Clover honey's golden hue and mild flavor make it widely appealing and useful as a sweetener for everything from your morning coffee to a fruit and vegetable smoothie. Honey has long been celebrated for its medicinal effects, including its antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. Honey may also be a safer source of fructose than other refined carbohydrates. However, honey is still sugar and isn't good for your health when consumed in excess.
Clover Honey Basics
The most common type of honey produced in the U.S., clover honey is made by bees that feed mainly on the nectar of the clover plant. Per tablespoon, honey provides about 64 calories, most of which come from sugars. Honey contains a small amount of protein and other nutrients including iron, potassium and some B vitamins. It also contains varying levels of antioxidants, plant compounds with disease-fighting properties. Clover honey's nutrient profile is highly variable, however, depending on whether the bees fed on other types of plants, whether the honey was processed and how long it was stored. According to a study published in February 2004 in "Journal of Food Science," heating clover honey during processing did not significantly affect its antioxidant content, but six months of storage reduced antioxidant capacity by 30 percent.
Antibacterial Effects of Honey
Many scientific studies support the efficacy of honey in fighting bacteria, similar to antibiotics, according to one research article published in 2011 in "Biotechnology Research International." In another study published in "Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine" in April 2011, clover honey was shown to be effective against several pathogens from burn-wound patients at dilutions as low as 3.6 to 0.7 percent. According to the authors of the 2011 "Biotechnology Research International" paper, both raw and processed honeys exhibit inhibitory effects against pathogens.
A Safe Sweetener?
Animal studies have shown that a diet high in fructose has a toxic effect on rats. Honey is made up of fructose and glucose, with slightly more fructose than glucose. In a study published in "The Journal of Nutrition" in 2002, researchers fed rats a high-fructose diet of either honey or refined fructose. After two weeks, researchers found that the refined fructose diet increased both triglycerides and markers of inflammation more than the honey diet did. The refined fructose diet also reduced blood levels of vitamin E, an important antioxidant, but the honey diet did not.
How Much Is Enough?
Although honey might provide benefits, as with other sugars, too much of it in your diet can lead to obesity, diabetes and heart disease. A little bit of clover honey used to sweeten foods is OK, but follow the American Heart Association's recommendations, which advise women to limit their intake of added sugars, including honey, to no more than 100 calories per day, while men shouldn't have more than 150 calories from added sugars. That's roughly 1 1/2 and 2 2/3 tablespoons of honey, respectively, per day.
- Cox's Honey: Quality Clover Honey
- USDA Agricultural Research Service: Honey
- Journal of Food Science: Effect of Processing and Storage on Antioxidant Capacity of Honey
- Biotechnology Research International: Antibacterial Efficacy of Raw and Processed Honey
- Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine: Honey: Its Medicinal Property and Antibacterial Activity
- The Journal of Nutrition: Nutrient Metabolism -- Research Communication Substituting Honey for Refined Carbohydrates Protects Rats From Hypertriglyceridemic and Prooxidative Effects of Fructose
- Mark's Daily Apple: Is Honey a Safe(r) Sweetener?
- Dr. Mark Hyman: Eggs Don’t Cause Heart Attacks -- Sugar Does
- American Heart Association: Sugar 101