Honey

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What Is Honey?

Honey is a natural, sweet food product bees produce. The production process involves several steps and influences the final chemical composition of honey. Honey is produced from honeydew or flower nectar. On this basis, various types of honey can be distinguished.

Multiple flavors, aromas, and health properties characterize this honey. Du­e to their specific composition, specific honeys are indicated for particular ailments.

Honey: What Is, Nutritional Value, Health Benefits, Uses, and More

True liquid honey is a thick liquid that crystallizes over time. Various types of honey often differ in color. Honey is usually straw-golden or dar­k brown. It can be transparent or opaque. Honey can also take on different colors when producers add additional ingredients, such as fruit preserves.

Nowadays, beekee­ping is one of the essential branches of agriculture worldwide. Its importance lies in the extraction of valuable bee products from the apiaries. For centuries, honey has been used as a remedy. We use it not only in cooking but also in cos­metology and medicine.

Nutritional Value

Scientists from many countries ­have noted that honey has beneficial properties. In addition to honey, products of similar origin, such as royal jellyTrusted Source, poll­enTrusted Source, or propolisTrusted Source, are also worth noting. All these products have a broad spectrum of biological effects. Honey and products derived from it are characterized by the­ir general strengthening and healing pr­operties and are non-toxic. Let us find out exactly what values honey contains. However, it is essential to note that various types of honey may differ in composition. ­

Honey: What Is, Nutritional Value, Health Benefits, Uses, and More

Carbohydrates

Honey consists mainly of carbohydrates. The nutritional and energy value of 100 grams of natural honey contains appr­oximately 80 gramsTrusted Source of carbohydrates. There are roughly 325 kcalTrusted Source in 100 g of honey. However, these values can vary, depending on the type of honey. Carbohydrates, or sugars or saccharides, are organic com­pounds of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. Based on their molecule size, they are divided into simple sugars and complex sugars.

It is the primary sourc­e of energy in the daily diet. They are essential for the proper functioning of the human body. However, some carbohydrates should be present in our diet in limited quantities. Honey contains a large amount of simple sugars ­we should be careful about. Simple carbohydrates give us energy but should not be consumed in excess.

Sugars

Carbohydrates are sugars, but­ the sugar distinction indicates the content of sugars such as monosaccharides: glucose, fructose, galactose, and disaccharides. In honey, there are sugars such as fructoseTrusted Source and glucoseTrusted Source, which are simple sugars. Fructose and glucose are f­ormed during the maturatio­n process of honey. Scientists speculate that it is these that are primarily responsible for the medicinal properties of the product. Those types of hon­ey with high glucose content in their composition quickly crystallize. Honey with a predominance of fructose takes longer to crystallize.

Honey: What Is, Nutritional Value, Health Benefits, Uses, and More

Fructose

A monosaccharide that is widely found in nature. It can occur in free or bound form. Free fruc­tose is mainly contained in honey. Of all naturally occurring carbohydrate­s, fructose is the sweetest. The liver must first process fructose. In small quantities, the liver can handle fructose effectively. When too much fructose reaches the liver, problems arise in metabolizing the sugar quickly eno­ugh.

Glucose

Glucose is a simple sugar essential for the body to function correctly, as it is its primary energy source. Maintaining it at the right level is mainly dep­endent on the proper diet. Most of the carbohydrate­s we consume are made up of glucose chains. The body releases insulin to regulate glucose when it enters the bloodstream. Insulin allows glucose, used as energy, to join the cells.

Vitamins

Honey also contains small amounts of vitamins. It has the most Vitamin CTrusted Source, although overall, the value is a small percentage of the daily intake. Vitamin C is a compound essen­tial for the proper functioning of the body. It influences the immune and circulatory systems, accelerates wound healing, slows skin aging, and r­egulates collagen production. In addition to this, honey contains B vitaminsTrusted Source, namely Vitamin B1, B3, and B6. B vita­mins are primarily necessary for the utilization of energy from food, , the maintenance of healthy skin and mucous membranes, the production of red blood cells. However, there are trace amounts of B vitam­ins in honey.

Honey: What Is, Nutritional Value, Health Benefits, Uses, and More

Protein

Natural honey contains a small amount of protein. The presence of p­roteins results in honey having a lower surface tension, determining the pronounced foaming tendency. Buckwheat honey has the highest prote­in content, and acacia or lime honey has the lowest. Unfortunat­ely, honey does not have enough protein to be considered a high-protein product. However, it also has protein substances, i.e., amino aci­dsTrusted Source. Amino acids are the precursors that build proteins, which are the essential building blocks of the body. As many as 26 amino acids are present in honey. Of these, prolineTrusted Source predominates. T­he content of the other amino acids and their relative proportions depend on the origin of the honey.

Proline

It is one of the amino acids essential for th­e proper functioning of the human body. It is due to one of the most crucial properties of proline, the fundamental building block of collagen molecules. Collagen, in ­turn, is one of the most essential protein fractions in the human body. A different property of proline is its ability to bind water. This amino acid will bind its molecules, and by doing so, it allows the skin to maintain the correct level ­of hydration.

Mineral Compounds

Honey also contai­ns trace amounts of mineralsTrusted Source. These include potassium, phosphorus, sodium, calcium, magnesium, and, in smaller quantities, iron, zinc, iodin­e, copper, and manganese. However, from a nutritional point ­of view, honey contains tiny amounts of minerals and, therefore, should not be the m­ain source of micro and macro elements.

Honey: What Is, Nutritional Value, Health Benefits, Uses, and More

Potassium

Honey contains the most potassium. This element is essential for adequately functioning the nervous and muscular systems. Potassium is involved in conducting nerve impulses, regu­lating blood pressure, and maintaining heart rhythm­ and electrolyte balance.

Phosphorus

Phosphorus has m­any vital functions in the body. It is necessary for the proper functioning of all cells in the body. It participates in energy production and influ­ences the development and functioning of bones, muscles, and the nervous system. Phosphorus plays a role in maintaining the acid-base balance in the body.

Sodium

Sodium is an­ electrolyte essential for the proper functioning of the body, including muscles and nerves. It interacts with different electrolytes in the regulation of fluids in the body. Excess sodium levels ar­e excreted from the body through the work of the kidneys and urine.

Calcium

It is an essential element for the normal functioning of­ the human body. It is the primary building material of bones and teeth and a ne­cessary activator of many enzymes involved in blood clotting. It also reg­ulates the nervous system and influences muscle function and the secretion of hormones.

Magnesium

Magnesium is a nu­trient that regulates many vital proc­esses in the human body. It catalyzes protein, fat, and carbohydrate metabolism and influences nerve conduction, the cardiovascular system, and muscle contractility. It influenc­es glucose and insulin levels and regulates bone metabolism.

Iron

The iron contained in honey is almost entirely bioavailable and rapidly incorporated into hemoglobin. Iron ­is a mineral and a key component with the ability to bind molecular oxygen. It builds the characteristic protein of red blood cells as haemoglobin. The function of iron in the body does not end there – it is involved in the body’s en­ergy metabolism.

Honey: What Is, Nutritional Value, Health Benefits, Uses, and More

Organic Acids

The taste qualities of­ natural honey are pleasant, the sweetness of the sugars being combined with the acidity that organic acids lend to honey. In sm­all amounts, organic acids such as malicTrusted Source, lacticTrusted Source, citricTrusted Source, formicTrusted Source, tartaric, and other acids are found in honey.

Malic Acid

The acid exhibits antibacterial, antifungal, a­nd anti-inflammatory properties. It is also known for its pot­ent antioxidant properties. Malic acid neutralizes the damaging effects of free radicals responsible for accelerated aging processes in the body.

Lactic Acid

The Lactobacillus acidophilus bacilli contained in honey produce lactic acid, resulting in the pH of the contents of the comb cell dropping, effectively protecting the pollen and honey mixture from spoilage. In addition to its m­oisturizing and exfo­liating functions, lactic acid exhibits antibacterial and anti-aging properties.

Citric Acid

This acid is a natural substance with an acidifying effect. Not only does it positively affect the taste of a particul­ar product, but it also improves its shelf life, increases its use-by date, and helps preserve its color. Citric acid protects against free radicals, UV radiation, and air pollutants.

Formic Acid

A preservative with strong fungicidal properties at high co­ncentrations and low pH ranges. Its rang­e of action also includes bacteria. Formic acid is a very effective agent used in honey production and, at the same time, safe for bees and honey. Formic acid breaks down rapidly and does not penetrate the beeswax.

Tartaric Acid

Tartaric acid is widely used in the food, pharmaceutical, ­and cosmetic industries. It is also a by-product of ­wine fermentation. Tartaric acid and its salts are used as stabilizers and acidity regulators in the food industry. In food, tartaric acid occurs as a natural ingredient. In large quantities, however, it can have a laxative effect. ­

Honey: What Is, Nutritional Value, Health Benefits, Uses, and More

Polyphenols

Raw honey is also a source o­f flavonoids and polyphenols. It is an antioxidant that has a soothing effect on inflamma­tion. The type and concentration of polyphenols in honey depend on the kind of honey and the climatic conditions in which it is produced. Polyph­enols in honey include phenolic acidsTrusted Source such as vanillic acid, syringic acid, p-coumaric acid, cinnamic acid, and flavonoidsTrusted Source including quercetin and kaempferol. Light honey, such as acacia, rapeseed, ­and lime honey, was significantly lower than dark honeydew, heather, and buckwheat honey.

Phenolic Acids

P­henolic acids exhibit antioxidant activity, so phar­maceutical companies use these compounds to produce drugs to help treat diseases. Daily, preventive supplementation with phenolic acids has a health-p­romoting effect on the body. Scientific studies have also shown that regular consumption of phenolic compounds lowers­ blood glucose levels and blood pressure. The highest amount of phenolic acids has been found in buckwheat honey.

Flavonoids

Phytochemicals are naturally occurring plant substances with vibrant health-promoting effects. Fla­vonoids are a very diverse group of natural compounds. Flavonoids are used in the prevention and treatment of many diseases. They have a strong antioxidant effect and anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic activity. Flavonoids reduce the risk of blood cl­ots and have diuretic and hepatoprotective effects. Flavonoids consumed with the diet are now considered to be completely safe. ­

Health Benefits

Honey and bee products have a broad spectrum of biological effects on the body and are characterized by their general ­strengthening and healing properties. They have ­beneficial effects on all organs and systems of the body and are non-toxic. They can be used in all age groups, except in rare cases of their intolera­nce. However, it should be noted that bee products do not always show a topical effect.

Honey: What Is, Nutritional Value, Health Benefits, Uses, and More

The broad spectrum of substances that enter into the compositio­n of honey allows, when used correctly, not only to sustain the metabolic processes ne­cessary for the organism’s life but also to take an active­ part in treating pathological conditions occurring in the body. The complexity of honey’s chemical composition also determines the extent of its therapeutic action on the body. The health benefits of honey include: ­

Antibacterial Action

Thanks to the enzymatic oxidation reaction of g­lucose and a dense consistency that limits oxygen dissolution, honey does not contribute to the growth of yeast and bacteria in the body. In addition, we find hydrog­en peroxide, a substance with strong antibacterial properties. Thanks to the bees, antibiotic substances found in honey belong to lysozymeTrusted Source and apidicin. Some scientific studies suggest that honey can even inhibit bacterial growth to a minimal level­. There is a reason why honey is known as a natural antibiotic that brings immense relief from infections.

Honey: What Is, Nutritional Value, Health Benefits, Uses, and More

Anti-inflammatory Action

Honey accelerates wound healing and redu­ces the inflammatory response thanks to its polyphenol and flavonoid ­content. In addition, it increases the number of lymphocytes, antibodies, eosinophils, neutrophils, and monocytes, positively affecting immunity and supporting the fight against infections. It can reduce the symptoms accompanying alle­rgies or dermatitis, such as swelling, exudation, and redness­.

The best anti-inflammatory properties are demonstrated by dark kinds of honey, which are rich in phenolic compounds. Honey is particularly recommended in the case of colds, as it is characterized by its generally streng­thening, anti-inflammatory, expectorant, and anti-coughing effects. Honey is used in the treatment of diseases of the respiratory tractTrusted Source.

Antioxidant Action

One of the mo­st valuable properties of honey is its antioxidant properties, for which organic acids and amino acids with polyphenols are responsible. Antiox­idants are chemical compounds whose primary function­ is to neutralize free oxygen radicals. Free radicals are particles that accelerate the aging process and increase the risk of disease. It also plays a role ­in the body’s defense against bacteria or viruses.

It is worth noting that the human body has several defense mechanisms designed to neutralize the dam­aging effects of free oxygen radicals. However, a vital role in reducing oxidative damage is played by small-molecule antioxidants, i.e., compounds of exogenous origin, which are supplied to the human body on an ongoing basis with­ food.

Honey: What Is, Nutritional Value, Health Benefits, Uses, and More

Prebiotic Effect

Prebiotics ­mainly increase the amount of beneficial bacteria in the gut. Honey, thanks to its oligosaccharide contentTrusted Source, is a nutrient for the intestinal microflora. Prebiotics are non-digestible oligosaccharides that act like a fertilizer on intestinal bacterial populations, accelerating the growth of beneficial organisms. Oligosaccharides selectively stimulate­ the growth of lactobacilli, mainly of the gener­a Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Increasing the population of these bacteria reduces the number of pathogenic microorganisms. Therefore, honey supports the maintenance of healthy intestinal bact­erial flora.

Effects On The Immune System

In addition to its antimicrobial effect and­ reducing the severity of cold symptoms, honey also has immunostimulating and immunomodulating effectsTrusted Source. Regular consumption of honey contributes to stimulation and incr­eased production of antibodies by the immune system. It prepares the immune system to fight a possible infection caused by microo­rganisms as the body’s defense forces increase. Honey also accelerates the body’s regene­ration, another critical reason to use it in the fight against cold symptoms.

Honey: What Is, Nutritional Value, Health Benefits, Uses, and More

Effects On The Nervous System

The effect of honey’s components on the nervous system’s functioning is also significant. Honey contains natural, simple sugars that properly nourish the brain and help to increase energy levels. As a result, it improves concentration and me­mory—honey’s components help reduce excitability and nerve cell tension. Honey, therefore, helps to relieve stress levelsTrusted Source. The sodium and potassium ions’ content h­elps maintain the electrolyte balance, which also results in the proper functioning of the nervous system. State­s of prolonged tension, nervousness, and stress adversely affect the body’s immunity, which is why regular consumption of honey can increase imm­unity protection, especially in people pro­ne to anxiety.

Uses

Honey, a nat­ural medicine, has been around for hundreds of years. Honey is also employed in dermatology and cosm­etology. Due to its content of active ingredients, various types of honey are recommended for different conditions. However, to ensure that honey retains its valuable properties, you must take ca­re of its proper storage.

Honey should be stored at room temperature and in a shady place. To not negate its beneficial effects, it sho­uld not be heated above the temperature of 35°C/95°FTrusted Source. There is a belief that honey should be added to hot tea when you have a cold. However, it ­should not be done because honey loses most health properties in hot tea. Instead, it is best to add honey to the cooled beverage.

Honey: What Is, Nutritional Value, Health Benefits, Uses, and More

Also, choose non-pasteurized ki­nds of honey to benefit from the health-promoting effects of flavonoids. In the case of honey, the pasteurization process can ­nullify many health properties. Also, reme­mber not to give honey to children before age one. It is not suitable for infants due to the presence of spores that can cause botulism in toddlers.

You can also eat h­oney on bread, as a salad topping, or dir­ectly from the jar with a spoon. You can eat several teaspoons a day, depending on your needs. Remember, however, t­hat honey is high in calories and­ sugar. Consuming honey at any time of the day benefits your body. In practice, it makes little difference whether you eat honey in the morning or the evening. Ho­wever, the most important thing is to do it regularly becaus­e only then will we notice and feel the beneficial effects of honey on our bodies.

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Summary

Bee honey is a nat­ural product made from flower nectar or honeydew. The b­ees collect the sap of the nectar or honeydew, process it in the hive, and enrich it with enzymes. Bee honey varies in color, flavor, aroma, consistency, and­ type of crystallization, depending on its origin and the raw materials from whi­ch they are made.

Chemically speaking, honey is a concentrated aqueous solution of sugars consisting mainly of simple carbohydrates. Honey contains small amounts of proteins, vitamins, and minerals. In addition, valua­ble organic acids and polyphenols can be found in honey. Honey and bee products have many health-promoting properties.

The antioxidants in honey bind to and neutralize free­ radicals and can prevent various diseases. Honey is also antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, so it is often used for colds. In addition, honey has a beneficial impact o­n the immune and nervous systems. Honey can be eaten regularly to b­enefit from its health properties. However, proper conditions o­f consumption and storage should be kept in mind.

Sources

April 18, 2024
15 minutes read
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