Honey is a natural, liquid sweetener that humans have enjoyed for thousands of years. Honey has been a staple in my house ever since I was little. I grew up watching my dad put honey and peanut butter on his toast everyday before work, and my mom always had me drink hot tea with honey when I had a sore throat. If you are a honey lover like my family, you will be happy to know that there are some health benefits associated with honey.
Disclosure: this post was created in partnership with Nature Nate‘s Honey Co. and I am being compensated monetarily; however, all opinions expressed are my own, and I only partner with brands that I personally use. Thank you for your support!
Where Does Honey Come From?
Most people are aware that honey comes from bees. But how do bees make the honey that we eat? Bees first start with a plant flower. Bees find flowers that provide nectar and they dive right in. Bees consume nectar from the plant and have a specific stomach that stores the nectar. The bee’s digestive enzymes work to turn the nectar into honey. More than one bee plays a role in this process, as bees regurgitate the nectar for others to take part in the conversion of nectar to honey. The honey eventually makes it’s way into the honeycombs where bees fan the honeycomb to evaporate the water content and thicken the honey, sealing it off with beeswax. From here, the beekeepers go to work bottling the liquid gold for us to enjoy!
Raw vs Pasteurized Honey
Honey is typically sold as two varieties: raw and pasteurized.
Raw honey is essentially straight from the hive. It is the least processed honey and contains more antioxidants because of this. Due to the low water content and acidic pH in honey, it is not an environment where bacteria or yeast can easily grow. This is why raw honey has a long shelf life even without pasteurization.
Pasteurized honey has been heated and filtered to remove imperfections and extend shelf life. Some companies also add corn syrup or other sweeteners in the process. Nutrients found in raw honey can be destroyed during pasteurization.
Health Benefits Of Raw Honey
Raw honey contains oligosaccharides which are carbohydrates that are not digested.1 This is a good thing! The oligosaccharides from honey become fermented in our gastrointestinal tract and create short-chain fatty acids which help the gut microbiome flourish.2 A flourishing gut microbiome promotes a better immune system, improved digestion and optimal nutrient absorption.3
Honey has a lower glycemic index than table sugar. This means it does not raise blood sugar as quickly as table sugar. Honey also contains a wide variety of vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and enzymes that can be beneficial to our health.4
While the type of antioxidants in raw honey will depend on the many factors like weather and plant flowers the bee utilized, it tends to contain polyphenol antioxidants that reduce inflammation and support metabolism. Darker honeys are known to contain more antioxidants than lighter varieties.5
Food Is Thy Medicine
Like I mentioned before, my mom always encouraged honey in tea when I was sick. Well, it seems like Lisa was on to something. Research has actually shown honey to be just as effective in suppressing coughs in children as cough medicine, proving honey to have medicinal properties.6 Research has also shown honey to contain antioxidant, antibacterial, and antibiotic effects. This has researchers utilizing it in wound care settings and seeing positive results.7
How To Consume Raw Honey
Besides adding honey to toast, waffles, pancakes, and tea, honey is excellent to cook with. Honey provides natural sweetness. Some of my favorite recipes include honey, such as my Sweet & Spicy Brussels Sprouts, Honey Lime Chicken Wings, and my meal prep favorite Honey Blueberry Overnight Oats.
Honey can also be a natural, quick carbohydrate source for athletes to support optimal energy during exercise and competitions. Mini honey packs can be a great alternative to energy gels runners like to use.
Nature Nate’s Honey Co. is my favorite brand of raw honey. Nature Nate’s performs extensive testing to make sure it provides natural, high-quality honey. They even test their product for common pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, gluten, lead, color consistency, acidity and sugar all to guarantee that the honey is 100% pure and simple. This results in an incredibly delicious product!
Moderation Is Key
While honey does provide nutrients other sweeteners do not, it is still important to note that it is an added sugar and we should be monitoring how much we consume for overall health. The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar to less than 24 grams a day for women and 36 grams a day for men.
- Bogdanov S, et al. Honey for nutrition and health: a review. J Am Coll Nutr, 2008. 27(6): 677-689
- Slavin J. Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Nutrients, 2013. 5(4): 1417-1435.
- Singh S et al. Prebiotic oligosaccharides: special focus on fructooligosaccharides, it’s biosynthesis and bioactivity. Appl BIochem Biotenchol, 2017. 183(2): 613-635.
- Schramm D et al. Honey with high levels of antioxidants can provide protection to healthy human subjects. J Agric Food Chem, 2003. 51(6):1732-1735.
- Ajibola A, Chamunorwa JP, Erlwanger KH. Nutraceutical values of natural honey and its contribution to human health and wealth. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2012;9:61. Published 2012 Jun 20. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-9-61
- Goldman R. Honey for treatment of cough in children. Can Fam Physician, 2014. 60(12): 1107–1110.
- Yaghoobi R, Kazerouni A, Kazerouni O. Evidence for Clinical Use of Honey in Wound Healing as an Anti-bacterial, Anti-inflammatory Anti-oxidant and Anti-viral Agent: A Review. Jundishapur J Nat Pharm Prod. 2013;8(3):100-104.