The results of recent research on honey have the nutrition world a-buzzing. Honey has joined the ranks of foods like chocolate, coffee, and eggs—foods once considered sinful that have recently been proven healthy (in moderation, of course). The majority of commonly-used sweeteners, like sugar and corn syrup, are referred to as “empty calories,” because they supply calories but are devoid of vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients. But honey is a sweet exception, as it has been found to contain small amounts of several micronutrients, making it a healthier alternative to those conventional sweeteners.|
According to the National Honey Board, the nutrients in honey include niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. And recently, the discovery that honey is rich in antioxidants (substances that protect healthy tissue by destroying cell-damaging free radicals) has secured its place in healthy pantries worldwide. Antioxidants are thought to fight cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and other chronic conditions. In one study at the University of California Davis, research participants consumed about 4 tablespoons of honey daily along with eating their normal diets for one month. Blood tests revealed that this consumption raised the level of antioxidants in the bloodstreams of the participants. Generally, the highest levels of antioxidants come from the darkest colored honey.
Bees use nectar to make all types of honey, but the color and flavor of the honey will vary greatly depending on the type of flower blossoms the nectar came from. Honey can range from a very pale golden color to dark brown, and its flavor can vary just as much. There are over 300 varieties of honey in the United States alone, including alfalfa, avocado, buckwheat, and orange blossom. Generally, the darker the honey is, the bolder its flavor will be.
After honey is collected from a beehive, there are a variety of ways it may be processed before it reaches store shelves: