Honey and Nutrition, B-12, Whole Grains

Honey and Nutrition, B-12, Whole Grains

Q: Is it true that honey contains more nutrients than white sugar?
Q: I’ve often heard that vitamin B-12 supplements are recommended after age 50. Is this recommendation only for people who don’t get adequate B-12 in their diets?
Q: How can I include whole grain foods in my meals when eating out?


Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: Is it true that honey contains more nutrients than white sugar?
A: Just because a food contains vitamins or other nutrients does not mean that it provides enough of them to benefit your health. Although honey provides small amounts of a variety of vitamins and minerals (for example, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, B vitamins), nutrient analysis reveals that one tablespoon offers less than one percent of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for each of them. Some studies now suggest that honey may contain natural phytochemicals that can increase antioxidant activity in the blood. Yet these studies rely upon nearly a dozen teaspoons of honey daily to see an effect, adding a whopping 230 calories per day to the subjects' diets. In contrast, fruits and vegetables provide significant antioxidant effects while supplying just 25 to 50 calories per serving. Further research is needed to determine if antioxidant benefits can be obtained from smaller amounts of honey.

Q: I’ve often heard that vitamin B-12 supplements are recommended after age 50. Is this recommendation only for people who don’t get adequate B-12 in their diets?
A: Meat and dairy products are good sources of vitamin B-12. But B-12, as it occurs naturally in food, is bound to protein. During digestion, stomach acid breaks the bond that links B-12 to protein, allowing the vitamin to be absorbed into the body. After age 50, however, some people do not effectively break this bond and cannot properly absorb B-12 from food. Because the vitamin remains bound to protein, it cannot be utilized, regardless of how much B-12 your diet supplies. Therefore official recommendations now call for anyone over age 50 to take either a supplement containing the vitamin or a B-12 fortified food (cereal, for example). This form of B-12 is not bound to protein and can be easily absorbed. Before you rush out to buy a supplement, check your food labels to determine if you are already eating foods fortified with B-12.

Q: How can I include whole grain foods in my meals when eating out?
A: Thanks to a higher fiber content and naturally occurring phytochemicals, whole grains are a more nutritious option that refined grains. Sadly, out of fear of the unfamiliar or concerns about taste, many Americans shy away from whole-grain products. As a result, restaurants, which cater to average American tastes, often provide no whole- grain options. Alternatively, they may serve “wheat bread” that is little more than refined bread colored to look like a whole-grain variety. You are most likely to find true whole- grain options at those restaurants most actively pursuing a “healthy” image. If whole- grain bread is not offered on the menu, oatmeal and whole-grain bagels are other good options at breakfast. At lunch and dinner, vegetarian and natural food restaurants are most likely to offer brown rice and whole-wheat pasta. Bulgur (a common ingredient in tabbouleh salad) and barley (frequently featured in soups) are less common whole grains, but can be found on some menus, particularly at ethnic restaurants. Meanwhile, if you eat out often and are unable to find many whole-grain options, let that reinforce your choice of whole grains in the meals and snacks you prepare at home. Moreover, the recommendation to eat a minimum of three whole grain-servings each day is not difficult to accomplish. For example, a “double” serving at one meal (like two slices of bread or a large bowl of cereal) combined with one whole-grain snack could easily meet this minimum. In the end, if you desire more whole-grain options when dining out, use your voice as a consumer to request these products. Until more Americans demand nutritious whole grains, refined grain products will likely remain the standard choice at most restaurants.

Reprinted with permission from the American Institute for Cancer Research www.aicr.org

  • jay

    thank you for information regarding B12 and benefits of honey.