Is honey a good food?
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.
Honey is not just 'sugar'
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.
- 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. 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). Some of these compounds are not digested or absorbed in the small intestine reaching the large intestine intact.
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. 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. These enzymes act in the ripening and preservation of the honey for the benefit of the bee larvae.
- Trace elements: Honey contains a total of 54 minerals and elements have been reported to be present in honeys examined all over the world. .
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!
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 at high temperatures to become a syrup!
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