There’s something about this beautiful golden substance created by bees that seems so irresistible. Honey has been an extremely important staple in many different civilizations throughout human evolution, used as a source of food and to treat a number of conditions and ailments since ancient times. It was also one of the first sugar substitutes to gain popularity, before avoiding refined sugar was even a trend.
A Brief History Of Honey
Honey is produced by bees during a series of digestion and regurgitation processes, and concentrated through a dehydration process inside the bee hive. It comes from the nectar they collect from local flower pollen. Honey has a particularly complex chemical composition that varies, depending on its botanical source, and has been reported to contain about 200 substances. Honey has a beautiful sweet smell and thick but runny substance, and can come in different colors, from light golden to dark brown. Because honey is made from the pollen of local plants, the color and nutritional value varies in different areas. Lighter varieties, such as orange blossom honey, tend to have a milder flavor, while darker varieties, from plants such as wildflowers, tend to be much stronger flavored. It takes about 60,000 bees, traveling about 55,000 miles and feeding from more than 2 million flowers, to gather enough nectar for one pound of honey. Once gathered, bees store the nectar in their stomachs, where it mixes with enzymes. That is then regurgitated into another bee’s mouth and repeated until the nectar becomes partially digested. It is then transferred into a honeycomb at the beehive. Honey has a long medicinal history, from the ancient Egyptians who used it to dress wounds, to the Greeks and Romans, who used it to heal digestive diseases.
Nutritional Value Of Honey (Per 100 grams)
Calories – 304
Total fat – 0g
Cholesterol – 0mg
Sodium – 4mg
Total carbohydrates – 82 g (27%)
Dietary fiber – 0g
Sugars – 82g
Protein – 0g
Calcium – 1% of RDI
Iron – 2% of RDI
Honey is composed mainly of fructose and glucose, with some fructo-oligosaccharides. It has a number of amino acids, vitamins, minerals and enzymes, but varies nutritionally, depending on the plants bees collect their nectar from. However, just about all natural honey contains polyphenolic plant compounds called flavonoids, including apigenin, pinocembrin, kaempferol, galangin, quercetin, hesperetin and chrysin. It also contains phenolic acids, ascorbic acid, tocopherols, catalase, superoxide dismutase, reduced glutathione, and peptides. Most of these compound work together to provide a synergistic antioxidant effect.
Health Benefits Of Honey
Honey has been used for centuries as a food staple and to cure different ailments. While there is certainly fiction mixed up with the facts, honey does, in fact, have a number of health benefits…
1. Honey Has Antibacterial Qualities
Honey has been used for generations by grandmothers and mothers to soothe sore throats, but it wasn’t until the late 19th century that scientists confirmed the fact that it does have natural antibacterial qualities. Laboratory tests have found that the growth of food-borne pathogens, including E. coli and salmonella can be hindered by honey, and that it can fight certain bacteria like Staphylococcus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which are common in hospitals and medical centers. However, this has not yet been proven to have the same effect when consumed by humans.
Darker varieties of honey tend to have more antioxidants and antibacterial quality than lighter varieties. For example, Manuka honey is well-known for its dihydroxyacetone content, which is found in high concentrations of Manuka flower nectar, which turns into methylglyoxal. These flowers come from New Zealand and, similarly, you can get different grades of Manuka honey. This antibacterial, antibiotic component is actually found in most types of honey, but not in such large quantities as Manuka.
2. Honey Is A Natural Cough Medicine
Honey is listed as a demulcent by the World Health Organization (WHO), which means it is recommended for the relief of irritation in the mouth and throat. This is achieved because it forms a protective film. It has also been shown to work as a dextromethorphan, which is used in common over-the-counter cough medicines, to soothe a sore throat and aid sleep in children with upper respiratory tract infections.
3. Honey Can Aid Wound Healing
Manuka honey, specifically, is used in the treatment of wounds and skin ulcers. The New Zealand product, known as Medihoney, is made from Leptospermum scoparium nectar, and has been approved by the FDA since 2007. It works by stimulating healing because of its pH content, which leans towards acidic, and helps the healing process while soothing the wound.
4. Honey May Boost Memory
Because honey is loaded with antioxidants, it may help prevent cellular damage and cellular loss in the brain. A 2011 study found that a spoonful of honey each day might improve postmenopausal women’s memories. Participants in the study who took 20 grams of honey a day were found to have better short-term memory than participants who took a hormone pill instead. Honey also helps the body, including the brain, absorb calcium, which is essential for brain function, and therefore memory.
5. Honey May Have A Prebiotic Effect
Claims that honey is a probiotic substance have been basically disproven. However, it may have prebiotic uses. The digestive tract naturally contains good bacteria, which plays an important role in regulating your immune system and maintaining a healthy digestive system. While probiotics contain living micro-organisms that increase the levels of friendly bacteria in the intestines, prebiotics have compounds that serve as food for those bacteria. Studies have found that feeding honey to mice increased the levels of healthy bacteria in their guts. However, this has not been studied in humans yet.
6. Honey Is Good For Your Skin
The antibacterial qualities of honey can be extremely beneficial to skin health. It is a particularly useful ingredient because it can have a positive effect on both acne and ageing skin. The antioxidants found in honey are good for slowing down ageing, while its natural antibacterial compounds are great for acne treatment and prevention. On top of that, its moisturizing and soothing effect is beneficial to sensitive skin and can boost skin complexion. When used with other ingredients, honey can be especially moisturizing and nourishing.
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