Honey has been in news for the wrong reasons lately. Antibiotic residues have been found in leading brands of honey – but it is a reflection on the way we produce our food.
(Antibiotics residues found in honey due to use of pesticides on plants and trees which also are on flowers from which bees gather honey and some are natural. )
Honey, a syrupy, sweet liquid is obtained from plant nectar by honey bees. About 80 per cent of honey is simple sugars, mostly fructose and glucose with small quantities of other sugars like maltose, sucrose and other complex carbohydrates.
Although honey is a high carbohydrate food, its glycaemic index varies within a wide range from 32 to 85, depending on the botanical source.
Honey, nature's original sweetener, is being rediscovered as a natural source of energy that also offers a unique combination of nutritional benefits. In addition to being a concentrated energy source, honey contains a wide array of vitamins (vitamin B6, thiamin, riboflavin and pantothenic acid) and minerals (calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc).
Honey also contains several compounds that function as antioxidants, one of which is unique to honey, called pinocembrin.
Although relatively low in nutrients, honey contains more nutrients than refined sugars. As a rule, darker honeys contain higher amounts of minerals and are strongly flavoured than lighter honeys.
Honey is sweeter than table sugar as it contains more calories - one tablespoon of honey provides nearly 65 cals compared to only 46 cals provided by the same amount of table sugar.
The use of honey as medicine is mentioned in most ancient written records but even today scientists and doctors are rediscovering its effectiveness in therapeutic nutrition.
Its unique composition makes it useful for treating several ailments, minor burns and scrapes including aiding the treatment of sore throats and other bacterial infections.
The viscosity and the hygroscopic qualities of honey permits its even spread on a wound bed, creating a favourable environment for healing. With these properties, honey has been used as an efficient treatment of chronic wounds of the lower leg and abdomen.
Thus, honey can be stated a treasure due to its following usages:
- Honey being a rich source of carbohydrates provides a quick source of energy. The sugars in honey are primarily glucose and fructose both of which provide the body with quick energy.
- Recent studies suggest that this unique mixture of sugars which occurs naturally in honey, also works best in preventing fatigue and enhancing athletic performance.
- Another study states that a spoonful of honey right before a workout is a good energy booster. A study presented at the annual Experimental Biology meeting indicated that using honey as a carbohydrate source during exercise significantly improved performance and power during endurance cycling trials. It was also reported that honey reduced time to complete a 64 km time trial by over 3 minutes (compared to placebo); honey produced over 6% greater cycling power during the time trial (compared to placebo); equal performance to glucose; and it was well tolerated by all subjects
- Honey consumption along with supplemental calcium enhanced calcium absorption.
- Honey is an anti-carcinogen. Honey-containing marinades effectively limit the production of potential cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic aromatic amines (HAAs) when marinated steak and chicken were fried. HAAs are formed when meat is cooked at high temperatures and the begins to char or blacken. Marinating meat for four hours in marinades containing 30 per cent honey significantly reduced HAA formation.
- Honey exhibits resistance to microbial spoilage.
- Most micro-organisms do not grow in honey because of its low water activity.
- Honey is a natural antiseptic, it helps in wounds healing, swelling goes down, and tissue grow back. Even burns heal better with honey.
- Honey contains appreciable amounts of plaque-fighting antioxidants and so reduces dental plaque. It also has an enzyme that produces hydrogen peroxide, which is believed to be the main reason for the antimicrobial activity of honey.