All About Honey

Honey bees have been on the planet a lot longer than humans and, from the very beginning, man has sought out the delicious properties of the ancient food they produce - golden, glorious honey. As one of the most natural, tasty and versatile foods there are many reasons to include honey in your everyday diet.

Every drop of Capilano honey that you enjoy has been made by healthy Aussie bees from happy hives located mostly throughout bushland, Australia wide.

These hives are cared for by local beekeeping operations of all sizes, many of which have supplied to us for generations.  Australian honey is hand harvested predominantly throughout spring and summer.

How is honey made?

In order to produce honey, bees require good nutrition and health. Bees get their sugar, mineral and carborhyrdate requirements from nectar, the sugary substance that is naturally produced by flowers. Then, just as all animals, bees also require amino acids, minerals and proteins which they obtain from plant pollen.  Flower nectar is also used to make honey, whereas bees use the pollen just as food.

Making the honey

A small group of forager worker bees will go scouting in search of nectar and pollen. When a scout finds good foraging, she will fly back to the hive and inform other foragers where they need to go to find the source. This is done through dances, vibrations and chemical signals.

When a good foraging site has been found, the foragers fly out to collect the nectar and dip their proboscis into the flower and suck up the nectar. They store the nectar inside a pouch inside their body called a ‘honey sac’ and return to the hive. Once back at the hive, the foragers then transfer the nectar from the honey sac into the mouths of the worker bees in the hive. This adds special enzymes into the nectar which helps it turn into honey.

The worker bees then place the nectar into honeycomb cells where it changes into honey through the process of ripening. During ripening, the nectar sugars called sucrose change into honey sugars called glucose, fructose and maltose. When the honey is fully ripened, the workers cap the filled honeycomb with beeswax.

Is honey healthy?

Honey is a concentrated carbohydrate solution containing a mix of simple and complex sugars. The three main sugars are Fructose, Glucose and Sucrose. Australian honeys usually contain 36-50% fructose, 28-36% glucose and 0.8-15% sucrose, depending on the floral source[1].

  • Fructose is the sugar typically found in fruits. It is quite easily converted to glucose in the body. What doesn’t get used right away is stored as fat.
  • Glucose provides the most efficient energy to every cell in our body, including the brain. Our body is able to create glucose from various sugars and other substances in our diet, but these metabolic transformations consume energy. The brain is a special organ in that the only source of energy (fuel) that is used under normal conditions is glucose[2]. So if you are needing brain energy, think glucose!
  • Sucrose is what we commonly know as white table sugar and it is extracted from sugar cane or sugar beet, after a lot of processing. Sucrose is a disaccharide, formed from the joining together of fructose and glucose. It is broken down in the body to its component monosaccharides before further metabolism. This means sucrose gives 50% fructose and 50% glucose.
  • Other carbohydrates include a number of oligosaccharides (up to 25 have been identified)[3]. Some of these compounds are not digested or absorbed in the small intestine reaching the large intestine intact.

Preliminary studies on a selection of Australian honeys have identified considerable variation in sugar content. Honey composition is known to vary depending not only on the floral source, but also the particular season as well as other factors. An Australian honey with a relatively medium level of glucose was found to be Ironbark, [4] making this a reasonable choice if you’re looking for fast energy. Relative to sucrose, fructose is 1.2-1.8 times sweeter[1]. So, if sweetness is what you are after, then choose a honey that is rich in fructose such as Yellow Box [4]. Commercial blends generally had a lower fructose content and may not taste quite as sweet.

Due to honey being a lot sweeter compared to table sugar, a little goes a long way. This means for every one teaspoon of cane sugar, you can confidently only use ½ a teaspoon of honey and reduce your sugar intake significantly! SWEET!

Additional elements in honey

In much the same way as cows make milk for their calves, bees make honey specifically for their young, so it’s got to contain more than just sugar. Honey typically contains many minor components such as organic acids, proteins, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols contributing to the specific aroma, colour, and flavor of the honey[3]. These include:

  • Proteins: Either from the nectar itself or added by the bees, protein typically found in honey includes enzymes such as phosphatase, amylase, glucose oxidase, invertase, diastase and catalase[5]. These enzymes act in the ripening and preservation of the honey for the benefit of the bee larvae[6].
  • Trace elements: Honey contains a total of 54 minerals and elements have been reported to be present in honeys examined all over the world. [7].

What's the difference between honey and sugar?

  • Cane sugar presents little to no minerals/vitamins and is a processed plant product. Table sugar is produced by shredding, rolling and boiling cane sugar until it can be centrifuged to separate the sugar from molasses. The remaining product is tumble dried then shifted off in bulk to be refined further into granules, crystals, liquids, etc.
  • Artificial sweeteners are man-made sugar substitutes that are often derived by breaking down the organic molecular structure of natural sugars or are artificially synthesised amino acids. These include Aspartame, Sucralose, Saccharin and Xylitol. Artificial Sweeteners are highly unnatural and contain compounds that have been the subject of many health studies.
  • Stevia is highly processed extract of the stevia rebaudiana plant that is native to South America and is part of the sunflower family. The extract, called Rebaudioside, is derived by the process of “water extraction from the dried leaves, followed by clarification and crystallisation. Most commercial processes consist of water extraction, decolouration, and purification using ion-exchange resins, electrolytic techniques, or precipitating agents," according to SteviaPowder.com.
  • Agave is another natural plant substance that undergoes intense processing and refining, so ends up being more like a sugar syrup and not a pure, natural product. Agave also has a much higher ratio of fructose than honey or cane sugar.
  • Rice Malt Syrup is often referred to a healthier sugar alternative by those wanting to avoid fructose. However, like other sweeteners, it too must go through processing before it is a finished product, meaning it’s not 100% naturally occurring like honey.
  • Maple Syrup is typically used as a better option to sugar. However, many people fall into the trap of tricky food labels that may mislead you into buying Maple ‘Flavoured’ Syrup in oppose to ‘Pure’ Maple Syrup, making it a very unhealthy option if you’ve been tricked into buying a high fructose ‘maple flavoured’ product. Maple Syrup, like other sweeteners on this list, is also processed prior to bottling. Once the sap from the Maple trees has been harvested, it is boiled down to become a syrup. Once evaporation is complete, the finished product is bottled or canned and shipped, meaning it has large food mileage. As Maple Syrup is made only in North America, it is unable to be produced in Australia and classified as an Australian made product compared to our 100% pure Australian honey that’s been proudly supplied by over 600 Aussie beekeeping families.

What is the most natural sweetener?

Based on other commercially available sweeteners we can conclude that honey, made and naturally ripened by bees, is the most natural. At Capilano, we leave it up to the bees so the process of packaging our honey is simple:

  • Beekeepers hand collect 100% natural Australian honey.
  • The honey is delivered to us for bottling.
  • Minimal handling is used, with the honey only being gently warmed and filtered to remove any wax or bee materials (with the exception of our Raw, Unfiltered and Certified Organic ranges).

Compared to other sweeteners, Capilano honey remains a 100% natural, all Aussie sweetener with low food mileage. 

Honey is sweeter on the palate than cane sugar, meaning you can use less to achieve the same great taste.

References

1. 'Nutrient Review: Sweeteners'
2. Mergenthaler, P., et al., Sugar for the brain: the role of glucose in physiological and pathological brain function. Trends Neurosci, 2013. 36(10): p. 587-97.
3.Bogdanov, S., et al., Honey for nutrition and health: a review. J Am Coll Nutr, 2008. 27(6): p. 677-89.
4. Arcot, J. and J. Brand-Miller. A Preliminary Assessment of the Glycemic Index of Honey. 2005.
5. Ropa Science Research, Comparison of Mineral and Enzyme Levels in Raw and Processed Honey. National Honey Board and American Analytical Chemistry Laboratories: Wisconsin, USA. p. 1-7.
6. 'Airborne. Honey Enzymes'
7. Solayman, M., et al. Physiochemical Properties, Minerals, Trace Elements, and Heavy Metals in Honey of Different Originc: A Comprehensive Review. 2016.
8. Steen, J. We Ask Sleep Experts Whether Warm Milk Can Really Help You Fall Aslppe. 2016.

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