Honey is a sweet and viscous food that bees produce from the nectar of flowers or the secretions of certain parts of plants. There are many types of honey, each variety having organoleptic characteristics (taste, aroma, color, texture) and specific medicinal properties.
Pure honey is an excellent replacement for table sugar, as it has a delicious taste and is much more nutritious and healthier. In the following guide, we will delve into the different types of honey and recommendations for adequate consumption. We will also explain how to identify pure honey and detect false products.
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- 2 Key Facts
- 3 Our Selection: The Best Honeys
- 4 Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Honey
- 5 Buyer's Guide
- 6 Summary
- Honey is a food derived from the flower sap or the secretions of certain plants. Bees transform the nectar and secretions into honey, which is stored in hives.
- Honey consists of water, simple sugars (glucose and fructose), free acids, minerals, vitamins, enzymes, and some amino acids. From a medicinal point of view, honey is attributed with anti-inflammatory, healing, antiseptic, laxative, and expectorant properties.
- Buying pure, unadulterated honey is a challenge. You will have to evaluate various vital criteria to find high-quality honey: origin, authenticity and certifications, variety, and value for money.
Our Selection: The Best Honeys
Honey is one of the most adulterated and counterfeit foods on the market. This is partly because consumers don't know the difference between pure and adulterated honey, nor do they know the therapeutic properties of each variety. In the following section, we have selected the best honeys currently out there to help you find the right one:
Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Honey
What is honey exactly?
The honey can be monofloral or polyfloral, depending on whether the bees collect most of the nectar from a single type of flower or several flowers, respectively. Honeydew honey, on the other hand, is obtained from the non-flower secretions of certain plants or from the excretions of insects that feed on plant sap.
What nutrients does honey provide?
- Single sugars (carbohydrates): 82 grams, with a predominance of fructose (28-40 grams) and glucose (22-38 grams) We also find sucrose and maltose in smaller proportions.
- Water: 15-20 milliliters.
- Proteins or amino acids: 0.3 to 2 grams.
- Fat: 0 grams.
- Small amounts of vitamins: B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine) and vitamin C.
- Minerals: calcium, magnesium, copper, potassium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, and manganese.
The caloric value of 100 grams of honey is 328 calories. In addition to the above-mentioned nutritional principles, honey also contains antioxidants and enzymes – the latter being added by the bees themselves. The most important enzymes are α-glucosidase and glucose oxidase, both responsible for many of the medicinal properties of honey.
What are the medicinal properties of honey?
- It is antimicrobial since it inhibits the growth of pathogens (bacteria, fungi, viruses). Its antibacterial activity is carefully studied and can prevent bacteria from multiplying in skin wounds and causing infection. It also hinders the development of bacteria that could cause tooth decay.
- It is mildly laxative due to its content in fructose. This is helpful for people suffering from constipation.
- It has antioxidant activity, as it neutralizes the molecules called free radicals responsible for oxidative damage. Higher levels of antioxidants in the blood are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and early aging.
- It acts as a natural anti-inflammatory medicine when consumed orally and applied topically. Applying honey on a wound reduces inflammation, while massaging the gums or gargling with honey helps in treating gingivitis (gum inflammation).
- It relieves throat irritation, promotes the expulsion of bronchial secretions (expectorant) and reduces coughing (antitussive). Honey is consumed to mitigate the symptoms of colds, bronchitis, and flu.
- It participates in the digestion, thanks to the enzymes it contains. In addition, it can soothe indigestion and promote passing gases.
- It is a natural prebiotic. This means that the oligosaccharides in honey serve as a substrate for the good bacteria of the colon.
- It improves aerobic performance (cycling, marathon) because its simple sugars are a fast-release source of energy for the muscles. Honey also helps in restoring glycogen stocks after exercising.
- It prevents anemia. Consumption of floral honey is associated with higher numbers of red blood cells and higher levels of hemoglobin.
- It contributes to treating gastric ulcers, gastritis, and gastroenteritis. Honey inhibits the development of a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori that produces gastritis and peptic ulcers.
- It accelerates wound healing, both externally (ulcers, burns, or skin sores) and internally (peptic ulcers).
- Honey induces relaxation and improves the quality of sleep.
- It provides quick-release energy and helps fight fatigue.
What types of honey are there?
- Blossom honey (or floral honey): Bees collect flower sap to make honey. It is called monofloral if it contains between 45 and 70% of the pollen of a single type of flower, or polyfloral if it is made from the nectar of different types of flowers. You can find the characteristics of the most widely consumed monofloral honeys in the table below.
- Honeydew honey: Bees collect the non-floral secretions of plants or the products excreted by certain insects that feed on plant sap, making honey from these substrates. Forest honey is one such example, with a dark color, a malty aroma, and a sweet taste with salty notes.
|Thyme honey||Orange blossom honey||Eucalyptus honey||Manuka honey|
|Source of the nectar||Thymus vulgaris flower||Citrus sinensis flower||Eucalyptus globulus flower||Leptospermum scoparium flower|
|Color||Amber||Light, between yellow and gold||Light amber||Dark|
|Aroma||Floral, intense, and persistent||Floral and persistent||Woody, intense, and persistent||Reminiscent of the smell of damp earth|
|Taste||Sweet and acid||Sweet and acid||Slightly acid and sweet||Intense, bittersweet|
|Does it crystallize?||It is unlikely to crystallize.||Yes, it crystallizes slowly and forms fine crystals.||Yes, it crystallizes and creates fine crystals.||Manuka honey also crystallizes slowly to form thick crystals.|
|Specific properties||Healing, digestive, antibacterial, expectorant, and antitussive||Sedative||Expectorant, decongestant, and antitussive||Antibacterial and healing|
|Recommendations|| Respiratory conditions (cold, flu, bronchitis).
Treatment for acne.
|Coughs, colds, flu, bronchitis|| Severe cases of ulcers, sores, and acne.
Gastritis due to Helicobacter pylori.
Prevention of infections in wounds.
Prevention of tooth decay.
How can honey benefit the skin?
Cosmetic-wise, honey can be applied to the face to nourish, clean, brighten, and soften the skin. In addition, it hinders the appearance of pimples and delays the creation of wrinkles. You can use honey on its own on a moistened face or mix it with other ingredients (oats, coconut oil, lemon juice).
How can I consume honey?
- As a sweetener for smoothies, milk, coffee, tea, and yogurt;
- As a replacement for sugar in baked goods, such as cookies, cakes, and breads;
- In sauces and dressings;
- As a topping for breakfast cereals, pancakes, and waffles.
Can people with diabetes consume honey?
Is honey suitable for vegans?
Remember that the incredible properties of honey we have discussed only come from pure honey. This food is often adulterated, and its benefits disappear. If you want to make the most of the medicinal attributes of honey, make sure that it is 100% authentic. The following criteria will help you:
Purity & Authenticity
We keep saying it: honey is one of the most adulterated products out there. Laboratories analyze it to check its authenticity and purity. Now, how can you tell if the honey you buy is pure? You can do a few simple tests at home to make sure your honey is authentic:
- If you put one spoonful of honey in a glass of water and it dissolves easily, it is adulterated. Pure honey sticks to the spoon and won't dissolve.
- If you see foam when mixing honey with water and a few drops of vinegar, this is another sign of adulteration.
- Put honey on a paper napkin. The product is adulterated if a wet halo forms around it.
It is very difficult to detect adulterated honey before buying it, but you should be wary of those that are too liquid. In addition, you should avoid products sold as honey-based foods. They are a mixture of honey and other sugars, including fructose-rich corn syrup.
Unfortunately, honey is adulterated in many countries. Spain, New Zealand, the United States, and Turkey produce high-quality honey, while those from India and China should also be avoided. Analyses have detected heavy metals and chloramphenicol (a toxic antibiotic) in specific batches.
The type of honey doesn't simply determine its specific medicinal properties; it also influences its taste, aroma, texture, and color. Honey can be made from thyme, orange blossom, Manuka, and rosemary, among many others. Check the first table of our article for the properties and characteristics of the most common varieties.
Manuka honey, for instance, must have a certification that specifies its methylglyoxal (MGO) content. This is expressed as milligrams (mg) of MGO per kilogram of honey, and the concentration of this compound generally varies from 100 mg to 800 mg. On the other hand, celiac individuals should buy honey that is gluten-free certified.
Pure honey is delicious, versatile, and nutritious, with incredible potential to improve health and relieve respiratory, skin, and digestive conditions. Its antimicrobial, antioxidant, healing, and expectorant properties make it a genuine natural remedy for everyone.
You can find floral or honeydew honey, each with its own particular taste, aroma, and color. Either way, it is essential that you buy authentic honey if you want to make the most of it. While adulterations are common, you can detect them with simple tests at home.
Did you know all the properties and uses of honey? If you liked our guide, feel free to share it on your social media, and leave us a comment in the section below!
(Source of featured image: Volkov: 47442895/ 123rf.com)