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Is Honey Healthy to Eat?

By Kelsey Casselbury

On the surface, honey might just be a sweetener to drizzle over your oatmeal or into your tea. However, its health benefits range from serving as an antibacterial to helping to keep your skin clear. When it comes to nutrition, honey offers a range of nutrients, though you need to be aware of its sugar content.

Nutrient Breakdown

One tablespoon of honey contains 64 calories, as well as 17.3 grams of carbohydrates -- nearly all of them from sugar. It's not a significant source of protein and contains no fat. Each serving of honey also contains a small amount of iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, niacin and vitamin B-6. It also contains a variety of antioxidants; however, which ones it contains depends on the floral sources of honey, according to the Alabama Cooperative Extension. Darker honey, in general, has more antioxidants than lighter-colored honey.

Sugar Content

When it comes down to it, sugar is sugar, and you want to avoid eating too much of it. But when choosing between table sugar or honey, nutrition Keith Kantor, Ph.D., tells "The Huffington Post" that honey is the better bet. Honey has a different chemical structure than table sugar -- it's 30 percent glucose, less than 40 percent fructose and contains a variety of other sugars making up the remainder -- so your body works harder to break it down than it would table sugar, which is 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose. Additionally, you're getting those trace micronutrients and antioxidants when you choose honey. However, eat honey in moderation to avoid too many empty calories.

Allergy Myth

While some tout seasonal allergy relief as a health benefit of honey, there's no research to back that up, according to a 2011 article in "The New York Times." The thought was that the small amount of bee pollen in local honey can act like a vaccine and alleviate seasonal allergy symptoms. However, Dr. Stanley Fineman of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology told the "Times" that allergies are a result of windborne pollen, not insect-spread pollen. Therefore, the honey probably won't have an actual effect on symptoms.

Risk of Botulism

Honey isn't healthy for everyone. Because honey can harbor the bacteria spores that cause botulism, babies under age 1 shouldn't eat it. The risk is highest for infants between 3 weeks and 6 months old. Older kids and adults don't have the same risk because their digestive systems are more mature and move the bacteria through quickly before it can cause harm. Infants, however, don't have that ability, and botulism can produce a toxin that hinders interaction between muscles and nerves.

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