Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Stirring the Pot: Honey and Health

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
With all of the fall festivals and autumnal celebrations that occur at this time of year, I usually glory at the sight of copious pumpkin piles, the scent of apple cider, and the sound of vintage carnival rides whizzing through the chilled air. In addition to those staples, I have happily observed that honey, in its various jars and other configurations, has been in attendance at many of these events too.

There were many years before I became a Registered Dietitian (RD), where my “honey IQ” was less than impressive. A serendipitous trip to the Savannah Bee Company in Savannah, Georgia, opened my eyes and mind to that. Goodbye plastic honey bear, hello artisanal honey and honey varietals! The honey varietal (color and flavor) spectrum ranges from light and mild (such as acacia) to dark and bold (buckwheat, pumpkin blossom).

For my full article on honey for OKRA Magazine, click here

Recommendations from this Registered Dietitian (RD):

  1. Honey is mostly sugar (carbohydrate), and its sweetness is derived from the monosaccharides fructose and glucose, with sweetness level comparable to that of granulated sugar. Commercial brands of honey (the plastic honeybears) are pasteurized and blended for uniformity of taste and texture. But from the flavor and health aspects, stick to raw and unfiltered honey from a single flower source.
  2. Honey should not be given to infants under one year of age, due to the possible presence of Clostridium botulinum spores, which may lead to infant botulism. Babies under one year of age lack the gastrointestinal tract development to protect against such a threat.
  3. Crystallized or solid honey is still “good.” The honey jar can be placed in warm water until the crystals are dissolved, or the honey can be eaten in crystallized form as well. Crystallization does not change the nutritional value of honey. 
  4. Because honey primarily consists of simple sugars, for people with diabetes, it should be used sparingly or not at all. 
  5. Honey is strongly hygroscopic (it absorbs moisture from the air) and this characteristic is important in processing and storage. A shelf life of two years is common for airtight containers of honey stored at room temperature. If there is any question about the processing, packaging, or storage of your honey, toss it out. Safety first!
My full article about honey in OKRA Magazine can be found here. For a full nutrition article archive, click here.