Why you should eat honey
Kiwis each consume on average 1.95kg a year; that’s twice the amount Australians consume and three times that of Americans.
What is honey?
Bees collect nectar from flowers and transport it back to the hive in a honey sac. The action of enzymes and juices in the sac converts the nectar into an ‘unripe’ honey. Within the hive the honey is dried and then sealed with a wax cap to mature and finish ‘ripening’.
Types of honey
Honey is named for the flower that the nectar came from, eg, manuka, clover or rewarewa. Over 15 types of floral honey are commercially produced in New Zealand; blends are also produced.
- Liquid honey is runny at room temperature, and creamed honey has a more spreadable consistency.
- Creamed honey is made from liquid honey that has crystallised and then been whipped to give it a light, creamy texture. There is nothing added to the honey in this process.
- Comb honey is honey as it is collected by the beekeeper, with the honey bound by thin walls of beeswax in the honeycomb shape created by the bees.
Honey is predominately made up of the sugars glucose and fructose and it is actually sweeter than table sugar. One tablespoon of honey provides around 280kJ of energy, that’s similar to a (flat) tablespoon of peanut butter or 1 1/2 (flat) tablespoons of jam. Generally honey has a low to moderate GI, although this can vary.
Laboratory trials suggest that honey may have prebiotic action; that is, it may promote the growth of ‘good bacteria’ in the gut. Surprisingly, it has also been suggested that honey may be effective in the treatment of oral infections.
By selecting honey with high antibacterial activity the risk of dental caries is low, but honeys can vary as much as 100-fold in their antibacterial activity, so don’t try it at home just yet. Trials to date have used special honey products of high ‘unique manuka factor’ (UMF) honey.
Active manuka honey
All honey contains hydrogen peroxide, an antibacterial agent which is beneficial for skin infections and wound healing. In addition to this, there is a unique antibacterial component in Leptospermum (manuka) honey known as UMF. Manuka honeys with the UMF factor on their packaging have been tested for their antibacterial activity. Ratings of UMF10 or higher are used in wound treatments.
UMF honey may also be effective in treating the bacteria which cause some stomach ulcers. A small clinical trial found that doses as low as one teaspoon can provide relief from symptoms.
Our favourite ways to use honey
- Drizzled over porridge
- On toast with banana
- Mixed with yoghurt and fruit
- In herbal tea instead of sugar