Honey, the sweet, sticky substance created by a colony of bees, offers an excellent source of simple carbohydrates. For each tablespoon of honey consumed, the body is supplied with 64 calories of pure energy.
Honey is considered a natural substance, and according to the United States National Honey Board, it’s a natural product that does not allow for the addition of other substances, such as water and sweeteners.
In the United States there are about 300 varieties of honey and each one differs depending on the floral source that the bees visit. Each type of honey not only has its own taste, but varies in color too. Generally, the lighter the honey, the milder the flavor.
Honey’s composition, on average, is 17.1% water, 82.4% carbohydrates and 0.5 % proteins, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. The average carbohydrate content is mainly fructose (38.5%) and glucose (31%). The remaining 12.9% of carbohydrates is made up of maltose, sucrose and other sugars.
Unlike most other sweeteners, honey contains small amounts of a wide array of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants. Vitamins in honey include vitamin B6, vitamin C, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, and pantothenic acid. Essential minerals including calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc as well as several different amino acids have been identified in honey.
Honey contains a compound called pinocembrin as well as enzymes that fight infections. For a sore throat, eat a teaspoonful straight, or add it to your tea three or four times a day.
Medical grade honey (which is filtered and sterilized) can also be used on cuts and scrapes as it contains an enzyme that produces disinfecting hydrogen peroxide when it comes in contact with blood. It also reduces swelling and forms a proactive barrier over wounds to speed up healing.
Honey is fat free, cholesterol free and sodium free.
Apart from its culinary and medicinal properties, honey has often been used as a metaphor by many famous people, including Abraham Lincoln who is quoted to have said, “The only reason for being a bee that I know of is making honey . . . and the only reason for making honey is so I can eat it.”
IMPORTANT: Honey should not be fed to infants younger than one year old. Clostridium bacteria that cause infant botulism usually thrive in soil and dust. However, they can also contaminate certain foods — honey in particular. Infant botulism can cause muscle weakness, with signs like poor sucking, a weak cry, constipation, and an overall decreased muscle tone (floppiness).
Parents can reduce the risk of infant botulism by not introducing honey or any processed foods containing honey into their baby’s diet until after the first birthday.