Honey

Honey is the oldest sweetener known to man. It is a natural substance produced by bees and it comes in many different varieties and flavors.

It is a syrup that is made up mainly of fructose and glucose, with smaller quantities of other sugars and water.

It is slightly sweeter than ordinary sugar and can be either in a solid or liquid state depending on the temperature and the amount of moisture it contains. It can be used as a sweetener on its own or as an ingredient in cooking. It also has medicinal qualities and can be used as an antiseptic.

It has a tendency to absorb moisture from the atmosphere, and therefore it needs to be kept in a sealed container, as fermentation of the sugars can occur if the moisture level becomes too high.

A typical breakdown would be:

Sugar Percentage
Fructose 41%
Glucose 36%
Water 18%
Galactose 3%
Maltose 1.8%
Ash 0.2%

Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.

Uses:
By far the most common use is as a sweetener. Can be used in place of sugar, though it has a distinctive flavor where sugar is neutral. It can be used as an antiseptic on cuts and burns. It is used as an ingredient in moisturizers and facial creams.

Benefits:
It is a natural unprocessed product. Unlike refined sugar no chemicals are used in its manufacture. It can have an excellent flavor and is very useful in cooking. It is considered a very good antiseptic, and seems to work very well as relief for a sore throat. It also contains small amounts of antioxidants and other substances which are considered beneficial to health.

Concerns:
It is mostly sugar and water and can have up to 50% fructose. Therefore, if taken in excess, it has all of the same problems as sugar, i.e. tooth decay, diabetes, and obesity. For this reason it should be counted as part of the daily intake of refined sugar, and moderation exercised.

Safety Guidelines:
The World Health Organization recommend no more than 50gm refined sugar (about 12 small teaspoons) per day for an average adult and are considering reducing this to 25gm. This would apply to all sugars including Honey.

WHO guideline for a healthy diet.

Production:
It is a natural product produced by bees. Worker bees collect nectar from flowers. Nectar is mostly sucrose and water. These bees return to the hive and transfer the nectar mouth to mouth to hive bees who process it. They have enzymes that break the sucrose down into fructose and glucose. Another enzyme breaks down some of the glucose into gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide which act to inhibit bacteria. Next the nectar is transferred into cells where the water is evaporated using the heat of the hive and the wing beats of the bees. The moisture content is reduced from about 80% to about 18% for the final product.

A worker bee lives about 6 weeks and during this short time it works almost non stop. It produces about one tenth of a spoon in it's life. So the next time you spread a spoon of this substance on your bread, remember it represents the working life of approx 10 bees!

Sold As:
Various different types and flavors. Most are mixes and blends and have been heat treated. Some versions are raw, though these are usually more expensive.

How Expensive?
It's reasonably expensive. It's bulk price is about 4 times the price of sugar by volume. Prices vary depending on the source and grade.

Market Share:
Annual sales are about 1.2 million tonnes out of a total sweetener market of about 188 million tonnes, so it has just under 1% of the sweetener market.

Interesting facts:
Certain types are highly valued for their unique properties:

Manuka honey from New Zealand is credited with having excellent medicinal qualities.

Ulmo honey from Chile was shown in clinical studies to have superior antibacterial qualities and to be effective against MRSA. This is believed to be because it contains high levels of Methylglyoxal which is a powerful antiseptic, and a substance called bee defensin-1. *Ref: See below.

Polarized light can be used to determine the quantities of the different sugars present in honey. A refractometer can be used to measure water content.

Approval:
Does not require approval. 



  

Conclusions for Honey

It is fine and even beneficial in moderation. However it is just another form of sugar and is high in fructose. Care needs to be taken to avoid excessive consumption. Not suitable for diabetics. A spoon or two per day would be recommended in place of, not in addition to, ordinary sugar. Very good for a sore throat and very nice on brown bread!

Name Calories / Gram Sweetness Index Glycemic Index Calories / Spoon-Equiv
Honey 4 1.1 50 14

Taste: -------- Good
Aftertaste: ---- No
Concerns: ----- Yes




Return from Honey to All Sweetener List