Everything to Know About the Health Benefits of Honey
Honey is rich in nutrients and antioxidants, has antibacterial properties, and can play a role in diabetes management as part of a balanced diet.
Honey is a syrupy liquid that honeybees make from plant nectar. It is a common ingredient in many foods and is available in many forms.
The product also has several potential health benefits and plays a role in many home remedies and alternative medicine treatments.
Here are 9 unique health benefits of honey.
1. Contains A Variety of Nutrients
One tablespoon, or 20 grams (g) of honey contains (1):
- Calories: 61
- Fat: 0 g
- Protein: 0 g
- Carbs: 17 g
- Fiber: 0 g
- Riboflavin: 1% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Copper: 1% DV
Honey is essentially pure sugar, with no fat and only trace amounts of protein and fiber. It contains small amounts of some nutrients, but most people typically don’t consume enough honey for it to be a significant dietary source of vitamins and minerals.
Still, it’s worth noting that honey is rich in health-promoting plant compounds known as polyphenols.
Honey is primarily composed of sugar, provides small amounts of several vitamins and minerals, and is rich in health-promoting plant compounds.
2. Rich in Antioxidants
Minimally-processed honey contains many important bioactive plant compounds and antioxidants, such as flavonoids and phenolic acids. Darker varieties tend to offer more antioxidants than lighter varieties (2).
Antioxidants help neutralize reactive oxygen species (ROS) in your body, which can build up in cells and cause damage. This damage can contribute to conditions like premature aging, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease (2).
As such, many of honey’s health benefits are attributed to its antioxidant content. Honey contains a number of antioxidants, including phenolic acids and flavonoids.
3. Better for Blood Sugar Levels than Regular Sugar
Regarding blood sugar management, honey may offer some slight benefits over regular sugar.
Although honey raises your blood sugar level just like other types of sugar do, the antioxidants it contains may help protect against metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
Researchers have found that honey may increase adiponectin levels, a hormone that reduces inflammation and improves blood sugar regulation. There’s also evidence that daily honey intake may improve fasting blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes (3).
However, while honey may be slightly better than refined sugar for people with diabetes, people should consume it in moderation (4).
It’s also important to know that some producers dilute honey with plain syrup. Although honey adulteration is illegal in most countries, it remains a widespread problem (5).
Honey may offer some protective effects related to blood sugar management, but it should still be consumed in moderation, especially by people with type 2 diabetes.
4. May Improve Heart Health
Honey may also help prevent heart disease. According to one review, honey may help lower blood pressure, improve blood fat levels, regulate your heartbeat, and prevent the death of healthy cells — all factors that can improve your heart function and health (6).
One observational study, including over 4,500 people over 40 associated a moderate honey intake with a lower risk of high blood pressure among women. A rodent study also showed that honey helped protect the heart from oxidative stress (7, 8).
Additionally, raw honey typically contains propolis, a resin that bees produce from sap-producing trees and similar plants. Propolis may improve cholesterol and triglyceride levels (9).
All told, there’s no long-term human study available on honey and heart health. More research is needed to understand honey’s effects on heart health better.
Honey has been linked to beneficial effects on heart health, including reduced blood pressure and blood fat levels. Still, more human research is needed on the topic.
5. Promotes Burn and Wound Healing
There is a historical precedent for the use of topical honey treatment for wound and burn healing. The practice is still common today.
A review of 26 studies on honey and wound care found it most effective at healing partial-thickness burns and wounds that have become infected after surgery (10).
SIDR honey, specifically, may have positive applications in burn treatments. However, if you have a severe burn, home remedies are not a viable substitute for emergency care, and you should seek medical attention immediately (11).
Researchers theorize that honey’s healing powers come from its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects (12).
When applied to the skin, honey can be part of an effective treatment plan for burns, wounds, and many other skin conditions. It's particularly effective for diabetes-related foot ulcers.
6. Helps Alleviate Cold Symptoms
It's not just anecdotal or an ancient remedy passed down through generations. Research shows there's cause for adding a little honey to your tea when you have a cold.
Clinical studies, including a paper published in the Journal of American Medical Association, have found that honey can significantly reduce the nagging cough you get at night. In some cases, it works better than traditional cough medicine.
7. May Help Suppress Coughing In Children
Coughing is a common problem for children with upper respiratory infections. These infections can affect sleep and quality of life for children and parents.
One review of several studies on honey and cough in children found that honey appears more effective than diphenhydramine for cough symptoms. It may also help reduce cough duration (13).
Another review noted that it may also improve sleep quality among children with coughs, as well as their parents. Further, unlike some cough medicines, honey doesn’t have any side effects (14).
However, never give honey to children under 1 year of age due to the risk of botulism.
For children over 1 year of age, honey can act as a natural and safe cough suppressant. Some studies show that it's even more effective than certain cough medicines.
8. Easy to Add to Your Diet
Honey is often easy to add to your diet. To get a small boost of antioxidants from honey, you can use it any way you’d typically use sugar. It’s excellent for sweetening plain yogurt, coffee, or tea. You can also use it in cooking and baking.
However, remember that honey is a type of sugar, so consuming it will cause your blood sugar levels to rise. Eating large quantities of honey, especially consistently over a long period, can contribute to weight gain and increase your risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes or heart disease (15).
You can use honey to sweeten yogurt or beverages, as an ingredient in many recipes, or as a home remedy for minor wounds and coughing. Because honey is sugar, try to limit your intake.
9. May Help with Digestion
Honey helps reduce constipation, bloating and gas, thanks to it being a mild laxative. Honey is also rich in probiotic or “friendly” bacteria such as bifido bacteria and lactobacilli, which aid in digestion, promote the health of the immune system, and reduce allergies.
Using honey in place of table sugar has been found to reduce the toxic effects in the gut of mycotoxins produced by fungi.
The Bottom Line
Honey offers several potential health benefits thanks to the beneficial compounds it contains, such as antioxidants and propolis.
It’s a great alternative to sugar but only consume it in moderation, as it still behaves like sugar in your body. Also, know that children under 1 year shouldn’t eat honey, as it’s associated with a risk of botulism.
You should always consult with your physician or other health care professional before taking any nutritional, herbal remedies or adopting any health advice, whether offered on the Site or otherwise.