Different Types of Honey And Their Benefits
Honey, one of the most versatile ingredients there ever is. Use it for desserts, savory snacks, eat it as it is or add it to a marinade, mix it in your afternoon tea or start your day with it, there are only a few ingredients as resilient as honey. All these matters aside, the property that puts the creed atop honey is its eternal shelf life.
Honey is among the rare ingredients to ever exist on Earth that will remain in perfect condition, for eternity. This means you can eat honey straight out of a jar that is thousands of years old without any health concerns. The proof? When archaeologists explored the most ancient and treasured places on earth, such as the pyramids they found this unexpectedly. Apart from timeless jewelry and priceless artifacts they found something surprising, which is honey. All in its glory, still in pristine condition that is fully edible.
What Is Honey Made Of?
The formation of honey is a natural process. Raw honey contains vital elements such as vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients. These are often not present in store-bought packaged honey. Due to heavy processing and addition of other substances, the raw honey loses most of its pureness and nutritional value. So, what is honey made of?
The process of making honey starts when honey bees go from flower to flower collecting nectar. This is also known as pollination. Nectar is mainly composed of sucrose that is a complex sugar molecule. The nectar is stored in their stomachs or honey crops, which they collect to the house bees inside the beehive. A honey bee can store up to 70mg of nectar in their honey sac at a given time. The house bees then suck out the nectar from their stomachs and the enzymes in them break down the nectar into glucose and fructose.
The sugar in honey is hygroscopic. This means that they contain very little amount of moisture but can retain a lot of it if kept unsealed. Once all the nectar has been broken down into smaller sugars, the bees spread it out onto the honeycomb for the water to evaporate. Two factors aid this process: the hexagonal shape of the beehive that provides ventilation and bees flapping their wings or fanning to speed up the method of evaporation.
These two factors work in synchrony to bring down the moisture level of nectar from 60-80% to only 17-20%. Hydrogen peroxide, a natural germicide is given off as a byproduct. Lastly, the bees seal the honeycomb with wax in order to protect the finished product.
Honey is a biologically active product. The exact composition of honey differs because they originate from different flowers. It has a very complex composition consisting of more than 300 substances. All of these are said to be beneficial for the human metabolic system. A tablespoon of honey contains 64 calories. Although the golden syrup is used as a natural sweetener in many cases, it is the content that separates honey from plain white sugar. The following chart summarizes a few elements that honey is made of:
- Fructose — 38%
- Glucose — 31%
- Sucrose — 1.5% – 3%
- Dextrin — 5%
- Protein — 0.1% – 2.3%
- Water — 18% -20%
- Salts of organic acids — 0.003% – 0.2%
- Vitamins — B1 – B6, E, K, H, C, PP, pro-vitamin A
- Nitrogen — 0% – 0.13%
- Gluconic acid — 0.17% – 1.17%
The Properties of Honey
Honey has several properties that give it many sorts of advantages. Honey has an eternal shelf life, this means it will not spoil. However, for its shelf life to stretch forever, honey has to be kept sealed so that no moisture can get in. This is what gives honey its unique “no expiration date” tag. With very little amount of moisture present, no bacteria, fungi or microorganism can form in them giving it indefinite longevity.
Another beneficial quality of honey is its medicinal and curative property. For centuries, honey has been used for the purpose of healing and curing. Inscriptions on the Sumerian clay tablets indicate that 30% of medicinal remedies during that time came from honey. Its hygroscopic quality lets it take out moisture from wounds and reduces the chances of probable infections.
The acidic nature of honey also contributes to this. The pH of honey is generally between 3 and 4.5, a very unsuitable pH for any organism, fungi or bacteria to live. This antiseptic quality lets wounds heal naturally and staves of the chances of infections.
The Varieties of Honey
First, honey can be classified into two broad categories; by its state and origin. Honey can be either raw or pasteurized. Raw honey is one that is extracted from honeycombs and is still in its raw state before going through any kind of processing. This honey has medicinal and therapeutic values.
On the other hand, pasteurized honey is obtained after passing the raw honey through stages of heating, cooling, straining, filtering and other sorts of refinement. Although this destroys any bacteria or fungi, it also ruins most medicinal values that raw honey contains.
The second broad category of classification is the nectar source of honey. Based on this, it can be either uni-floral or multi-floral. Uni-floral means the nectar has been obtained from one species of flowers. On the other hand, multi-flower source is the contrary of it, coming from several species of flowers.
Honey comes with a plethora of flavors and varieties. Previously, people would label honey as only one basic type. But as time passed, many more flavors were discovered and invented. So here are 8 different honey varieties that are available today among the 300 that exist!
- Acacia Honey
This is one of the most popular honey flavors there is out there. Acacia honey is sourced from nectar collected from black locust flowers found in North America. It is mildly sweet and has a delicate floral taste. It has high content of fructose and does not crystallize easily. The low sucrose content makes it an ample choice for diabetic patients.
Acacia itself is known for its remedial values. It helps clean the liver, regulate intestines and has anti-inflammatory properties. Its subtle sweetness and light and clear appearance makes this honey a perfect addition to tea or any beverage to add sweetness without altering the flavor.
- Alfalfa Honey
Alfalfa honey is sourced from blue or purple blossoms and is majorly produced in the United States and Canada. This honey has prebiotic effects, which means it will improve digestion by promoting the growth of intestinal bacteria.
Alfalfa honey has a unique flavor that is floral and sweet yet spicy. Combining it with other ingredients amplifies the flavor profile of food. This makes it a first choice for chefs and bakers around the world to add to their baked food. Regular consumption can possibly treat fever, anemia and diabetes.
- Manuka Honey
Manuka honey originates from bees that forage in the flowers of New Zealand, mainly from the Manuka and tea tree bushes. Manuka honey is also dubbed as the “king of honey”. Its taste differs from typical honey flavors but a delicious aftertaste lingers post consumption.
The health benefits of Manuka honey include antibacterial and wound healing properties. Antibacterial means it prevents the formation of bacteria. This allows it to treat stomach ulcers, cold, indigestion, sore throat and acne. It is widely used to apply on wounds, which stimulates the formation of new blood cells. Furthermore, it boosts the growth of fibroblast and epithelial cells for healing wounds.
- Clover Honey
This is one of the most popular honeys there is out there as it is abundant in terms of medicinal benefits and great taste. Clover honey has antibacterial properties that prevent the formation of bacteria internally and on wounds.
It has a mild sweet taste that is pleasant and not overpowering and has a lasting sour aftertaste. This makes it a great addition to sauces, marinades and salad dressings. It is also magical in terms of color, varying from water white to diverse tones of amber.
- Eucalyptus Honey
This is a uni-floral honey that is derived from eucalyptus flower. Although it was originated in Australia, it is also widely sourced from California. Eucalyptus honey carries an herbal flavor with a menthol aftertaste. This makes it perfect to add to your tea. It is also useful in relieving headaches and cold.
It acts as an effective anti-inflammatory agent and antioxidant. Antioxidants slow down the process of aging and aids to make you look younger for longer. Alongside, anti-inflammatory properties help to treat inflammation on the skin and internally. If fed to children with compromised immunity, it can help them boost it.
- Sage Honey
This made it to this list for its distinct flavor, aroma and diverse health benefits. Sage honey has antibacterial properties that prevent the creation and spread of bacteria and parasites. Antioxidant properties provide the body’s cells protection from damage. Expectorant qualities help stave off cold and blocked nose. Finally, its digestive properties support the digestive system and aids the process.
This is one of the lighter colored but thicker honey variety. Its syrupy texture makes it slow to granulate and thus is used with other honeys to slow down the process of granulation. It originates from the sage plant giving it herbal benefits.
- Buckwheat Honey
This is one of the more complex variety of honey that comes packed with several health benefits. It has high bactericidal properties, which allows it to kill bacteria. It is also rich in essential nutrients such as iron. It also has macro and micro-nutrients in abundance that protects the body and DNA from chemical and oxidative stress.
It is one of the more widely consumed and darker colored honey. This means, it has more depth of flavor, which makes it a good choice to add to marinades, toasts, grilling and glazing.
- Dandelion Honey
The titular honey is sourced from dandelion flowers produced in New Zealand’s South Island. Its dark amber color will tempt you to dip your finger right in the jar. It has a strong flavor and punches of tanginess in it with a dandelion aroma about it. This aroma is associated with healing properties in China, India and Tibet.
Different Colors of Honey
Honey can be divided into a gradient of seven colors. They are extra white, water white, white, light amber, extra light amber, amber and dark amber. For your information, white in this case does not literally mean white. It simply means the honey is colorless. White honey is made from cotton flowers and kiawe trees in Hawaii.
The color of honey depends upon the flower source and components the honey is made of. However, it can alter due to time factor and exposure to heat and light. A special grader called the P-fund scale is used to measure the color of honey. It is a glass wedge with varying shades of amber, going in a gradient from light to dark.
Benefits of Honey
Honey benefits everyone who consumes it, toddlers to adults. It doesn’t just taste great but has many remedial qualities. Applying honey to wounds speeds up the process of healing. It has antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. It has a positive effect against obesity and is a natural sweetener, better compared to sugar. It is also known to strengthen the immune system, reduce fatigue, improve blood circulation and provide digestive aid. Finally, it is also used effectively for the treatment of cold and headaches.
Here are a few fun facts about honey that might surprise you:
- Honey has an eternal shelf life with no expiration date, if kept sealed.
- Darker colored kinds of honey have more depth in flavor and have more antioxidants compared to lighter colored ones.
- The taste, texture and other properties of honey is determined by the flower it is extracted from.
- Honey extracted from the same source and flower can also differ in taste due to slight changes in composition.
- Raw, unprocessed honey contains more nutritional values than processed, refined honey.
- Feeding honey to babies of a year and under can have fatal consequences on their immature immune system.
- The use of honey as an agent for treating wounds dates back to 2100 BC. Now, honey ointments and bandages are widely available for remedial causes.
- Honey is the only food that contains all necessary elements and nutrients that are required to sustain life.