Made by bees from the nectar of flowers, honey is a naturally sweet substance that is commonly used as a sweetener. Ancient Greeks and Romans enjoyed many honey benefits for centuries and primarily used it for medicinal purposes because of its antioxidant and anti-diabetic properties.
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However, since honey isn't naturally occurring in fruits or vegetables, it is considered to be an added sugar. When regularly consumed, the harmful effects of honey begin to manifest.
Giving infants under the age of 12 months honey can prove to be fatal due to the presence of botulism spores. In adults with a diet rich in added sugars, too much honey can lead to obesity and put an individual at a higher risk of diabetes and other cardiovascular diseases.
Honey Benefits and Nutrition
According to USDA's FoodData Central, a tablespoon of honey has 64 calories, 3.59 grams of water and 17.30 grams of carbohydrates. A single tablespoon of honey contributes 17.25 grams of sugars or 34 percent of the daily value required by an individual. Honey is also relatively low in protein, with a tablespoon offering less than 0.10 grams of protein per serving.
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Major honey benefits include its essential mineral and vitamin content. Minerals like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and sodium all occur in trace amounts.
One tablespoon of honey contains 10.9 milligrams of potassium, an important mineral required by the body to function correctly. The Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center explains that higher potassium intakes can reduce the risk of heart disease and the formation of kidney stones.
Findings from a review published in the April-June 2017 issue of Pharmacognosy Research show that honey contains polyphenols and flavonoids, two types of antioxidants that exhibit anti-inflammatory, anticancer and antimicrobial properties. Honey has been used for centuries to treat everything from asthma and cardiovascular diseases to alleviating the symptoms of diabetes.
Read more: Will Honey Make You Lose Belly Fat?
According to the authors of a February 2018 review published in Oxidative Medicine and Cell Longevity, past studies conducted on rats showed the potential benefit of using honey to treat people with Type 2 diabetes. One of the essential honey benefits is its high fructose content which is responsible for the liver converting and storing glucose into glycogen.
This conversion into glycogen is what's responsible for preventing high blood sugar levels. However, more research on humans needs to be conducted before a definitive conclusion can be reached. Additionally, the Mayo Clinic recommends that people with diabetes should consume honey in moderation and better yet, consult a doctor before increasing their intake.
Disadvantages of Honey
One of the significant problems of honey is that it's an added sugar, which means it's not a naturally occurring sugar found in fruits or dairy. Based on the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the recommended added sugar intake must be lower than 10 percent of calories consumed daily.
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While honey may have antioxidant and anticancer properties, when it comes to the food pyramid, being considered an added sugar is one of the disadvantages of honey. Added sugars, such as cane sugar and honey, contribute excess calories to an individual's diet but not much in the way of nutrients and minerals.
It is not recommended to give honey to infants under the age of 12 months as the incidence of infant botulism occurring is high. One of the harmful effects of honey occurs when it is ingested by babies.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, botulism spores are present in homes, soil and even in honey. The botulism spores can proliferate in the developing digestive tract, releasing a toxin that's fatal in people.
- Mayo Clinic: “Honey”
- USDA FoodData Central: “Honey”
- MyFoodData.com: “Nutrition Facts for Honey"
- Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center: “Potassium"
- Pharmacognosy Research: "Honey and Health: A Review of Recent Clinical Research”
- Oxidative Medicine and Cell Longevity: "Honey and Diabetes: The Importance of Natural Simple Sugars in Diet for Preventing and Treating Different Type of Diabetes”
- Health.gov: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Botulism Prevention”
- Mayo Clinic: "Diabetes Foods: Is Honey a Good Substitute for Sugar?"