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5 Things You Should Know About Honey

Learn all about the health benefits of raw honey compared to sugar.

You probably know this gift from nature by its common name – honey – but I like to refer it to as ‘liquid gold’. We also tend to nickname our loved ones as ‘honey’, ‘honey bee’ etcetera – but have you ever wondered what gives honey such compelling qualities?

1. How is Honey Made?

This is NOT how bees make honey | Source: www.funnyjunk.com/user/sirbrentcoe

This is NOT how bees make honey | Source: www.funnyjunk.com/user/sirbrentcoe

First of all, we need to understand how honey is produced. The bees gather nectar from blooming flowers; the nectar is then mixed with the enzymes that bees produce.

These (enzymes) will break down the nectar, which contains sucrose (a disaccharide) into glucose and fructose (monosaccharide, simplest molecule of sugar).

Then, another process called ‘evaporation’ occurs where most of the moisture in honey has to be evaporated; leaving only a minimal amount of water in it.

2. Which Honey is Best?

Source: maureenabood.com

Source: maureenabood.com

There is a wide range of honey available in the market; each depending on the types of flowers where the nectars are gathered from. Thus, not all honeys will have the same taste.

The most crucial thing when purchasing honey is to buy it in their ‘raw form’. Raw honey is concentrated nectar collected from flowers that is extracted straight from honeycombs. It is unheated, pure, unpasteurised and unprocessed honey.

Raw honey is the healthiest choice amongst the various forms of honey as it also has the most nutritional value and contains enzymes that are great for digestion woes.

3. Honey vs Sugar

Source: csperriton.blogspot.com

Source: csperriton.blogspot.com

Our body digests honey in a different way compared to sugar. Sugar has a more complex structure (it is a disaccharide where two sugar molecules – glucose and fructose – are bound together). When we eat table sugar (also known as ‘granulated sugar’, ‘fine sugar’ or ‘white sugar’), our body needs to use its own store of enzymes to break down the sucrose into smaller molecules.

In a nutshell, table sugar does not provide us with any nutritional value but the process for it to be metabolised will use up many vitamins and minerals from our body instead.

On the other hand, consuming honey is better than table sugar – thanks to the enzymes readily available in the nectar that breaks down the sugar molecules.

Thus when we consume honey, our body does not need to supply enzymes for the sugar-breakdown process; more enzymes can be utilised instead for digestion. In addition, honey also contains vitamins and minerals which is a good supplement for our overall health.

4. How Should You Enjoy Honey? 

Source: archive.bebo.com

Source: archive.bebo.com

For starters, you can use honey instead of sugar as a sweetener for your coffee and tea. It is also worth drinking honey mixed with warm water. Not only does it taste like chrysanthemum tea, it also has a calming and soothing effect.

For a homemade remedy as relief for nausea, one can mix honey, ginger, and lemon juice in plain water. The possibilities of enjoying honey as a beverage are endless!

Do you know that honey can also be used to replace sugar in baking? The general rule is to replace 2/3 cup of honey for every one cup of sugar used. For better baking results, we might need to tweak the recipe a bit such as reducing the overall liquid content (as honey is a form of liquid and it tends to add extra moisture and causes sogginess).

5. A word of caution

Source: newleafandcompany.com

Source: newleafandcompany.com

While honey is less refined and contains more nutrients than sugar, it also contains slightly more carbs and more calories per teaspoon than granulated sugar. A tablespoon of honey packs 46 calories and 13g of carbs [1], while a level teaspoon of granulated sugar contains 16 calories and 4.2g of carbs [2]. If you’re looking to lose weight (or not gain any), calories are still calories, and will lead to weight gain if consumed in excess. So, enjoy your ‘liquid gold’, but slurp up in moderation.

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How do you like your honey? Share with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page!

Contributed by Syaidatun Yahya, Dietitian, National Kidney Foundation

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