from anemia.
Honey is also traditionally used to calm coughs and sore throats.
Is Honey Better For You Than Table Sugar?
Because of the tiny amounts of beneficial minerals, it could be said that honey is better than table sugar, and it may be better for those with diabetes. However, they are both forms of sugar, which we should be trying to cut back on.
We may actually eat less honey than we would sugar, due to its consistency and the time it takes to add it to something compared to sugar.
Different Types of Honey
Honey can come from many different types of flowers, such as clover, buckwheat, blueberry etc.
It can also be raw or pasteurized. Raw honey comes straight from the beehive, and isn’t processed, heated, or pasteurized.
Pasteurized honey is filtered and processed to make a clear honey that is easier to pour.
Most experts agree that processed honey has had the trace minerals removed, so there is no real benefit to eating it.
Cooking with Honey
There are many ways to use honey in the kitchen, but some people are put off because honey can be messy. The invention of squeeze bottles has helped a lot, but if you have a jar of honey it can still be difficult to spoon it out without getting it everywhere. Try spraying your spoon or measuring cup with cooking spray first, so that the honey slides right off.
Honey can also be used for healthier skin and nails, and some people add it to their bath for a moisturizing soak.
Babies under 12 months should not be given honey or products made with honey, says the American Academy of Pediatrics.