Think about this -- To produce a pound of honey, 556 worker bees have to fly 35,584 miles to and fro, which amounts to over three times round the world! 
Honey is probably the oldest known sweetener in the world, and has been used as food, medicinal ingredient and beauty agent for several millennia. It is the stored food of bees kept in reserve for the winter months when fresh flower nectar is not available. It is basically partially digested nectar that the bees store in the bee-hive cells or honeycombs. Honey has lesser water and yeast content than nectar and thus does not ferment.
What is honey made up of?
Honey is primarily made up of fructose, glucose and water; thus it is almost pure carbohydrate. Its simple sugars are absorbed directly into the blood stream without any digestion. It also contains small amounts of antioxidants, trace enzymes, vitamins and minerals (niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc).
Nutrient Value per 100 g of honey
Protein - 0.3g Fat - 0 Carbohydrates - 79.5g Energy - 319kcal Calcium - 5mg Phosphorous - 16mg Iron - 0.696mgs
Benefits of honey
- Quick source of energy since it is rich in carbohydrates (17g of carbs per tablespoon) – it is a good natural ingredient for athletes, to increase performance and help in recovery of tired muscles.
- Anti-microbial effect – counters minor infections such as sore throats and chest congestion, and can be used to treat minor burns and cuts.
- Rich in anti-oxidants such as flavonoids and phenolic acids, thus countering free radicals.The anti-oxidant content depends on the flower source - generally, darker honeys have higher antioxidant content than lighter honeys.
- Eaten fresh on bread, toast, muffins, etc.
- Sweeten hot and cold drinks
- Added to salad dressings and dips
- Used to glaze roasts (especially ham) and confectionaries
- Mixed in liqueurs and wines
- Added to cakes, cookies, candies, breads – it can absorb moisture and thus keeps confectionaries soft and fresh for longer.
- If you are substituting sugar with honey, use half the recommended amount given for sugar.
- For baking, add ½ tsp of additional baking powder for each cup of honey used. Also reduce the oven temperature slightly to prevent over-browning.
Types of honey
The flavour, fragarance and colour of honey depends on the flowers the bees collect the nectar from. The lighter honeys (sage, clover, dandelion, orange blossom) have a delicate fragrance, while the darker honeys (blackberry, buckwheat, eucalyptus) have a more distinct fragrance and taste.
Honey can be sold in different forms:
- Liquid honey – strained and bottled
- Creamed honey – liquid honey that is whipped to give it a creamy, spreadable consistency
- Comb honey – the honey is kept in an undisturbed state inside the comb, and sold in containers
In the medieval days wounds were bound in strips of linen dipped in honeycomb wax and honey, to heal the wound faster.
How to store honey
Never store honey in the fridge – it tends to thicken and crystallize. Keep honey in tightly-closed containers in a warm and dry place. If the honey becomes grainy or crystallized, it has gone bad – simply place the jar in a saucepan of hot water and stir the honey till the crystals dissolve.
Honey vis-à-vis sugar
It is much more beneficial to have honey as a sweetener, since it is natural product that is full of nutritional goodness, while sugar on the other hand is processed to the extreme and gives you empty calories only. Also fructose (fruit sugar) is sweeter than sucrose (ordinary sugar). Thus people with ailments such as diabetes, dental problems, obesity and heart disease, could chose honey over sugar, since they would need to have it in smaller quantities. The same applies to dieters – they can use honey instead of sugar, as they’ll be having less of it, and will also benefit from its nutritional value.
Caution: In real terms, honey has more carbohydrates and calories than processed sugar – it is just sweeter, and more nutritious.
Home Remedies using honey
- Sip a glass of warm water with two teaspoons of honey and the juice of half a lemon to cure a sore throat.
- Gargle with warm raw tea in which a spoon of honey has been added to relieve an irritant cough.
- Grind 8-10 leaves of holy basil (Indian tulsi) and 1/2 inch fresh ginger in a mortar and pestle. Extract the juice and mix with a spoon of honey and have to relieve a sore throat and help in decongestion. If you don’t have holy basil leaves, just the juice of ginger and honey also works as well.
- Gargle with warm water and honey to treat inflamed gums.
- Have a glass of luke warm water with a teaspoon of honey and the juice of half a lemon, first thing in the morning, to lose weight and counter constipation.
- Have a glass of hot milk sweetened with honey for a good night’s sleep.
For beauty care
- Applying honey regularly to a scar can reduce marks.
- Use a face pack of honey, gram flour and a pinch of turmeric powder, for a clear complexion.
See a powerpoint presentation on Honey Bee Biology
- Honey Information