Reference: National Honey Board. (2007). Honey: A Reference Guide to Nature's Sweetener.
Color Composition |
Infant Botulism |
Honey contains a variety of dietary antioxidant compounds. The amount and type depends largely on the floral source/variety of the honey. Generally, darker honeys are higher in antioxidant content than lighter honeys.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture classifies honey into seven color categories: water white, extra white, white, extra light amber, light amber, amber and dark amber.
The simple sugars (monosaccharides) glucose and fructose are the primary components of honey; the third greatest component is water. Honey also contains numerous other types of sugars (including disaccharides and oligosaccharides), as well as acids, proteins and minerals.
Crystalization in honey is a natural process. In its typical liquid form, honey is a "supersaturated" solution, meaning that there is a much higher sugar content (more than 70%) than water content (often less than 20%). Glucose, a simple sugar and one of the primary components of honey, tends to precipitate out of this solution, changing it to a more stable saturated state. The effect of this separation is that the honey granulates or crystallizes into a semi-solid state.
Experts agree that people with diabetes may include moderate amount of "simple sugars" such as honey in a balanced diet. Although in the past, diabetics were advised to avoid "simple sugars" to prevent rapid, sharp elevations of blood glucose levels, scientific research has shown that the total amount of carbohydrates consumed is probably more important than the type of carbohydrates when it comes to blood sugar levels. In fact, some complex carbohydrates (such as white bread) have been shown to produce a higher glucose response that certain simple sugars (such as honey).
Bees introduce small amount of enzymes into honey during various phases of their manufacturing process. While the amount of particular enzymes present can vary widely across honey varieties, the types of enzymes are fairly uniform. The predominant enzymes are diastase (amylase), invertase and glucose oxidase; catalase, acid phosphatase and other enzymes are generally present in lesser amounts.
Since 1985, the USDA has set voluntary standards for extracted honey based upon water content, flavor and aroma, clarity and absence of defects. Grade A honey meets the most stringent of these standards, while the requirements for Grade B and Grade C honey are broader.
Hydroxymethylfurfural (5-hydroxymethyl-2 furalde-hyde), also called HMF, is a compound that results from the breakdown of simple sugars (such as glucose or fructose) at pH 5 or lower. HMF occurs naturally in honey, especially in warm climates.
Infant botulism is a rare but serious paralytic disease caused by the microorganism Clostridium botulinum. Spores of C. botulinum are widely distributed in nature; they can be found in soil, dust, the air and raw agricultural products including honey. Children and adults with normal intestinal microflora are able to ingest these spores without harm, but infants are susceptible to them until their intestinal microflora develop. The National Honey Board, along with other organizations, recommends that honey not be fed to infants under one year of age.
In most honeys, fructose predominates and tends to make honey taste slightly sweeter than sugar. On the average, honey is 1 to 1.5 times sweeter (on a dry weight basis) than sugar.