Honey is a mixture of water, sugars, and trace amounts of vitamins and minerals. These components affect its acidity level, which influences the honey’s taste, texture, and scent.
Honey is acidic. This is determined by measuring the pH of honey, which stands at an average of 3.9.
The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14 and is used to specify how acidic or basic an aqueous or liquid solution is. A pH level of 7 is considered neutral, meaning it is neither acidic nor basic. Any substance with a pH level below 7 (0.0 to 6.9) is classified as an acid, while anything above 7 (7.1 to 14.0) is considered alkaline or basic.
The pH of honey resides below seven and is recognized as an acid. Honey owes its acidity to the abundance of several types of acids present in it. This acidic nature contributes significantly to honey’s nutritional value. Moreover, its low pH level makes it almost impossible for harmful microorganisms to grow in it, which is why it’s used as an antibacterial agent by some.
Apart from this antibacterial property, knowing the acidity or alkalinity of ingredients can be crucial for various reasons, especially in the food processing and preservation industry. It helps determine which ingredients pair well together in cooking and can be beneficial for those with certain gastrointestinal issues.
Understanding the pH scale and the acidity or alkalinity of a substance plays a major role in food production and nutrition information.
Why Is Honey Acidic?
Honey can have an acidity range of 3.4 to 6.1. It all depends on the location of the beehive and where the bees source their food.
Different types of plants or flowers have varying levels of organic acids and inorganic ions. Therefore, where the bees get nectar from dictates the acidity of the honey they produce.
Regardless of the geography or plants the bees visited, the honey produced is always acidic. The acidity level of the honey determines its texture, aroma, and flavor profile.
Honey’s acidity level may increase the longer it is stored. As the honey ages, the fermentation process between yeast and sugars in honey produces alcohol and carbon dioxide. When this alcohol interacts with oxygen, it produces acid and water. That is why one must give extra care when storing honey.
Most common food items and ingredients that constitute the normal human diet have acidity levels ranging from 2 to 7. For example, lemons are quite acidic, with a pH of around 2.2 to 2.4. Carrots have approximately 4.9, while eggs are pretty alkaline, with a normal pH of about 7.6.
The stomach has a normal pH level of 1.5 to 3.5. The human stomach contains hydrochloric acid in its gastric juice, which helps break down food materials and neutralize any harmful pathogens ingested.
What Acids Are Present in Honey?
Several different acids are present in honey. Eighteen of the 20 amino acids are in honey. It also contains a multitude of organic acids and aliphatic and aromatic acids, which are responsible for the flavor of the honey.
Organic Acids in Honey
Organic acids are a tiny yet significant part of the solid components in honey. These acids interact with other flavors and enhance honey’s taste, color, and aroma.
Organic acids play a role in honey’s natural preservation properties. The organic acids that honey contains include citric, malic, and oxalic acids, which likely come directly from the nectar honey bees forage to make their honey.
However, the main organic acid in honey is gluconic acid. It represents 70% to 90% of the total acid makeup of honey. Gluconic acid forms when the enzyme glucose-oxidase interacts with glucose in the honey-making process. It has flavor-enhancing properties that help create the honey’s unique flavor profile.
Amino Acids in Honey
Amino acids also make up a number of the acids present in honey. Roughly 18 to 20 of these acids occur in honey, including essential ones like phenylalanine, lysine, leucine, histidine, and valine. Essential amino acids are those the body cannot produce on its own and should be obtained from the food you eat.
Why are these acids so important?
The human body needs proteins to function. Proteins are complex molecules that do all the necessary heavy lifting within the body for it to work. Proteins carry oxygen throughout the body, fuel all the chemical reactions, protect the body from potentially harmful substances, and so much more!
But for the body to create proteins, it needs essential amino acids. These acids are the building blocks formed into specific proteins that perform particular body functions.
What Are the Health Benefits of Amino Acid Intake?
Some acids are essential for the body’s function and can only be obtained from food. The body also doesn’t store any excess amino acids ingested, so you need a constant source of them.
Failure to get these essential acids from one’s diet can cause health problems and deficiencies. For example, you will start losing muscle mass as the body’s first response to a lack of amino acid is to get it from your muscle tissue.
It can also affect your mental health. Low lysine intake has been linked to anxiety.
On the other hand, sufficient amino acid intake benefits your health in many ways. It boosts your immune system, optimizes your metabolism, and helps keep mood disorders at bay.
Where Do Amino Acids in Honey Come From?
The amino acids found in honey primarily come from the pollen honey bees gather.
While pollen isn’t a necessary ingredient in honey, it will fall into honey stores simply due to proximity. This is why raw honey is much healthier than regular honey, as raw honey will still have pollen—and its resulting acids—within it.
Honey Becomes Alkaline in the Body
Regardless of whether they’re raw honey or filtered, all honey is acidic when ingested. But that does not mean they stay acidic or create an acidic environment when eaten.
The kidneys help the body maintain homeostasis, a state of balance among the body’s systems to function and survive. Without the kidneys, the acidity of honey would disrupt this balance.
At the end of the digestion process, the by-products of honey become basic component materials, making raw honey an alkaline-forming food.
How Does the Acidity of Raw Honey Affect You?
Although raw honey is made up mostly of sugars and acids, its pH level is not known to aggravate your digestive tract. In fact, it’s a recommended food for those who suffer from acid reflux (heartburn).
The human stomach is also a highly acidic environment, making it well-equipped to handle acidic food. As mentioned, your kidneys serve as protective barriers that filter acidic compounds to prevent them from entering your bloodstream.
Not only is honey not harmful, but it is also believed to provide a multitude of health benefits. Among these touted benefits are the following:
- Honey’s low moisture content, hydrogen peroxide, and acidic pH make it an effective antibacterial treatment.
- Its antioxidant components are responsible for its anti-inflammatory properties.
- Honey has potential as a treatment for gastrointestinal problems, coughs, and more.
Honey’s Acidity in Food Preparation
Honey’s delightful sweetness is sought-after in various culinary applications, but its acidity also plays a crucial role in the kitchen. As an acidic ingredient, honey has properties that can significantly influence the overall success of a dish.
In baking, honey’s balanced acidity can react magnificently with baking soda (a base), resulting in the creation of carbon dioxide. This leads to dough leavening, making your cakes, muffins, and other pastries fluffier and lighter. So, when you incorporate honey, you’re not just enhancing flavors but improving texture too.
Its acidity makes it an excellent ingredient in marinades for meat and fish. That’s because acidic elements can break down the fibrous tissues in these proteins, tenderizing them and allowing the other marinade flavors to be absorbed more deeply into the meat. Likewise, when used in salad dressings or sauces, honey’s acidic notes can cut through richness, adding complexity and balance to the combination of flavors.
Moreover, honey provides natural preservative qualities due to its low pH level. It can extend the shelf life of foods, inhibiting the growth of microbes in products like jams, jellies, and certain baked goods.
Honey’s acidity has multifaceted roles in food preparation. It contributes to texture, flavor enhancement, tenderizing, and preservation—ensuring a well-rounded culinary experience in each spoonful.
Explore the Benefits of Honey for Yourself
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