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Honey Nutrition

Before we discuss nutritional facts, it is important to make a clear distinction between raw honey and processed honey. Most honey sold in grocery stores has been highly processed to make it last longer on the shelf without crystalizing and to convert it into a crystal clear liquid without any particulates. This process involves filtering the honey and raising the temperature to more than 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Unfortunately, this removes or destroys the best nutrients found in it! Therefore, we will limit our discussion of nutrition to raw honey like we sell.

The macronutrients in honey, constituting about eighty percent by volume, are carbohydrates in the form of sugars. The primary carbohydrates are fructose (approximately 39 percent) and glucose (31-32 percent). The fructose content in honey is what makes it taste sweeter than table sugar (sucrose). Honey also contains smaller quantities of maltose (approximately 7 percent) and sucrose (approximately 2-3 percent). The relative percentages of these different sugars will vary somewhat depending on the nectar source(s) of the bees who made the honey.

Some health experts advise against consuming honey, or at least using it sparingly, because of its high sugar composition. However, the effect of honey on the human body has been shown to be very different than the sucrose and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) found in so many processed foods and in the granulated table sugar (pure sucrose) you may spoon into your oatmeal. Most importantly, honey has a lower glycemic index than table sugar and HFCS. Therefore, it does not cause as big a spike in the blood sugar and can fuel the body and muscles for an extended period of time. For this reason, honey is often consumed before, during, and after workouts by professional bodybuilders and athletes. For this same reason, honey is often the sweetener of choice by type 2 diabetics and others attempting to control their blood sugar.

It should be noted that the GI of honey varies from a low 35 to a medium range GI of 56-64, depending on the source of the nectar used to make the honey. The higher the fructose percentage compared to the sucrose level, the lower the GI. Darker raw honey tends to have a lower GI than lighter raw honey. These facts have been determined by testing various types of honey. Furthermore, the highly processed honey labeled as “Pure Honey” you find in the supermarket has the highest GI of all honey.

Unprocessed raw honey also contains a number of highly beneficial micronutrients. Vitamins B6, thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, and pantothenic acid are present in significant quantities. Flavonoids and polyphenols (phenolic acids), types of powerful antioxidants, are also in relatively high concentrations in raw honey. However, they are easily denatured by heat so honey in supermarkets will not give you this health benefit. Darker honey like buckwheat honey tend to have more antioxidants than lighter honey but all raw honey will have a good supply. Antioxidants are responsible for scavenging free radicals in the body that are the underlying cause of so many diseases.

One of the best nutritional facts you won’t hear touted about supermarket honey is the benefit local raw honey has on the immune system, especially during allergy season. Raw honey contains little bits of pollen. This is why one cup of raw honey contains about a gram of protein. If you consume these bits of pollen from raw honey, you will build a natural resistance to airborne allergens.

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