Bees truly are busy. They pollinate the crops we grow for food and fiber and provide us with sweet, delicious honey.
Like sugar, honey naturally has equal parts fructose and glucose. But sugar lacks the antioxidants and vitamins that honey has. And the darker the honey, the more disease-fighting compounds it actually contains.
A 1998 University of Illinois study found that what bees eat determines the level of antioxidants in honey. And according to researchers, honey varies widely in color, water composition and sugar, ash, nitrogen and metal content–depending on the floral source.
Honey made from nectar collected from Illinois buckwheat flowers, for example, was found to have 20 times the amount of antioxidant compared to honey produced by bees that consume California sage.
“Gram for gram, antioxidants in buckwheat honey equal that of fruits and vegetables such as sweet corn or tomatoes,” May Berenbaum, head of the University of Illinois entomology department, told the Journal of Apicultural Research. “It packs the antioxidant power of Vitamin C in a tomato, but most people who would be willing to eat an entire tomato would balk at eating the equivalent of a tomato’s weight-worth of honey.”
What roles do antioxidants play in our bodies? When our body cells use oxygen, they naturally produce free radicals, which can cause damage. Antioxidants are nutrients in our foods that can prevent and repair damage caused by the toxic effects of free radicals, which can cause DNA damage that can lead to arthritis, strokes and cancer.
Why does this matter to you? Because not all honeys are created equal! And while honey shouldn’t be an alternative to fruits and vegetables as a source of antioxidants, it is a tasty substitution for table sugar, which is void of nutrition. Use it to sweeten teas, if you must, or for baking.