Great Gut Blog

Is Honey a Prebiotic?

Posted by Brad Dennis, Ph.D. on

Is Honey a Prebiotic?

Honey is a truly amazing substance, and bees have been making it for millions of years. It never spoils (provided it is in an airtight container), and numerous studies have been done that have proven honey’s antimicrobial and antibacterial effects. Even pasteurized honey remains unspoiled, though it may crystallize, harden, and/or change color over time – if this ever happens to your store-bought honey, simply place the container in warm water and allow the honey to liquify once more, stirring as needed. A single honeybee will make only 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey during its life, and the making of just one pound of honey takes the lifetimes and work of approximately 768 bees.

Raw Honey vs. Pasteurized Honey

Raw honey is unpasteurized and comes right from the honeycomb, though sometimes the beekeeper will filter it to remove bits of wax, pollen, and dead bees. Because of the minimal amount of processing, raw honey is often cloudy and can even be opaque. In contrast, the honeys you find in your local grocery store have been pasteurized, and they are clear in color.

There haven’t been many objective scientific studies done on the differences between raw and processed honey when it comes to its medical benefits, but some sources do claim that because of the high temperatures honey is exposed to during pasteurization, many of the benefits are lost. If it’s safe for you to do so, using raw honey is preferable to processed, but even processed honey has benefits that can benefit our gut.

How does honey benefit our gut?

Honey contains enzymes that can help our body digest our food. It can also assist our body in maintaining regular bowel habits, and its antioxidants, vitamins and minerals can help boost our immune system.

In addition, while honey has no dietary fiber, it has oligosaccharides that can promote the growth of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, and as such, acts as a prebiotic on the gut system, feeding the good bacteria and keeping our gut healthy.

Sugar is not good for our gut, but most of us enjoy a little sweetness in our food now and then, and given its benefits to our gut, honey makes an excellent sweetener to take the place of sugar or other artificial sweeteners.

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References and Resources:

  1. The effect of honey in improving the gut microbial balance
  2. In vitro investigation into the potential prebiotic activity of honey oligosaccharides
  3. How are raw honey and regular honey different?
  4. Neutraceutical values of natural honey and its contribution to human health


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