Discover the health benefits of honey, one of the oldest sweeteners on earth. It is a delicious part of any dessert made with it; see some of my favourite recipes here too.
Bees swallow, digest and regurgitate nectar to make honey; this nectar contains almost 600 compounds. We need our bees, so let's do everything we can to save them and keep them here on this earth.
Health Benefits of Honey
1. Prevent cancer and heart disease
It contains flavonoids, antioxidants which help reduce the risk of some cancers and heart disease.
2. Reduce ulcers and other gastrointestinal disorders
Recent research shows that honey treatment may help disorders such as ulcers and bacterial gastroenteritis. This may be related to the 3rd benefit.
3. Anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-fungal
"All honey is antibacterial because the bees add an enzyme that makes hydrogen peroxide," said Peter Molan, director of the Honey Research Unit at the University of Waikato in New Zealand.
4. Increase athletic performance
Ancient Olympic athletes would eat honey and dried figs to enhance their performance. This has now been verified with modern studies, showing that it is superior in maintaining glycogen levels and improving recovery time than other sweeteners.
5. Reduces a cough and throat irritation
It helps with coughs, particularly buckwheat honey. In a study of 105 children, a single dose of buckwheat honey was just as effective as a single dose of dextromethorphan in relieving nocturnal cough and allowing proper sleep.
6. Balance the 5 Elements
It has been used in Ayurvedic medicine in India for at least 4000 years and is considered to affect all three of the body's primitive material imbalances positively. It is also said to be useful in improving eyesight, weight loss, curing impotence and premature ejaculation, urinary tract disorders, bronchial asthma, diarrhea, and nausea.
Honey is referred as "Yogavahi" since it has a quality of penetrating the deepest tissues of the body. When honey is used with other herbal preparations, it enhances the medicinal qualities of those preparations and also helps them to reach the deeper tissues.
7. Blood sugar regulation
Even though it contains simple sugars, it is NOT the same as white sugar or artificial sweeteners. Its exact combination of fructose and glucose actually helps the body regulate blood sugar levels. Some kinds of honey do have a low hypoglycemic index, so they don't jolt your blood sugar. Watch this video Sweetener Comparison where I compare stevia, brown rice syrup, honey, molasses, and agave, and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each.
8. Heal wounds and burns
External application of honey has been shown to be as effective as conventional treatment with silver sulfadiazine. It is speculated that the drying effect of the simple sugars and honey's antibacterial nature combine to create this effect. Studies have shown it to be very successful in healing wounds.
Some varieties possess large amounts of friendly bacteria. This includes up to 6 species of lactobacilli and 4 species of bifidobacteria. This may explain many of the "mysterious therapeutic properties of honey."
10. Strengthen the immune system
Manuka Honey has been found to stimulate the production of immune cells according to a study at the School of Medicine, Cardiff University, UK. Manuka is a favourite of mine.
Types of Honey
Manuka honey strengthens the immune system. The Kiva Certified UMF 15+ – Raw Manuka Honey 15+ is lab-certified to UMF 15+ standard and is raw. This is a genuine Manuka Honey harvested from the remote hills, forest, and coastal areas of New Zealand.
Buckwheat is a healthier alternative to cough syrup and good for the immune system.
Wildflower – Topanga Quality Wildflower Honey is raw, unfiltered and unpasteurized. Kosher too.
Alfalfa – Stockin's Unheated and Unfiltered Raw Alfalfa Honey is made in Saskatchewan, Canada from Alfalfa Blossoms.
Black Locust has the lowest glycemic index (32) of all of the kinds of honey.
Raw Locust Honey by the Beekeeper's Daughter is light, clean, and very aromatic and floral.
Clover: Uncle Henry's Honey was voted best tasting by honey lovers and is from the purest wildflower fields of Canada.
There are at least 40 types – each one has a distinctive taste and unique properties.
Darker ones tend to have higher antioxidant levels.
Monofloral honey (from a single plant species) usually has the lowest glycemic index (GI). For example, locust honey from the Black Locust tree has a GI of 32. Clover honey, which is used commercially, has the highest glycemic index at 69.
If you want to get the goodness from your honey, make sure it is pure and raw.
Raw honey contains vitamins, minerals, and enzymes not present in refined honey.
Best not to feed to infants. Spores of Clostridium botulinum have been found in a small percentage of honey in North America. This is not dangerous to adults and older children, but infants can have a serious reaction of illness in the first year. Do not add honey to baby food or use as a soother to quiet a fussy or colicky baby. Most Canadian honey is not contaminated with the bacteria causing infant botulism, but it's still best not to take the chance. "Do not let babies eat honey," states foodsafety.gov, a website of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
It is a sugar, so do not eat jars full of it if you value your good health and want to maintain a healthy weight. It has a high caloric value and will put you on a sugar high and low.
To cook with honey or not: There is some controversy about cooking with it, although I cannot substantiate it from all of my research about honey.