If you think like Winnie the Pooh…
you think the best thing about bees is their honey!
So here’s Honey Lesson 101.
Honey starts out as nectar in flowers.
Nectar is mostly sucrose & water. Bees collect the nectar in a special organ called a honey stomach. Some people mistakenly believe the bees regurgitate or “poo” out the honey but that’s just gross & wrong! The honey stomach isn’t part of the bee’s digestive system except that it does have a valve that opens up if the bee gets hungry & needs a small snack. While the nectar is being stored in the honey stomach enzymes are being added which changes the sucrose into fructose & glucose.
When the bee’s honey stomach is full, she returns to hive. (You may remember from a previous blog that the girls do all the work – see What’s the Buzz 5/8/2013) When she arrives, she is greeted by her sister worker bees who take the altered nectar from her. They deposit it in the cells of the honey comb where it stays until the water is evaporated.
Once the water evaporates…voila…you have honey! Worker bees constantly check the cells & when they are satisfied with the honey, they cap the cells & call it a day. Native honey bees use the stored honey as food for the hive, but “kept” bees are forced to share. Good Beekeepers know how much honey to take & how much to leave on the hive to ensure its survival.
- Honey is a source of carbohydrates, containing 80% natural sugar -(fructose and glucose).
- It’s sweeter than table sugar but has more calories. Table sugar has 16 calories per teaspoon, honey has 60 per teaspoon.
- Honey is 18% water. Water content is a determining factor in honey quality – less water = better honey.
- Honey is 2% minerals, vitamins, pollen & protein. For you chemists out there… vitamins are; B6, thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid & certain amino acids. Minerals are; calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium & zinc.
- Honey is a natural sweetener which contains antioxidants, is fat-free & cholesterol free.
Honey & Health
Mary Poppins was right when she said, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down”, or in this case, honey. It’s been used medicinally for centuries, especially in combination with cinnamon, & a lot of claims have been made in the name of the sweet bee juice. Here are 4 things that are well documented & we know to be true about the medicinal properties of honey:
- It contains antioxidants which have a proven track record of healthy benefits.
- Because it’s a carbohydrate, you can count on honey for an energy boost.
- Honey contains an antiseptic & has been used for centuries as a topical treatment for wounds & burns.
- Honey also has propolis containing phytochemicals which have anti-cancer & anti-tumor properties.
Many people believe that eating local honey helps them manage allergies & while the anecdotal evidence seems to support that, research is, so far, inconclusive.
The only caveat to the above information is that the processing of honey hugely impacts its health properties. The best honey to eat is local, fresh, & raw or unfiltered. That way you’re getting all the best possible benefits.
So now you know.
If you’re interested in some cool recipes using honey, I’ve added a link to the National Honey Board. They have some amazing ideas for you & your honey!
The link is labeled “Sweet Ideas“… just click at the bottom of this page on the Three Bears.