Monday, May 2, 2011

Healing Honey is Delicious and Nutritious

Minimally refined, delicious and purely from nature, honey makes for an excellent option when deciding how to sweeten your morning tea or fresh-baked pastry. But there is more to be appreciated in honey than just its good taste.

Picture of honey

Honey is primarily composed of sugars, with glucose making up 28 percent to 36 percent, fructose 36 percent to 50 percent, sucrose 0.8 percent to 5 percent and maltose 1.7 percent to 11.8 percent. However, honey also is an extremely complex food product that has been reported to contain at least 181 different substances including proteins, enzymes, amino acids, minerals, vitamins and polyphenols. It is these minor constituents that may be responsible for honey's health-promoting effects.

Research has shown that honey may help to enhance immune function (which lends support for the tradition of putting honey in tea for a sore throat), and may even promote better blood sugar control in comparison to other caloric sweeteners. The benefits of honey are not strictly dietary; applying honey to a superficial minor wound or burn also may help promote a quicker healing process.

Although the average serving size of 1 tablespoon of honey amounts to approximately 21 g, higher doses of 50 g to 80 g are usually necessary to elicit positive nutritional and health benefits. Therefore, using honey to supplement for nutritional deficiencies may not be realistic. In addition, the composition of honey varies somewhat depending on floral source, environmental factors and processing; thus depending on your selection, nutritional benefits will vary.

However, in contrast to other sweeteners completely absent of trace nutrients, honey may be the more delicious and nutritious option.

— Christina Troutner, dietetic intern, and Debra A. Boutin, MS, RD, chair and dietetic internship director, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University.

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