Honey has been used as an important medicinal element and as a natural sweetener. While clover honey does contain carbohydrates in the form of sugar, it also provides several health benefits, in contrast to refined table sugar. Clover honey, the most common type found in grocery stores, can be used to naturally sweeten foods and beverages.
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There are several varieties of honey, depending on the type of flower the bees retrieved nectar from. The flavor and color of honey differs by variety, but there is not a significant nutritional difference between types. One tablespoon of clover honey, which is a mild, light-colored honey, contains approximately 64 calories and 17 grams of carbohydrate, all of which are from sugar. Clover honey is not a significant source of fat, protein, fiber or vitamins and minerals, but it does contain a trace amount of calcium, vitamin C, potassium and zinc.
Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Properties
Honey contains a variety of antioxidants, which are chemicals that protect the body from free radicals that can damage cells and cause disease. Specifically, honey is a source of flavonoids, which may decrease the risk of some cancers and heart disease. Because an enzyme found in honey produces hydrogen peroxide, honey possesses antimicrobial properties. This sweet nectar has long been used to treat wounds and heal burns due to these properties.
Honey and Diabetes
Because of honey's high sugar content, it may seem counterintuitive to encourage diabetics to eat it. However, studies have shown that intake of honey has a beneficial effect on blood sugar levels in diabetics, despite its carbohydrate content. A 2014 review article published in the "Journal of Diabetes & Metabolic Disorders" reported that several studies have found that honey, when used in conjunction with anti-diabetic drugs, actually improves glycemic control. This evidence suggests that the sugar in honey does not effect the body the same way that traditional table sugar does.
Considerations and Precautions
Even though clover honey provides benefits, too much sugar in your diet is not good for your health. The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar intake to 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 teaspoons for men. Most clover honey found on the shelves of grocery stores has been processed and refined, which may affect the antioxidant content. To get the most benefits, look for honey in its natural, unprocessed form. In addition, do not give honey to infants under the age of 1. Honey may contain the toxin clostridium botulinum, which can cause botulism in an infant's immature digestive system.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Honey
- Vitamins and Health Supplements Guide: Honey
- Real Food for Life: 10 Health Benefits of Honey
- Pioneer Brand: Health Benefits
- Journal of Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders: Effect of Honey in Diabetes Mellitus: Matter Arising
- American Heart Association: Sugar 101
- National Honey Board: Honey Varietals
- National Honey Board: Honey Nutrition Information