Honey – Natural Sweetness
We all know that bees make honey by collecting nectar, a sugary juice from flowers. Honey has been used for thousands of years for its medicinal purposes, in addition to being used as a common natural sweetener. The composition of honey varies depending on the floral source, seasonal and environmental factors, as well as processing techniques used. Honey has an 80% sugar content and therefore a concentrated source of energy – 1 tablespoon provides 65 calories (equivalent to one small potato). The Glycemic Index (GI) of honey is lower than that of sugar i.e. a measure of how quickly it is digested and turned into energy by the body. The GI of honey varies from 32 to 85 depending on the botanical source (GI of sugar is 100). Fructose-rich honeys such as acacia honey have a lower GI and are superior as they exert a smaller impact on elevating blood sugar levels.
Honey contains relatively small amounts of vitamins and minerals, however it has higher, levels of polyphenols – a type of antioxidant beneficial for health. Honey has been shown to possess anti-microbial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and possibly even anti-tumor effects according to a Swiss bee research centre. Manuka honey which originates from New Zealand had been found to possess antibacterial and antibiotic qualities, due to containing compounds called Hydrogen Peroxide and Methylglyoxal, but more research is needed to prove its benefits.
Although honey is a natural source of sweetness, it should be taken in small quantities as large amounts can cause weight gain. Furthermore, those with Diabetes should use honey with caution and monitor its effects on blood sugar levels. Honey should not be given to babies under 12 months old. There is a health concern for the presence of Clostridium botulinum bacteria in honey. Spores from bacteria can survive in honey and can produce harmful toxins in the digestive system of young infants, who have weaker immune defences.
According to the old proverb; A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of Hay, A swarm of bees in June is worth a Silver Spoon, A swarm of bees in July isn’t worth a fly. I’m still waiting for my silver spoon….