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Be Sweet on Honey Despite Its Limited Nutritional Value

By Patricia Aaron
For the Journal
    NEW MEXICO'S OWN: Honey is the nectar of flowers that is collected, modified and concentrated by the honeybee. During the summer months, bees store more honey than they can use and beekeepers harvest this surplus.
    For every pound of honey harvested, the hive uses eight pounds for everyday activities. It's estimated that the bee must fly the equivalent of three orbits around the Earth to gather enough nectar for a pound of honey.
    Honey, like table sugar (sucrose), contains glucose (dextrose) and fructose (fruit sugar). Honey is composed of 17 percent water, 38 percent fructose, 31 percent glucose and smaller amounts of other sugars, like sucrose. In table sugar, two monosaccharides are bonded together, and in honey, some of them are free. Whether you eat monosaccharides individually, as in honey, or linked together, as in table sugar, they end up the same way in the body— as glucose and fructose.
    Honey contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals, but it is not a significant source of nutrients. It is sold in two basic forms, comb and extracted. Comb honey is packed into jars with liquid honey surrounding the comb. The comb is made of beeswax, a kind of natural chewing gum. Extracted honey is either in liquid or crystallized form (creamed). Creamed honey is often called spun honey and has some moisture removed to make it thicker and easier to spread.
    There are more than 300 available honeys made from the nectar of a single type of flower, such as orange blossom, sage, clover and alfalfa. The color of honey may range from white to dark brown with many shades of gold and amber in between. Generally, light honeys are mild, amber honeys have a rich, mellow flavor and dark honeys a have strong flavor.
    Mass produced honeys sold in supermarkets are blends of several types of honey, all of which have been superheated and filtered before being bottled. "Pure" on the label means the honey has not been mixed with something else, such as corn syrup.
    Honey adds special flavor to food. Because it tends to absorb moisture, honey makes baked goods stay fresher longer. It looses water to the air slowly and even absorbs it on humid days.
    Store honey in its original jar up to a year in a cool, dry, dark place. Refrigeration causes honey to crystallize. Keep the jar tightly capped so it will not absorb moisture from the air; this may cause undesirable yeasts to grow. Honey kept for many months may darken slowly and become stronger in flavor, but it is still usable.
    The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that honey not be given to infants under 1 year. Honey may contain the spores of Clostridium botulinum, which can cause botulism. Bees may pick up environmental pollutants.
    The significant difference between sugar sources is not between "natural" honey and "refined" sugar. Be wary of exaggerated nutrition claims that one product is more nutritious than another because it contains honey. Although pollen and royal jelly do wonders for bees, there is no evidence that they do anything out of ordinary for humans. There are plenty of reasons for liking honey, but nutrition and medicinal value are not two of them.
    Adjusted for high altitude
    1/2 cup butter or margarine
    1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
    1/2 cup honey
    Dash salt
    1 teaspoon grated orange peel
    1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    3 quarts popped popcorn
    Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Grease a large baking sheet.
    In a large pan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Stir in brown sugar, honey and salt. Cook and stir until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to medium. Boil without stirring until mixture reaches 255 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 3 minutes.
    Remove from heat and stir in orange peel and soda. Place popcorn in a large bowl. Slowly pour hot syrup over popcorn while stirring. Pour popcorn onto prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool and break in pieces. Makes 3 quarts.
Patricia Aaron is the Extension Home Economist and a professor with the Bernalillo County Cooperative Extension Service and New Mexico State University.