Honey is one of the oldest sweeteners on earth. Lucky for us, it also has many health benefits and uses.
The nutrients in honey include niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. Honey is rich in antioxidants (substances that protect healthy tissue by destroying cell-damaging free radicals) has secured its place in healthy pantries worldwide. Antioxidants are thought to fight cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and other chronic conditions. Generally, the highest levels of antioxidants come from the darkest colored honey.
Bees use nectar to make all types of honey, but the color and flavor of the honey will vary greatly depending on the type of flower blossoms the nectar came from. Honey can range from a very pale golden color to dark brown, and its flavor can vary just as much. There are over 300 varieties of honey in the United States alone, including alfalfa, avocado, buckwheat, and orange blossom. Generally, the darker the honey is, the bolder its flavor will be.
After honey is collected from a beehive, there are a variety of ways it may be processed before it reaches store shelves:
Comb honey. This is honey packaged exactly the way it comes out of the bee hive, still in the bees’ wax comb, and completely unprocessed.
Raw honey. This honey has been filtered of its wax chunks and large particles but is not pasteurized. Because honey is naturally low in bacteria, pasteurization isn’t necessary. Raw honey usually contains some residual pollen and small particles of wax.
Chunk honey. Similar to comb honey, this product consists of a few chunks of wax comb surrounded by liquid honey.
Strained or filtered honey. This honey is similar to raw honey, but has been filtered through a finer mesh material to remove all wax. It still may include pollen.
Ultra filtered honey. This honey has undergone fine filtration under high pressure and heat to yield a very clear and longer lasting product.
To reap the most benefits from your honey, make sure it is pure and raw. Raw honey contains vitamins, minerals and enzymes not present in refined honey.
There are also a variety of uses for honey, obviously, it can be used as a sweetener. You can simply drizzle a little honey in your herbal teas, oatmeal, or on an English muffin. When you bake with it, you have to alter the recipe slightly by reducing the liquids by 1/4 cup for each cup of honey and reducing the cooking temperature by 25 degrees because honey is a liquid sweetener.
Although honey is safe for just about everyone, individuals who have problems with maintaining proper blood sugar levels should restrict their consumption of honey. This includes people who have hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), diabetes, and other sugar sensitivities. Another group who should abstain from honey is babies under one year of age, as they haven’t yet built up a resistance to the dormant bacteria that may be present in the honey.