Honey Benefits + Side Effects

By Adriane Marie •  Updated: 07/03/22 •  11 min read

What are honey benefits and side effects every ethical consumer must know? Here are honey pros and cons and how buying them will impact your health, the environment, animals and laborers. 

honey benefits and side effects

Food is something we consume every day. If you’re like me, you do all the research you can to make sure you don’t hurt yourself, the planet, animals or others when shopping. As an ethical consumer myself, I am giving you all the info I’ve found on honey benefits and side effects.

You are going to learn all about honey benefits and side effects. This will include honey benefits for your health and potential risks, honey water footprint and carbon footprint, sustainability, if honey is vegan or impacts animals in other ways, and much more. 

After learning if honey is good or bad for you, the environment, animals and human rights, you will be able to make the best choices you can the next time you buy food.

This post is all about honey benefits and side effects that every ethical consumer should know.

Top Honey Benefits And Side Effects

HEALTH

Energy: pure honey is good for / helps eye health, suppress coughs in children

Longevity: pure honey is good for / helps detoxification, heart health, improve cholesterol, increase HDL (good) cholesterol, lower blood pressure, reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol, reduce the risk of heart attacks, strokes and some types of cancer | honey is bad for / increases the risk of inflammation, insulin resistance, heart disease, liver issues, obesity (when consumed excessively)

Appearance: pure honey helps burn and wound healing and treat diabetic foot ulcers (when applied topically to the skin) | honey is bad for / increases the risk of weight gain (when consumed excessively)

Honey is…

ENVIRONMENT

Water footprint: likely low

Carbon footprint: low, 1.0 kg CO2e to produce 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of honey, a car driving equivalent of 2.5 miles or 4 kilometers

Destruction: high, honey production is relatively destructive, bee diseases from honey production disrupts nature’s pollination systems critical to sustaining flora and fauna, bees are a vital component in ecological networks, unsustainable agriculture, diseases and habitat degradation have placed significant pressures on many species of bees, causing widespread declines

Honey is…

ANIMALS

Kills: none, no bees must die to produce honey

Harms: bees, honey is the energy source of bees, without their honey they would starve, when honey farmers remove honey from hives they replace it with sugar substitutes which are very bad for bees’ health, bee diseases spread when beekeepers mix and selectively breed different species of bees, queen bees commonly have their wings clipped by beekeepers to prevent them leaving the hive

Indirectly kills or harms: wildlife and ecosystems, bees and other vital pollinators, the unintentional spread of diseases is inevitable and spread when producing honey, threatening and killing various bee populations as well as other vital pollinators such as birds, bats, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles, wasps, small mammals, the mass breeding of honeybees impacts the populations of other competing nectar-foraging insects, including un-farmed “wild” bees, since the quantities of farmed bees is inflated, native bumblebees are threatened and their numbers continue to decline

Honey is…

LABORERS

Health and safety: varies, overall, agriculture continues to be one of the most dangerous industries, farmworkers may be subject to dehydration, heat stroke, unprotected exposure to harmful, toxic chemicals and pesticides, unsafe machinery and clean drinking water may not always accessible

Living conditions: varies, laborers are often exploited, they may face tough working conditions including long hours in the sun and heat performing physically exhausting tasks, labor laws and rights may or may not be in place, even if worker protection exists, employer violations may go unreported, refugees and migrant workers are especially vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment, fearing consequences of job loss or deportation

Wages: varies, generally farmworkers earn meager wages, there are many cases of underpaid agricultural workers, wage theft and no overtime payment or benefits

Honey is…

Where does most honey come from?

The world’s top honey producing country is China, followed by Turkey and Canada. The world’s top honey exporting country is New Zealand, followed by Argentina, Germany, China, Spain, Brazil, Vietnam, Ukraine, India and Mexico.

Is honey nutritious?

Honey is low in vitamins and minerals but contains a number of antioxidants, including phenolic compounds like flavonoids.

What is a substitute for honey?

To substitute honey you can use maple syrup, agave nectar, black strap molasses or vegan honey (commonly made with stevia).

honey is acidic when processed (most common) and neutral when raw.

acidic foods and alkaline diet benefits that improve ph levels

Is honey alkaline or acidic? Honey is acidic when processed (most common) and neutral when raw. What is the pH level of honey? Honey has a 7.0 pH level when raw, once digested.

When you eat food, it breaks down to an ash residue that can be neutral, acidic or alkaline. Minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, silver, copper and iron produce an alkaline ash; whereas sulfur, phosphorus, chlorine and iodine, which are in meat, coffee, dairy and alcohol, leave an acid ash.

Going alkaline easier than ever with this: Acidic and Alkaline Foods List

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honey is gluten free.

glutinous foods have side effects but a gluten free diet can help

Is honey gluten free? Yes, honey is gluten free. Honey does not contain gluten and is a naturally gluten free food. 

While celiac disease may not be as rampant as many marketing trends lead us to believe, you may have a gluten sensitivity…

Celiac and gluten sensitivity symptoms are similar and may include:

There are hundreds of potential symptoms, many of which are also symptoms of other conditions.

Going gluten-free easier than ever with this: Gluten and Gluten Free Foods List

honey is not a common food allergen.

side effects of common food allergens like milk, wheat, soy, fish, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs and crustaceans

Is honey a common food allergen? No, honey is not a common food allergen. Some people may experience allergic reactions to honey but it is relatively rare by comparison.

A group of the eight major allergenic foods, AKA the Big-8, include:

These foods account for about 90% of all food allergies in the United States.

Severe food allergies can be life threatening. Following ingestion of a food allergen, a person with food allergies can experience a severe, life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. 

Persons may still be allergic to and have serious reactions to foods other than the eight foods identified by the law.

Be aware of common dietary restrictions and food allergens with this: The Big 8 Most Common Food Allergens List

honey is a high-fodmap food.

fodmap friendly food

Is honey FODMAP friendly?

No. Honey is a high-FODMAP food so you should limit or eliminate it while on a low-FODMAP diet. 

A low FODMAP diet may help those with bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhea, stomach pain, and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome).

It’s all about knowing your body. Observe what works and what doesn’t. You body might even react negatively to a low-FODMAP food simply due to intolerance. Everyone is different! Be mindful and patient. Take time to get to know what’s best for your physical health and overall wellbeing.

See this High-FODMAP and Low-FODMAP List of Food

honey has a low carbon footprint.

carbon footprints of food and food emissions

Does honey have a high or low carbon footprint? Honey has a relatively low carbon footprint compared to other foods.

What is the carbon footprint of honey? It takes around 1.0 kg CO2e to produce 1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds of honey, a car driving equivalent of 2.5 miles or 4 kilometers.

Food not only has a water footprint but also a carbon footprint, known as CO2e, which stands for carbon dioxide equivalent. Since carbon measurements are a bit more difficult to comprehend, it is common to equate CO2e to the distance which a car drives in miles or kilometers.

When calculating carbon emissions, some factors may include…

There are a number of steps we can take to reduce energy output. According to Oxford Martin School researchers, if the world went vegan, eliminating animal-derived products, it could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds and avoid climate damages of $1.5 trillion.

But that’s not all!

It’s best to keep the following in mind when grocery shopping:

Find out how much carbon your food emits with this: Carbon Footprints of Foods and Ingredients List

honey is unsustainable.

sustainable shopping, for eco friendly brands and products good for the environment

Overall, is honey eco friendly? Is honey sustainable?

Honey production is relatively unsustainable…

A 2018 Oxford University study – which is the most comprehensive analysis to date of the damage farming does to the planet – found that ‘avoiding meat and dairy is the single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth’ as animal farming provides just 18% of calories but takes up 83% of our farmland.

Consuming animal products and byproducts is not environmentally friendly and is one of the worst things for the Earth. Not only is meat production wasteful, it causes enormous amounts of pollution. The industry is one of the biggest causes of climate change.

A 2010 United Nations report said that a global shift towards a vegan diet is vital to save the world the worst impacts of climate change.

Read more about ‘What Makes Food Sustainable Or Unsustainable?’

honey is not vegan.

vegan brands and companies that sell vegan products

Is honey vegan? No, honey is not vegan. Honey is the byproduct of a worker honeybee therefore making it an animal-derived food. Honey is the viscous food substance from honey bees, the primary food source for the hive. 

Because we cannot see for ourselves how these animals live and what they endure does not mean it isn’t happening. The meat, poultry and dairy industries do everything they can to distance us from knowing how our food comes to be in order to keep us in the dark about what we support each time we buy animal derived products and byproducts.

Go vegan for animals!

It’s the best way to help animals and it’s not as difficult as you may think. Speak for animals with your actions, for they cannot speak at all.

Going vegan is easier than ever, at a glance with this: Vegan and Non-Vegan Foods List

honey may have labor issues and human rights concerns.

benefits of buying fair trade, labor rights, human rights and workers rights issues

Is honey a product with laborer concerns?

At this time there are no major concerns with honey production but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening!

It’s important to stay aware of human rights concerns and worker exploitation that may come with specific brands.

Did you know the single largest employer in the world is agriculture? The labor involved behind each and every product cannot go unrecognized. 

Sadly, many labor concerns exist around the world in both developed and developing countries. We must be vigilant to ensure what we buy is not contributing to industries that are unfair to their valuable workers. Some known problems include workplace health and safety, child labor, gender inequality, inadequate pay, wage theft and exploitation. Workers can even experience harassment, humiliation and violence and unfair employers often fail to provide laborers with access to shade, drinking water, restrooms and breaks. Consequently, laborers can face nausea, dizziness, heat exhaustion, dehydration and heat stroke -the leading cause of farmworker death! 

Such mistreatment is like modern day slavery. Workers are often afraid to report issues because they fear it will result in losing their jobs or deportation. 

Fair trade organizations fight to ensure better social, environmental and economic standards. 

We can improve people’s lives with foods we eat every day simply by buying products that are certified fair trade. 

Be sure to read up on this list of ‘Foods You Should Always Buy Fair Trade

This post was all about honey benefits and side effects.

Sources:

PYURE ORGANIC: HARMLESS HONEY

University of Reading: The Decline of England’s Bees

Honey – FoodData Central – USDA

Honey Bee Surveys and Reports – USDA NASS

Adriane Marie

Hi, I'm Adriane, creator of HEALabel! I organize info for you to comprehensively see how purchases impact health, environment, animals and laborers. Stay aware because you care! Subscribe below to get my weekly newsletter with tips, new info and other ethical consumer insight.