Honey: Health Benefits, Nutritional Value, Side effects, Uses and more

Honey: Health Benefits, Nutritional Value, Side effects, Uses and more

Honey has had a special place in home remedies for hundreds of years. It is known as one of the greatest from all-natural healers. In addition, honey offers many health benefits, be it cough relief or its antioxidant properties. There are several ways to benefit from the superpowers of honey.

Honey is like a treasure box with too many pleasant surprises. It contains bio-actives that equip honey with healing abilities. It also carries an array of other health benefits. Like when used in place of refined sugar, honey is very beneficial. The reason? Sugar gives empty calories. On the other hand, honey is rich and can have multiple benefits. This article talks about various impressive benefits of honey and ways to use it. 

What is Honey?

Honey bees obtain honey in the form of plant nectar. Although it is produced by and for bees, humans have always relished it. People have treasured honey for thousands of years. Its natural sweetness and health benefits play a role in this.

We get raw honey directly from beehives. It does not go through processing. But raw honey can undergo filtration to eliminate any undesirable particles. The majority of honey jars sold in supermarkets undergo a heating process. It makes honey less sticky and easier to filter. High temperatures pasteurise the honey. It kills the yeast cells that might cause undesirable fermentation.

Types of Honey

1. Processed Honey

When you think of ‘normal’ honey, you might imagine the sticky nectar you get at the grocery store. This honey undergoes the process of pasteurisation and filteration. Therefore, it is called processed honey. 

Pasteurisation is the process of heating honey in high temperatures. It helps to prolong the shelf life and prevents crystal formation. However, this method might destroy some minerals and live enzymes naturally present in this golden liquid.

Filtering contributes to a smooth, longer-lasting consistency. It eliminates any unwanted residue. Honeybee residue, beeswax, solids, or pollen might cause the viscous liquid to solidify faster. Hence, processing removes them.

2. Natural Honey and Pure Honey

Pure and natural honey are both pasteurised and filtered as well. 

The term ‘natural’ honey should signify no artificial ingredients. However, this may not be the case. For example, natural honey may contain corn syrup, sugar, or natural flavouring. 

‘Pure’ honey contains no additives.

3. Raw Honey

Raw honey is the best call to reap all the benefits. Because raw honey does not undergo pasteurisation or filtration, it has a complete set of nutrients.

If you are keen to add raw honey into your diet, make sure you get it from a reliable source. It ensures you obtain the highest-grade possible sans contamination.

Nutritional Information

Honey is essentially sugar. It offers more calories than white sugar. However, its high sugar and low-fat content make it ideal for use as an alternative to sugar in various beverages and foods.

Honey is sweeter than the white sugar that we use. So, if you use it as a swap, you must use less.

Honey: Nutritional value

One tbsp of honey contains:

  • Calories: 64
  • Carbohydrates: 17 gm
  • Sugar (fructose and glucose): 17 gm
  • Protein: 0 gm
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Fibre: 0 gm

Honey: Vitamins and Minerals

Honey also contains fair amounts of micros:

  • Vitamin C
  • Iron
  • Zinc
  • Calcium
  • Potassium
  • Sodium

Honey is not a great source of vitamins. But it offers a fair amount of the mentioned minerals.

Honey Nutrition Facts

1. Calories from simple carbs

Honey has plenty of simple carbs. The primary components of nectar are sugar and water. Honeybees add enzymes that produce additional organic compounds. It inverts the sucrose into fructose and glucose and hence high fructose content makes it sweeter than table sugar. The water then evaporates to prevent spoilage of the final product.

2. Water Content

Honey is approximately 18% water. Therefore, water content helps to determine the quality of honey. Beekeepers feel that the lower the water percentage of honey, the higher the grade of honey.

3. Antioxidants

Honey is rich in flavonoids and phenolic acids. These are natural antioxidants and offer several health benefits. Additionally, it is low in fat and cholesterol! It is one of the most intriguing honey nutrition facts. 

4. The Glycemic Index

Honey has a lower Glycemic Index (GI) than sugar. The GI of honey is 58. It means that the absorption of sugars in honey is gradual. It also results in improved digestion.

9 Proven Health Benefits of Honey

Honey is the only insect-derived natural product which has nutritional, cosmetic, therapeutic, medicinal and industrial values. Several studies reveal that the medicinal effect of honey may be due to its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, apoptotic, and antioxidant properties.

Honey may not be a powerhouse of nutrients. Regardless, it is a superfood. And rightfully so! Honey has beneficial effects on inflammation, bacteria and wound healing.

1. It is Anti-Inflammatory

Inflammation can cause heart disease, autoimmune disorders and cancers. The antioxidants in honey are responsible for some of its health benefits.

Natural honey includes a variety of antioxidant components. Some are phytochemicals, flavonoids, and vitamin C. These antioxidants protect us from oxidative stress and help us get rid of free radicals. Oxidative stress is related to many health issues. So you can reduce your risk of disease by consuming antioxidant-rich foods, like honey.

Honey has antioxidants that can help protect the body from inflammation. As per a study, antioxidants in buckwheat honey indicates that honey might boost antioxidant activity in the body.

2. Potent Immunity Booster

Honey helps boost immunity by increasing the count of T and B lymphocytes, antibodies, eosinophils, neutrophils and monocytes. In addition, it also helps increase the count of natural killer cells generation during primary and secondary immune responses in tissue culture.

As per research, a type of sugar named niger oligosaccharides in honey has immunopotentiation effects. However, the non-sugar ingredients are also responsible for immunomodulation.

3. It Helps Reduce Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a prominent risk factor for heart disease. Honey may help decrease blood pressure. It is due to antioxidants, which help lower blood pressure. In addition, a study shows that consuming honey reduces blood pressure.

4. Improves Cholesterol Levels

High LDL (bad cholesterol) levels are a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease. This form of cholesterol appears in various heart diseases. In addition, LDL is involved in the development of atherosclerosis. A fatty accumulation in the arteries may lead to heart attacks and strokes.

Research suggests that honey may help lower cholesterol. It lowers total and LDL (bad) cholesterol. Additionally, it increases the HDL (good) cholesterol considerably.

5. Cough Relief

Traditional remedies for cold and cough are sure to include honey. For example, research says that 1-2 teaspoons of honey may relieve nightly cough in children and help them sleep. However, doctors do not suggest this technique for infants under one year.

6. Diabetes management

Several studies showcase the anti-diabetic role of honey. It helps manage diabetes mellitus via interventions that target hyperglycemia and oxidative stress. In addition, it also helps in fighting several comorbidities related to diabetes. It scavenges reactive oxygen species, ameliorates oxidative stress, and reduces hyperglycemia. However, it must not be consumed very frequently by diabetic patients.  

7. Cancer Prevention

Current studies show that honey exerts anticancer effects by interfering with multiple cell-signalling pathways. These pathways include inducing apoptosis (cell death),  antimutagenic, antiproliferative, and anti-inflammatory pathways. In addition, it modifies the immune responses by signalling the body’s white blood cells. As a result, it may help lower the risk of cancer.

8. Aids in Asthma Relief

Honey is commonly used in folk medicine to treat inflammation, cough and fever. It has a relieving effect on asthmatic patients. It increases saliva production. As saliva lubricates the airways and lowers irritation in the throat, a cough can diminish. In addition, its anti-inflammatory properties may decrease the swelling of the airways that accompanies asthma.

9. Prevention of Cardiovascular Diseases

Honey has antioxidants like flavonoids, polyphenolics, vitamin C, and monophenols. These compounds may help reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

In coronary heart disease, flavonoids protect the heart from failures by:

  • Dilating the coronary blood vessels 
  • Reducing the ability of platelets in the blood to clot, and 
  • Inhibiting low-density lipoproteins from oxidising.

Raw Honey Benefits

Many of these health advantages are exclusive to raw or unpasteurised honey. There are numerous uses of raw honey. It offers a wide range of health benefits and medicinal applications. 

The majority of honey sold in supermarkets goes through pasteurisation. High heat eliminates unwanted particles and increases shelf life. But many of the essential nutrients are also depleted due to the procedure. On the other hand, raw honey is unprocessed and will provide additional benefits.

1. Antibacterial

Raw honey is a known antibacterial and antimicrobial. Honey destroys harmful bacteria and fungus. In addition, due to its distinct chemical composition, it does not promote the growth of yeast or bacteria.

Many studies support this claim. 

2. Wound Healing

Raw honey is also known to treat wounds. This property stems from the antibacterial benefits of honey. Studies prove that it is an excellent therapy for burns, injuries, and skin diseases. A study also suggests that raw honey is beneficial for diabetic foot ulcers.

3. Keeps Gums Healthy

Raw honey benefits oral health. It may appear strange given that sweet foods are harmful to dental health. However, honey has proven antibacterial qualities. In addition, it may treat tooth decay rather than inducing cavities.

One research shows that chewing manuka honey reduces plaque and gum bleeding. In addition, it was more effective than sugar-free chewing gum.

4. Improves Digestive Health

Raw honey offers another benefit of curing digestive difficulties, including diarrhoea. However, there is a lack of evidence. But one study uses honey as a therapy for Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori). This bacterium can lead to stomach ulcers. Honey was proven successful in the fight with this bacterium.

Raw honey is also prebiotic. Meaning, it feeds the healthy bacteria that dwell in the intestines. These good bacterias are needed not just for digestion but also for general health.

5. Prevents Diseases

Honey is a source of phytonutrients. The antioxidant and antibacterial properties of honey stem from these compounds. It may also enhance your immune system.

Uses of Honey

The uses of honey are not limited to wound healing and curing cough. It is a multi-purpose kitchen staple. You can use honey in a multitude of ways.

1. Add honey to curries. 

You can drizzle a bit of honey to your curry and gravy. It adds a delicate sweetness and body to the recipe. 

2. Use it in homemade granola bars. 

Packaged health bars are full of additives and sugar. Instead, you can make your healthy granola bar. Add in honey and some berries for the natural sweetness.

3. Use it to sweeten beverages. 

You can easily replace your sugar with honey. Do you enjoy your morning tea? Add in some honey. The flavour of honey accentuates the drink.

4. Pair it with any cheese 

Honey has a distinct flavour. It will enhance the taste of any cheese dip you make. The combination of savoury healthy  cheese and sweet honey is heavenly.

5. Use it as a sauce 

We all love toppings on ice- creams and pancakes. Therefore, switch to pure honey for adding sweetness to your dessert.

6. Honey dressing for salads 

Plain salads tend to get boring. Instead, try making your honey dressing. Squeeze ½ lemon, add in some olive oil and 1 tbsp honey. There you have it! Honey dressing you are sure to make again.

7. Add it to roasted/ boiled corn. 

Caramel popcorn is a movie staple. But have you ever tried corn with honey? Drizzle honey onto your corn and relish its savoury-sweet taste.

8. Use it as a marinade. 

Next time you marinate meats or paneer, add in some honey. It gives a great aftertaste to the recipe. It also makes the dish look very attractive with a honey glaze. 

9. Sweeten your bakery items 

Add honey instead of sugar to sweeten your cookies, cakes and bread.

10. Add it to Mithais 

If you have a sweet tooth, make yourself homemade mithai with honey.

11. Add honey to your sauces, dips and chutney. 

It goes well with any sauce for your meals. You can also add honey to your tangy tomato chutney.

12. Honey for skin 

It is advantageous because of its moisturising and nourishing properties. Honey is the best natural moisturiser, especially for your dry skin. In addition, it is easy to apply. Raw honey unclogs pores and helps moisturise parched skin. It also helps cure cracked lips during winters.

Recipes Using Honey

You can use honey in various healthy recipes like beverages, desserts and snacks. In addition, you can use it as a garnishing substance. However, the most beneficial way to use honey for a healthy life is by drinking it with warm water. 

It is the easiest recipe and most popular honey consumption method these days. 

1. Lukewarm Water and Honey

Honey- HealthifyMe

Servings: 1

Preparation Time: 5 mins

Ingredients:

  • Honey – 1 tsp
  • Water – 1 glass
  • Lemon – Half (optional)

Method

  • Take a glass of water and pour it into a pan
  • Heat on medium flame until it becomes lukewarm
  • Take the water in the glass now and add honey
  • If you want to add the benefits of lemon to it, add lemon juice. 

One glass of warm water and honey on an empty stomach is very beneficial in the morning. It helps lose weight, keeps you energetic throughout the day, and brings many long term benefits.

Try some more quick and nutritious recipes with honey. 

2. Honey Energy Bars

Honey Oats Energy Bar- HealthifyMe

Serves – 12

Preparation time – 15 minutes

Cooking time – 10 minutes

Ingredients

Rolled oats- 2 cups

Almonds, chopped – ½ cup

Dates, chopped- 1 cup

Pure honey – 1/4 cup

Vanilla extract-½ teaspoon (optional)

Sea salt- ½ tsp (optional)

Chocolate chips- ¼ cup (optional)

Method

  • Dry toast oats and almonds in a heated pan, Stir constantly.
  • Add ingredients in a blender jar and blend them until well combined.
  • Layer in a tray and cut into bars.
  • You can store these bars in an airtight container for a week.

3. Honey Banana Overnight Oats With Flax

Overnight Oats with Honey- HealthifyMe

Serves: 1

Preparation Time: 485 min

Ingredients

  • Rolled oats – ½ cup
  • Unsweetened almond milk –  ½ cup
  • Ground flaxseed – 1 tsp
  • Honey – 1 tsp
  • Banana – ½ sliced

Method

  • Mix oats, almond milk, flaxseed, and honey in a jar.
  • Stir well to combine.
  • Cover the jar with a lid or plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Before serving, top with banana and sprinkle with more flax, if desired.

Precautions and Possible Health Risks of Honey

Honey is generally safe to consume. But there are some exemptions. 

Diabetic People

If you are on a low-sugar or low-carbohydrate diet for medical reasons, you should limit the intake of honey. Honey is almost pure sugar (carbohydrates). Despite its health benefits, honey still raises blood glucose levels. However, some studies showcase its anti-diabetic properties. But, consult your doctor before consuming. 

Infants

In addition to beneficial prebiotics and nutrients, raw honey can also carry harmful bacteria such as Clostridium botulinum, which may be hazardous for babies. Therefore, you should never give raw honey to infants less than two years old. It may cause dizziness, eye sagging, and even paralysis. 

Infants are prone to infections. Therefore, avoid giving honey to infants under two years. It has dust particles that may lead to botulism-causing bacterium spores. Hence, they may get severely ill. However, heat kills most microorganisms. So, using honey in hot meals for children may be safe. Nonetheless, you should avoid feeding honey to a child under two years of age.

Adults

Overconsumption of honey may lead to symptoms like diarrhoea and vomiting. These symptoms can further lead to constipation and more severe symptoms, such as blurred vision and muscle weakness.

Over two tablespoons for women and three tablespoons for men can be harmful to health as it may contain bacterial endospores responsible for food poisoning.

Pregnant Women

Pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems should avoid consuming raw honey, as it’s not pasteurised.

Allergies

People allergic to honey should be cautious when consuming it. Honey allergies are uncommon, but they do exist. It might be due to bee pollen in the honey. Bee pollen is a combination of pollen and bee digestive enzymes. It has the potential to cause a severe allergic response.

The Bottom Line

Honey is a natural sweetener having nutritional importance. In addition, it has various industrial applications, such as making lotions and moisturisers in the cosmetic industry. Moreover, its antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anticancer properties help prevent several chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, and cancer. Furthermore, honey has a special place in Indian households as it is used for making delicious and quick recipes. It also helps lose weight when you consume it with lemon and ginger.

Honey is a sweet and healthy option over sugar. Go for a high-quality brand because some lower-quality brands may include sucrose syrup. Keep in mind to consume honey in moderation. Since it contains high calories and sugar, you should not go overboard with it. The benefits of honey are most noticeable when used in place of an unhealthy sweetener but in moderation.

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