Thursday, June 30, 2011

What Exactly is Honey?

Such a simple question.  The answer...well, that's a bit more complex!

Honey is a blend of simple sugars, primarily fructose (about 40%)  glucose (about 35%) with a little sucrose (about 2%).  The other primary ingredient in honey is water, which should be between 16 and 18%.  The remaining ingredients are "trace"--that is, they aren't present in enough quantity to make honey a significant source for them.  These include minerals (such as potassium).  Honey is also somewhat acidic (a result of the enzymes honeybees add to the nectar when they begin to ripen it into honey).

Honey compared to sugar:  Honey has more calories than sugar (there's about 16 calories in a teaspoon of table sugar while honey has about 22 calories per teaspoon).  But honey tends to be sweeter, so you may not need to use as much of it.  In sugar, the fructose and glucose are linked together, while in honey they remain separate.  This accounts for honey's sweeter taste:  fructose is sweeter and because it's not linked to glucose in honey, its sweetness shines through.

From the bees' perspective, honey is a carbohydrate that gives them energy. And because honeybees are indeed busy,  they need all of the energy that they can get!  (Honeybees also collect pollen, which supplies their protein. Together, honey and pollen provide honeybees with a complete diet.)

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