Honey is food made by bees for bees, but many people also enjoy it. Humans have prized honey for its sweet taste for many thousands of years. Some researchers say honey is more than a sweetener. It may also have health benefits, though there is little evidence for some of its medicinal uses.
Raw honey comes straight from a beehive. Some honey producers pass the substance through a coarse filter to remove foreign matter, but it remains unprocessed food. Most of the honey sold in stores goes through a heating process to make it less sticky and easier to filter.
High temperatures pasteurize honey and destroy yeast cells in it that can cause unwanted fermentation.
Honey is basically sugar. It is actually higher in calories than the typical white sugar used for cooking or baking. Because it is sweeter, you may need less if you’re using it as a substitute. Also, honey adds flavor that white sugar does not have.
One tablespoon of honey contains:
- Calories: 64
- Protein: 0 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 17 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Sugar: 17 grams
Honey contains some vitamins and minerals in trace quantities, including small amounts of:
Raw honey is not superior to processed honey in nutrition or health benefits. Researchers found that processing does not affect honey's nutritional value or antioxidant levels.
Potential Health Benefits of Honey
Although it is not a rich source of nutrients, some people regard honey as a health food. There is little or no evidence for many common claims about honey, but research supports some of the following:
Honey contains antioxidants, which can protect the body from inflammation. Inflammation can lead to a variety of health issues, including heart disease, cancer, and autoimmune disorders. One study discovered that antioxidants in buckwheat honey were detectable in blood plasma, showing that eating honey could enhance antioxidant activity in the body.
Cough Relief for Children
Health authorities do not recommend over-the-counter medications to treat young children’s coughs and colds. Some parents may look for natural remedies. In one study, two teaspoons of honey relieved children’s nighttime cough and allowed them to sleep. However, doctors do not recommend this practice for children less than a year old.
Potential Risks of Honey
Honey is a safe food for most people, but not for all. Here are some potential risks of eating honey, including raw honey:
Botulism in Infants
You should not give honey to infants under 12 months. Honey contains dust particles that may carry spores of the bacteria that causes botulism. Infants lack resistance to many germs, and they could get very sick. Using honey in cooking food for children should be safe, as heat destroys most bacteria.
Those who are prone to allergies should be careful about eating honey. Although honey allergies are rare, they do occur. Perhaps this is due to bee pollen in the honey. Bee pollen is a mixture of pollen and digestive enzymes from bees. It can trigger a serious allergic reaction.
Some people say that eating local honey improves their seasonal allergies. They believe the pollen in the honey desensitizes them to pollen in the air. There is not enough evidence to support this. It could be harmful to rely on honey rather than seeking medical treatment for respiratory allergies.