Sweet as Honey & Busy as a Bee

        by  Seethalakshmi Seshabhushan Nagaraja MS BS BE RDN                                                                             Published on August 8, 2018 | Updated on June 3, 2019

Loops of honey sweetened cereal .... Honey Nut Cheerios, a favorite with busy active toddlers. Cheerios is popular with kids both as a breakfast food and snack. My favorite healthy protein rich snack with a sweet touch is nonfat Greek yogurt and honey.

There are about 320 varieties of honey based on its source. Blossom honey is from the nectar of flowers and honeydew honey is from aphids (insects).

The manuka bush is a type of tea tree that is native to New Zealand. The white and pink flowers of the manuka bush contain an antibacterial compound called methylglyoxal (MG), which remains highly bioactive even after bees have transformed the nectar into honey.

A South American species of stingless bees produce honey that is more acidic and has antibiotic properties. The pH of honey can very from 3.2 to 4.5.

Honey bees and larvae are a source of protein for some South American communities. Apiculture or bee keeping for honey production has high returns. China is the world’s largest producer of honey. Other top producers are Argentina, Turkey, and the United States of America. In addition to honey, other apiculture products include propolis and royal jelly.

Propolis is the resinous substance bees secrete that is used like glue in the construction of the beehive. It has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that protect good health. It is used in toothpaste, mouthwash, beauty creams and ointments.

Royal jelly is the secretion of worker bees and is the superfood consumed by the queen bee and the honey bee larvae. It contains a substance called royalactin that supports the longevity of the queen bee.

Royalactin helps the metamorphosis of the larva into the queen bee. Research is examining the health benefits and potential of royal jelly in promoting and maintaining good mental health. Investigations are examining how royal jelly may help us stay youthful, maintain normal female hormonal balance and good reproductive health. Like honey and propolis, royal jelly has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory properties and is rich in antioxidants. Royal jelly is also used in beauty products.

Honey is popular as a sweetener and is used in many beauty products and even gentle baby lotions too. Historically, honey is well known across different cultures for its medicinal properties and health benefits. Ancient religious texts include references to the benefits of honey.

Have you ever wondered if honey was better than table sugar? The results of numerous scientific investigations indicate that honey may contain substances that are beneficial for health. When compared to table sugar, research indicates that natural honey may protect good dental health. The synergistic effects of the components of honey have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory action that have carioprotective potential. The antimicrobial properties of honey are due to the presence of inhibine. Honey also contains calcium, fluoride, and phosphorus that promote good dental health.

What is the nutritional composition of honey?

One Tablespoon of natural honey contributes about 17g of carbohydrate and 68kcals. In comparison, 2 teaspoons of sugar contribute around 10g of carbohydrate and 40kcals. Sugar has a glycemic index of 63, while honey can vary from 32 to 91 based on its origin.

Natural honey is similar to sugar in that it contains carbohydrates like fructose and glucose. Honey gets its sweetness from carbohydrate content. It also contains other carbohydrates, water, amino acids, minerals, antioxidants and B vitamins.

What are the potential health benefits of honey?

Honey has been used for its nutraceutical properties in Complementary Alternative Medicine. Ongoing scientific investigations are evaluating the potential of honey as a functional food and the following health benefits –

  • The use of honey instead of glucose for better exercise performance, post exercise energy restoration, and muscle glycogen recovery due to fructose and other carbohydrate content.
  • Honey helps us maintain healthy digestion and supports good immune health as it acts as both a prebiotic and probiotic. It enhances the growth and development of good bacteria.
  • The antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties of natural honey have numerous protective applications. Honey is frequently used in dressings.
  • Honey is a potent broad-spectrum antibacterial agent with both bacteriostatic and bactericidal properties. Research has indicated that honey is effective against some antibiotic-resistant microbes.
  • Honey is rich in antioxidants that protect and help us stay youthful and healthy. Darker honey contains more antioxidants than lighter honey.

As with most foods containing bioactive compounds or phytochemicals, more than a serving of honey may be necessary to experience greater health benefits. It is important to remember that further research is needed to confirm potential health benefits.


  1. Ajibola A, Chamunorwa JP, Erlwanger KH. Nutraceutical values of natural honey and its contribution to human health and wealth. Nutrition & Metabolism. 2012.
  2. Pasupuleti VR, Sammugam L, Ramesh N, Gan SH. Honey, Propolis, and Royal Jelly A Comprehensive Review of Their Biological Actions and Health Benefits. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. 2017.
  3. Ajibola A. Novel Insights into the Health Importance of Natural Honey. Malays J Med Sci. Sep-Oct 2015.
  4. Miguel MG, Antunes MD, Faleiro ML. Honey as a Complementary Medicine. Integrative Medicine Insights. 2017.
  5. Meo SA, Al-Asiri SA, Maheswar AL, Ansari MJ. Role of honey in modern medicine. Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences. 2017.
  6. United States Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Research Service. Nutrient Data Laboratory website. www.ars.usda.gov/northeast-area/beltsville-md/beltsville-human-nutrition-research-center/nutrient-data-laboratory/ . Accessed February 1, 2018.
  7. Oregon State University. Linus Pauling Institute. Micronutrient Information Center website. lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/food-beverages/glycemic-index-glycemic-load . Accessed February 1, 2018.

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