Honey is a sweet, syrupy substance produced by bees and some related insects. Bees make honey from the nectar gathered from flowers and use it as a food source. Honeydew honey or forest honey is a type of honey made from honeydew excreted by plant-sucking insects such as aphids.1,2
Sweet and syrupy honey mixes easily into a variety of foods which makes it especially convenient for cooking and baking. Honey gets its sweetness from fructose and glucose and has about the same relative sweetness as sucrose (granulated sugar). You may need to experiment a little when substituting honey for sugar as baking with honey can cause excess browning and moisture.
Here are some suggestions for using honey: Use honey to sweeten your dressings or marinades; stir it into coffee or tea; drizzle honey on top of toast or pancakes; mix it into yogurt, cereal, or oatmeal for a more natural sweetener. Honey's sweet flavor makes it an ideal substitute for refined sugar in the diet, which provides excess calories with no nutritional benefit. Since honey is still a sweetener, you should remain mindful of how much honey you use.
Eventually the glucose in honey will crystallize. Crystallization is a natural effect and is not harmful. This does not affect the taste or quality of the honey. To make it liquid, simply put the jar in warm water for an hour or two. It will remain liquid even after it has cooled.1
You can purchase honey in supermarkets, health food stores, and farmers markets. Both raw and pasteurized forms of honey are available.
Raw honey is removed from the hive and bottled. It is not heated or processed and as such will contain trace amounts of yeast, wax, and pollen. For flavor, aroma, and health benefits, the best honey is raw honey. Pasteurized honey has been heated and processed to remove impurities. This process also removes virtually all nutrients from the honey.
Other types of honey include:
- Extracted honey: The honey is obtained by extracting the honey from the comb using a centrifuge. This is the most common method.
- Comb honey: This honey is not removed from the beeswax comb. This is the freshest and purest form of honey you can get. The comb is edible.
- Chunk honey or cut comb: Pieces of comb honey are cut up and added to the honey in a jar or container.
- Drained honey: The honey is obtained by draining the honeycomb by gravity.
Other classifications include multifloral honey, which is created from the nectar of many types of flowers around the hive, and single flower or monofloral honey, which is created mainly from one type of flower.1
According to Wikipedia, most microorganisms do not grow in honey, so sealed honey does not spoil.
Because of its composition and chemical properties, honey is suitable for long-term storage when stored in an airtight container. Honey, and objects immersed in honey, have been preserved for centuries. The key to preservation is limiting access to humidity. If exposed to moist air, its hydrophilic properties pull moisture into the honey, eventually diluting it to the point that fermentation can begin.
The long shelf life of honey is attributed to an enzyme found in the stomach of bees. The bees mix glucose oxidase with expelled nectar they previously consumed, which then creates two by-products: gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide, partially responsible for honey's acidity and ability to suppress bacterial "growing".2
Honey is made up of glucose, fructose, and minerals, such as iron, calcium, phosphate, sodium chloride, potassium, and magnesium.
Honey was a mainstay in the medical practices of many cultures for centuries. Evidence has been detected in medicinal substances from over 5,000 years ago. The beneficial properties of honey have been explored and studied in modern times, and there is evidence to suggest that there may be some truth to parts of its historical reputation.1
The findings from credible scientific sources include the following:
In 2010, scientists from the Academic Medical Center at the University of Amsterdam reported in FASEB Journal that honey's ability to kill bacteria lies in a protein called defensin-1. Components of honey under preliminary research for their potential antibacterial properties include methylglyoxal, hydrogen peroxide, and royalisin (also called defensin-1).2
A more recent study in the European Journal of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases showed that a certain type of honey, called Manuka honey, can help prevent the bacteria Clostridium difficile from settling in the body. C. difficile is known for causing severe diarrhea and sickness.1
A study published in the journal Pediatrics, which compared honey to a placebo in helping children with a cough during the night, found that honey was superior.1,2
A 2007 study by the Penn State College of Medicine suggested that honey reduced night-time coughing and improved sleep quality in children with upper respiratory infection to a greater degree than the cough medicine dextromethorphan.1
The World Health Organization recommends honey as a treatment for coughs and sore throats, including for children, stating that no reason exists to believe it is less effective than a commercial remedy.1,2
Honey is also used to reduce teething pain in children over a year old; to decrease the severity and duration of diarrhea; to prevent acid reflux; and as a cosmetic treatment for cracked, dry, pimply, or clogged skin.1
Honey is sometimes recommended as a treatment for seasonal allergies due to pollen, but there is little scientific evidence to support the claim.2
Dangers / Intolerances:
Honey should never be given to children under one year old as it can cause botulism, a rare but severe type of food poisoning.
Cultivation and harvest:
Cultivation and harvest: Honey is a sweet, syrupy substance produced by bees and some related insects. Bees produce honey from the sugary secretions of plants (floral nectar) or from the secretions of other insects (honeydew). Honey is stored in wax structures called honeycombs. Beekeepers collect honey from honeycombs using a variety of methods. The honey may be filtered after removing it from the comb to remove beeswax and other debris.2
Unscrupulous producers may adulterate honey as a way of increasing their profits. According to Wikipedia: Adulteration of honey is the addition of other sugars, syrups, or compounds into honey to change its flavor or viscosity, make it cheaper to produce, or increase the fructose content to stave off crystallization. According to the Codex Alimentarius of the United Nations, any product labeled as honey or pure honey must be a wholly natural product, although different nations have their own laws concerning labeling. Adulteration of honey is sometimes used as a method of deception when buyers are led to believe that the honey is pure. The practice was common dating back to ancient times, when honey was sometimes blended with plant syrups like maple, birch, or sorghum and sold to unsuspecting customers. Sometimes crystallized honey was mixed with flour or other fillers, hiding the adulteration from buyers until the honey was liquefied. In modern times, the most common adulteration-ingredient became clear, almost-flavorless corn syrup, which, when mixed with honey, is often very difficult to distinguish from unadulterated honey.2
In the United States, according to the National Honey Board (an organization supervised by the United States Department of Agriculture), Honey stipulates a pure product that does not allow for the addition of any other substance ... this includes, but is not limited to, water or other sweeteners.2
Choosing honey over refined and processed sugar may lead to long-term health benefits. Honey is known to have antioxidant, antimicrobial, and soothing effects.
Most microorganisms do not grow in honey, so sealed honey does not spoil, even after thousands of years.
Literature / Sources:
1. Joseph Nordqvist, Reviewed by Natalie Olsen, RD, LD, ACSM EP-C, “Everything you need to know about honey,” Medical News Today, Article last updated by Adam Felman on Wed 14 February 2018. Accessed October 26, 2018. www.medicalnewstoday.com/ articles/264667.php
2. Wikipedia. Honey, Version dated 10.21.2018.