What's not to love about honey? Drizzled on crumpets, it’s a comfort food; in a marinade, it makes chicken wings divine. No wonder it’s as appealing to us as it was to the ancient Egyptians.
Many people think of honey as just an alternative to sugar, but while it has about the same number of kilojoules as table sugar, it has a lot of healthy benefits that sugar doesn’t. Honey has a large amount of fructose, which is better than other sugars for controlling blood-sugar levels. Table sugar has a GI value of 65, while “monofloral” honey varieties – made using mostly the nectar from one flower species – have a GI value of 55 or less. Yellow box, stringybark, red gum and ironbark are all good choices.
The type of sugars in honey are also important to gut health; new research shows they boost healthy bacteria in the intestine. Sucrose, aka table sugar, has no prebiotic activity, which means it’s broken down in the small intestine before reaching the large bowel.
But the sugars in honey will go the distance. Microbiologists have found honey is particularly good at fuelling the growth of bifidobacteria and lactobacilli – the bacteria so prized in yoghurt and fermented drinks.