Is honey better for you than sugar?

Rocket flowers are a bee favourite

Rocket flowers are a bee favourite

Is honey just runny sugar? Or does it have some other properties too, that make it good for you?

Here I am looking at what is in honey.

Honey is made from the nectar of the flowers of plants.

Nectar is the plant’s way of attracting pollinators - insects and birds - to it. The sugar in nectar is primarily sucrose. Sugar is a disaccharide, a double-molecule sugar made from one fructose molecule and one glucose molecule.

The bee gathers the nectar, stores it in its stomach, and brings it to the hive. After the bee has processed it, the sucrose breaks apart into fructose and glucose. Both these are easier for the body to process than sucrose.

But something else important happens in the bee’s stomach to the nectar. The nectars combine with the bee’s digestive enzymes to make new compounds. These contain “a complex collection of enzymes, plant pigments, organic acids, esters, antibiotic agents, and trace mineral”. (1) Honey contains a whole range of compounds including proteins, carbohydrates, hormones, and antimicrobial compounds.

It depends on what type of plants the nectar was gathered from, but honey has been measured to contain significant amounts of all sorts of vitamins and minerals (see below for the whole science-y list) (2), as well as enzymes. And, unlike fruit and vegetables, it retains these high levels of vitamins over time.

It also has high levels of hydrogen peroxide and formic acid, both of which have healing properties.

And many of the substances in honey are so complex, that science has not identified them all yet.

So honey is far from just another sweetener!


(1 ) Patrick Quillin, Honey, Garlic and Vinegar (North Canton, OH: The Leader Company, 1996) 15

(2) Honey can contain vitamin C, vitamin A, beta-carotene, the complete complex of B vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium, sulphur, chlorine, potassium, iodine, manganese (2) Rita Elkins, Bee Pollen, Royal Jelly, Propolis, and Honey (Pleasant Grove, UT: Woodland Publishing 1996), 48.