Honey : Health Benefits and Properties

Honey is many things to many people. It’s a nutritious, natural sweetener, a concentrated energy source, and an ancient folk remedy for health and healing. Honey is also an active ingredient in beauty and skin-care products and the subject of medical research.

Honey is available raw or pasteurized and in a variety of color grades. On average, it contains about 80% sugar. People remove honey from the hive and bottle it directly, so it may also contain trace amounts of yeast, wax, and pollen.

How Is Honey Made Exactly?

Honeybees make honey from sweet flower nectar that they gather in their travels and bring back to their hive. The nectar is transferred from the collector bee to the worker bees back at the hive, who process the sweet liquid into a thick syrup and store it in honeycomb.

The honeycomb itself is made of wax produced by younger bees and molded into hexagonal-shaped cells strong enough to hold the honey. As the worker bees unload the nectar into the cells, they fan it with their wings to help evaporate moisture so it becomes even thicker, stickier, and more resistant to spoilage. The bees then seal the honeycomb cells with more wax to protect the honey during storage.

Beekeepers use various methods to squeeze or otherwise extract honey from the honeycomb. Some methods drain the honey while preserving the wax comb so it can be used again, while others melt or otherwise manipulate the wax to remove and separate out the raw honey. (1) Small-scale beekeepers usually stop here and sell honey in its raw state, but most mass producers of honey sold in supermarkets take the process a step further, buying up big batches of honey, and then diluting, heating, and filtering the raw product to remove pollen and other naturally occurring substances.

Benefits

It’s very high in beneficial plant compounds and offers several health benefits. Honey is particularly healthy when used instead of refined sugar, which is 100% empty calories.

The Antioxidants in It Can Help Lower Blood Pressure

Eating honey may lead to modest reductions in blood pressure, an important risk

Blood pressure is an important risk factor for heart disease, and honey may help lower it.

This is because it contains antioxidant compounds that have been linked to lower blood pressure

Honey Also Helps Improve Cholesterol

Honey seems to have a positive effect on cholesterol levels. It leads to modest reductions in total and “bad” LDL cholesterol while raising “good” HDL cholesterol.

High LDL cholesterol levels is a strong risk factor for heart disease.

This type of cholesterol plays a major role in atherosclerosis, the fatty buildup in your arteries that can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Interestingly, several studies show that honey may improve your cholesterol levels.

It reduces total and “bad” LDL cholesterol while significantly raising “good” HDL cholesterol

Honey Contains Some Nutrients

Honey is thick, sweet liquid made by honeybees. It is low in vitamins and minerals but may be
high in some plant compounds.

Honey is a sweet, thick liquid made by honeybees.

The bees collect sugar — mainly the sugar-rich nectar of flowers — from their environment (1).

Once inside the beehive, they repeatedly consume, digest and regurgitate the nectar.

The end product is honey, a liquid that serves as stored food for bees. The smell, color and taste depend on the types of flowers visited.

Nutritionally, 1 tablespoon of honey (21 grams) contains 64 calories and 17 grams of sugar, including fructose, glucose, maltose and sucrose.

It contains virtually no fiber, fat or protein.

It also contains trace amounts — under 1% of the RDI — of several vitamins and minerals, but you would have to eat many pounds to fulfill your daily requirements.

Honey Is “Less Bad” Than Sugar for Diabetics

Some studies show that honey improves heart disease risk factors in people with diabetes. However, it also raises blood
sugar levels — so it cannot be considered healthy for people with diabetes.

The evidence on honey and diabetes is mixed.

On one hand, it can reduce several risk factors for heart disease common in people with type 2 diabetes.

For example, it may lower “bad” LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and inflammation while raising “good” HDL cholesterol.

However, some studies have found that it can also increase blood sugar levels — just not as much as refined sugar.

While honey may be slightly better than refined sugar for people with diabetes, it should still be consumed with caution.

In fact, people with diabetes may do best by minimizing all high-carb foods.

Keep in mind, too, that certain types of honey may be adulterated with plain syrup. Although honey adulteration is illegal in most countries, it remains a widespread problem

Honey Can Help Suppress Coughs in Children

For children over one year of age, honey can act as a natural and safe cough suppressant. Some studies show that it is even
more effective than cough medicine.

Coughing is a common problem for children with upper respiratory infections.

These infections can affect sleep and quality of life for both children and parents.

However, mainstream medications for cough are not always effective and can have side effects. Interestingly, honey may be a better choice, and evidence indicates it is very effective.

Another study found that it reduced cough symptoms and improved sleep more than cough medication.

Nevertheless, honey should never be given to children under one year of age due to the risk for botulism.

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Honey Promotes Burn and Wound Healing

Topical honey treatment has been used to heal wounds and burns since ancient Egypt and is still common today.

A review of 26 studies on honey and wound care found honey most effective at healing partial-thickness burns and wounds that have become infected after surgery.

Honey is also an effective treatment for diabetic foot ulcers, which are serious complications that can lead to amputation.

One study reported a 43.3% success rate with honey as a wound treatment. In another study, topical honey healed a whopping 97% of patients’ diabetic ulcers.

Researchers believe that honey’s healing powers come from its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects as well as its ability to nourish surrounding tissue.

The Antioxidants in It Are Linked to Other Beneficial Effects on Heart Health

The antioxidants in honey have been linked to beneficial effects on heart health, including increased blood flow to your
heart and a reduced risk of blood clot formation.

Again, honey is a rich source of phenols and other antioxidant compounds. Many of these have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease.

They may help the arteries in your heart dilate, increasing blood flow to your heart. They may also help prevent blood clot formation, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Honey Can Lower Triglycerides

Elevated triglycerides are a risk factor for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Several studies show that honey can lower triglyceride levels, especially when used as a sugar substitute.

Elevated blood triglycerides are another risk factor for heart disease.

They are also associated with insulin resistance, a major driver of type 2 diabetes.

Triglyceride levels tend to increase on a diet high in sugar and refined carbs.

Interestingly, multiple studies have linked regular honey consumption with lower triglyceride levels, especially when it is used to replace sugar.

Properties

One tablespoon of honey contains 64 calories , 17.2 grams (g) of sugar, and no fiber, fat, or protein. Honey has a slightly acidic average pH level of 3.9, and research indicates that this acidity may help prevent the growth of bacteria.

It is worth noting that the exact physical properties of honey depend on the flora used to make it.

When stored in an airtight container, honey has no expiration date.

Diet

Honey’s sweetness can make it an ideal substitute for sugar, and research indicates that using honey instead of adding sugar may benefit people with diabetes.

It is crucial to note that honey qualifies as an added sugar and provides excess calories with no nutritional benefit. Having a diet high in added sugars can lead to increased body weight, which carries risks of high blood pressure and diabetes.

Bottom Line

Practitioners throughout the world have used honey as a remedy for more than 5,000 years. Some clinical research shows that honey may help heal wounds and burns, fight infections, and alleviate cold and flu symptoms.

A person may also benefit from using honey as a sugar substitute, in moderation. It is important to keep in mind that healthy overall eating patterns are key in preventing illness and supporting well-being. While individual foods can have certain effects, it is important to focus on consuming a varied, balanced diet.

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