The Honeybees and Their Secretes: What is Honey?

Published: 02nd May 2012
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Have you ever asked yourself what is honey? If you have, then you should know that honey is often used as an alternative sweetener and flavoring for different foods and beverages in a lot of households all over the world.
It is composed of varying proportions of fructose or fruit sugar, glucose, oil, water, acids and other enzymes mainly coming from bees. It appears yellow to yellowish-brown in color and viscous in consistency. Its sweet taste, which is almost the same as that of granulated sugar, comes from its sugar components which are fructose and glucose. Aside from flavoring for foods and beverages, honey is also used as a medical remedy to treat certain illnesses like cough.
So, once again: What is honey? The answer would be a sweet substance produced by bees. However, there are also various insects that produce honey. Not all honey tastes the same. The color and flavor of honey is said to be different based on the nectar source or the kind of flower where the nectar was extracted from and also the age of the honey upon storage. Those with lighter color have a mild flavor while darker-colored honey has a stronger flavor. In the United States, there are over 300 unique types of honey.
Honey has very low water content. Because of this, microorganisms do not commonly grow in honey. The viscosity and thickness of honey varies depending mostly on its temperature and water content. Honey is basically liquid since it exists below its melting point. Even at very low temperatures, honey does not have a tendency to freeze and become solid. The viscosity and thickness of honey increases as the temperature becomes lower or colder which means that the flow of honey becomes slower.
When honey is heated, it can also caramelize like granulated sugars. However, the rate at which honey caramelizes varies depending on the proportions of its sugar components. Fructose is said to caramelize at lower temperatures as compared to glucose. This means that if the honey being produced contains more fructose, the temperature at which it caramelizes is lower. On the other hand, if the honey contains more glucose than fructose, the temperature at which it caramelizes may be higher. Fructose is the main sugar of honey.
When you ask yourself: what is honey?; you should take into consideration that aside from sugar, it also contains organic and amino acids with varying amounts. These acids also affect the flavor of the honey. Non-aromatic acids like gluconic acid significantly affect and enhance the flavor of honey while aromatic acids contribute further to the aroma and taste of honey. The main amino acid in honey is proline.
Honey can be stored for a very long time because of its distinctive chemical properties and composition. Its preservation depends on the amount of humidity surrounding the honey. Fermentation does not occur when honey is in a cured state because its sugar content is very high. When exposed to the air, moisture will enter the honey, lessening its concentration to a certain degree which eventually causes fermentation. This is why honey is kept in a closed container. It is said that the best way to preserve honey is to just leave it sealed in the honeycomb cells created by the bees. Containers for honey can be plastic, glass, ceramic or wood. It is not advisable to store it in metal containers because of honey’s acidic components which can result to oxidation of the metal container.
Thus the answer to the question what is honey, is not so simple. Honey is a miraculous substance, which can be used as a sweetener but also as a medicine and cosmetic product.

The question what is honey bothers lots of bio eating enthusiasts. Due to its sweetness and high caloric value, honey is often cut off from lose weight diets. This is not very wise, since the sugars in honey are natural not processes and besides them honey has a composition rich in vitamins and minerals.

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