Honey Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

honey nutrition facts and health benefits
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Honey may seem like a mystical natural health-food, but the truth is, honey is still a concentrated source of sugar. When used in moderation, honey can complement an otherwise healthy eating plan and offer some intriguing benefits. However, honey is not a food that should be overused, especially if you have diabetes. Here's the latest buzz on honey's nutrition facts and scientific research.

Honey Nutrition Facts

The USDA provides the following information for 1 tablespoon (21 grams) of 100% pure bee honey.

  • Calories: 64
  • Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 0mg
  • Carbohydrates: 17g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 17g
  • Protein: 0g

Carbs

The calories in honey come from carbohydrates, specifically sugar. The sugar in honey is about 50% glucose and 50% fructose. The glycemic index of honey depends on the type that you buy, but sources estimate it to be around 58 with a glycemic load of 12. For comparison, the glycemic index of table sugar (sucrose) is 65.

Fats

There is no fat in honey. 

Protein 

Honey contains trace amounts of protein depending upon the product (up to 0.06g in some honey products), but not enough to contribute to your daily protein requirements.

Vitamins and Minerals

The vitamins and minerals in honey may include B vitamins, calcium, copper, iron, zinc, and others, which are mainly derived from the soil and nectar‐producing plants. The quality of honey and its mineral content are determined by where it is grown and how it is processed. Generally, darker honey provides more beneficial vitamins and minerals than pale honey.

Health Benefits

Certain varieties of honey have been shown to offer promising healing powers. When applying these characteristics to everyday life, it's important to balance the purported health benefits versus the nutritional cost (high sugar content) of honey.

Soothes a Cough

Research suggests honey can help calm a cough. A review of six studies treating coughs in children found that a spoonful of honey suppresses a cough as well as dextromethorphan—the cough suppressant found in Robitussin DM—and better than Benadryl (diphenhydramine) or no treatment. The research also found honey may provide longer relief than Albuterol (salbutamol). 

Promotes Regularity

Studies have demonstrated honey's positive impact on the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). When taken on an empty stomach, raw Manuka honey soothes the stomach and reduces diarrhea and constipation symptoms. Honey reduces the severity and duration of viral diarrhea better than conventional antiviral treatment.

Supports Reproductive Health

A type of honey, called royal jelly, has numerous effects on female reproductive health. Royal jelly has been found to reduce premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menopausal symptoms. The antioxidants in royal jelly may help reduce oxidative damage associated with the aging of the ovaries. Preliminary animal studies also suggest that royal jelly improves sperm quality for men, and although promising, this effect has yet to be proven in humans.

Aids Wound Healing

Propolis, a component in honey, is made up of 50% resin, 30% wax, 10% essential oils, 5% pollen, and 5% other organic compounds. Propolis suppresses the activity of free radicals and promotes the synthesis of collagen, both beneficial for wound healing. The ability of propolis to promote wound healing is proven effective for diabetic foot ulcers and certain types of acne when used topically.

Reduces Risk of Cancer

Honey impacts the development of cancer during multiple stages of the progression of the disease. Honey has been shown to induce tumor cell apoptosis (cell death), reduce inflammation, and inhibit tumor growth. Although honey is not an effective treatment for cancer in itself, preliminary studies suggest the need for further investigation.

Allergies

Honey is not a common allergen, however, case studies showing anaphylaxis have been reported. Anaphylaxis from the consumption of honey is an IgE-mediated reaction (a true food allergy). Propolis has been documented as a contact allergen for those involved in the collection of honey. If you suspect an allergy to honey, see your healthcare provider for a full evaluation.

Adverse Effects

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to never give honey to babies during the first year of life as it is a potential source of botulism-causing spores which can lead to severe illness in young babies.

If you are on a low-sugar or low-carbohydrate eating plan for medical reasons, you should limit your intake of honey. Honey is almost pure sugar (carbohydrates). Despite its associated health benefits, honey still raises blood glucose levels and should be accounted for when considering total carbohydrate intake.

Varieties

There are more than 300 varieties of honey in the United States, each originating from unique flower sources or different climate conditions. Examples include clover honey, wildflower honey, orange blossom honey, buckwheat honey, avocado honey, and alfalfa honey. Honey purchased from the store may be raw or pasteurized.

  • Raw honey comes directly from the beehive and is not processed, heated, or pasteurized.
  • Pasteurized honey is filtered and processed to create a clear-looking product that is easier to package and pour.

Pasteurization may eliminate some of the trace minerals associated with honey's health benefits. If the food label specifies "pure honey," that means no other substances were added during food processing.

When It's Best

For maximum nutrition, choose raw honey from the local farmer's market. If you enjoy the taste of honey, go for the darker varieties, which have a stronger flavor, allowing you to use less of it for the same taste effect. Honey can be found at any time of the year packaged in glass or plastic bottles.

Storage and Food Safety

Raw and processed honey should be stored below 32 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent crystallization and color/aroma changes. Honey is naturally antimicrobial but should be protected from outside moisture. The general recommendation for the shelf-life of honey is two years, however, this can vary. Airtight, sanitized containers help preserve the shelf-life and safety of honey.

How to Prepare

Honey is a versatile sweetener so there are countless ways to use it in the kitchen. However, some cooks struggle when they cook with honey because it can be messy. If you buy a jar of honey (as opposed to a squeeze bottle) spooning honey onto food can be a challenge. Savvy experts recommend that you spray your spoon or measuring cup with cooking spray first so that the honey slides off with no mess and no fuss.

When substituting honey for granulated sugar in recipes, it's important to remember that honey has a stronger flavor, greater acidity, and higher moisture content than sugar. Baking experts recommend using 1/2 to 3/4 cup of honey for each cup of sugar in the recipe, and also reducing the liquid by 1/4 cup for each cup of sugar replaced. In addition, if the recipe does not already include baking soda, add 1/4 teaspoon for each cup of sugar replaced. You should also lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees Fahrenheit and watch carefully for doneness.

Recipes

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Article Sources
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