Is Honey a Nutritious Sweetener?
Honey has long been an important source of nutrition. In many ancient cultures honey has been referenced as a source for both its nutritious goodness and healing properties. More specifically, wise leaders, such as Solomon and even earlier into history the Sumerians reference the nutritional value of honey. What follows is a broad overview of some specific topics on the subject of honey nutrition.
Honey Composition: What is Honey Made Of?
“Eat honey my son, because it is good” King Solomon – Proverbs 24:13
Honey is primarily made up of carbohydrates. Contrary to the opinion of some uneducated souls, honey IS sugar or more correctly it is made up of several types of sugar. The sugar content of honey can vary by honey type but, generally honey is comprised of fructose, glucose and secondarily about 25 other oligoscharrides. During digestion the main carbohydrates – fructose and glucose are quickly transported into the blood stream and are used for energy.
Proteins, Enzymes, Amino Acids
Honey contains only about .5% proteins. These are mainly enzymes and amino acids. Honey offers very little benefit in terms of protein quantity. However, one enzyme in honey – glucose oxidase produces hydrogen peroxide when broken down and has been shown to exert an antibacterial effect in the oral cavity.
Vitamins, minerals and Trace Elements
The amount of vitamins and minerals in honey is small. However, it must be said that mineral amounts and types can vary significantly when looking at each monofloral honey type individually.
Honey contains a number of other trace elements. Those of nutritional value include chrome, manganese and selenium. These three elements are especially important to children from age 2 to 15 years. In addition, there are several other trace elements that are important to human nutrition at any life stage. These include sulfur, boron, cobalt, fluorine, iodine, molydenum and silicon.
The presence of choline and acetylcholine in honey is of particular interest. Choline is essential for cardiovascular and brain function, and cellular memebrane development and repair. Acetylcholine is a neurotrasmitter which might aid in the prevention in certain diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.
When discussing the glycemic index of honey it is important to note that this measurement tool can vary widely from one honey to another based on source of the honey. Based on the most extensive studies available, the GI of honey ranges from 19 to 89. Most averages indicate that the Glycemic Index of Honey is somewhere between 49 and 64, which means that honey is in the low to medium range of the glycemic index.
While honey has been shown to have glucose levels similar to those of some other refined sugars the glycemic index is only PART of the story! There is a concept called glycemic load. This value expresses how much of a carbohydrate will be “dumped” into the blood whereas glycemic index shows how quickly the carbohydrates will be absorbed. Again this value varies based on the type of honey tested but most are in the low to mid range.
Conclusion: Is Honey Nutritious?
When factoring the glycemic index, glycemic load and its nutritional value, honey is actually a fairly good option for sweetening foods. Since it has been clinically indicated to be tolerated reasonably well by both type 1 and type 2 diabetics in small amounts its a good sweetener for just about everyone!