Honey is used by many people mainly as a natural sweetener. But the natural product can also have advantages for your body, explains the registered Ernährungsberaterin Mira Ilic in an article of the renowned Cleveland Clinic (USA).
Already thousands of years ago humans used honey as food. Although the popular sweetener has not significantly fewer calories than sugar, it has a stronger sweetening power. And the natural product scores with numerous health benefits.
Honey is a liquid sweetener produced by bees. After collecting nectar from flowers, they bring it back to the beehive and regurgitate it, hand it over to the other worker bees, and then pass it on again. During this process, the nectar is enriched with enzymes, proteins, acids and other substances. The bees store the honey in combs that are sealed with wax that the animals produce in their bodies. The sweetness comes from the chemical composition: honey is mainly composed of the sugars fructose (fruit sugar) and glucose (dextrose).
There are hundreds of different kinds of honey. Among others, raw honey is available: this comes directly from the beehive. “Raw honey is the least processed and probably has the most antioxidants,” says Ilic. Although it is raw, it is considered safe to eat. But there is one exception: children under one year of age should avoid all honey. Pasteurized honey, on the other hand, was processed to kill bacteria and improve shelf life. “Not all honey sold in the stores is the same, although everything begins naturally in the beehive.
How honey is made
Whether honey is light or dark in color depends on the type of plants from which the bees that produced it obtained the nectar. “For example, dark buckwheat provides dark honey,” explains Ilic. “Nutritionally, there is evidence that darker honey contains less water and more antioxidants than light honey”. Honey has so many different tastes, says the nutritionist: “It can be sweeter or more bitter depending on the source of the blossoms.
Dark honeys are known for their stronger flavors, for example buckwheat honey. “This full-bodied honey can be used for marinades,” says the nutritionist. Manuka honey is considered by many to be the most healthful honey in the world. “Studies have shown that it has antioxidants as well as antibacterial and antimycotic properties. It is also expensive,” adds Ilic. The healing properties of Manuka Honey range from relief from burns, wounds, acne, herpes and neurodermatitis to support against colds and gastrointestinal problems.
Light honey has a rather mild taste, for example acacia honey. This variety is very liquid and clear and has a flowery, very mild and light aroma. According to Ilic it is suitable for sweetening tea or muesli, among other things. It also refers to clover honey, which is widely spread in the USA. “It has a flowery, sweet taste and a slightly sour aftertaste,” says Ilic. “It is good for baking, sauces and dressings.”
Honey should be stored in a cool place without sunlight. But despite ideal storage, honey can sometimes crystallize and solidify. “Honey with a higher ratio of glucose to fructose crystallizes earlier,” explains Ilic. “Glucose can also attach itself to the small honeycomb and pollen particles in raw honey and thus crystallize earlier”. But crystallized honey is also easy to eat: Ilic recommends using it as a spread. You can also liquefy it again by placing the container in a warm water bath.
Health benefits of honey
Honey contains antioxidants, minerals and enzymes that have many potential health benefits. There is evidence that honey can relieve coughs. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics have confirmed that honey can serve as a natural cough suppressant. It is also suitable for treating wounds and burns: Pharmaceutical grade Manuka Honey dressings have been used in clinical settings to treat burns and ulcers. “Many other claims have been made about the health benefits of honey – some based on very small studies, others overstated and based on mixed study results,” says Ilic. “Additional studies are needed. (ad)
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