The Skinny on Sweeteners, Part III: Honey

Honey: Liquid Gold

Honey, the stuff of legend and health-full-ness is the natural product of the labor of the honey bee. A great alternative to cane sugar, honey is nature’s own energy booster, immunity builder, and natural remedy.

Honey production is one of the ever-fascinating stories that unfolds in nature. Bees feast on the nectar from flowers. The nectar mixes with the enzymes in the bees’ saliva, and it’s this process that turns nectar into honey. The bees then take the honey back to the hive for storage and future feasting (for other honey bees, humans and enterprising bears, too).

Nutritional Benefits of Honey

Immuno Booster

Honey has both antioxidant and anti-bacterial properties that can keep the flora and fauna in your digestive tract humming along healthfully.

Morning Buzz: Mix 1 Tbs honey with juice from half a lemon in a cup of warm water and drink it down before breakfast. The morning buzz will have you full of vim and vigor throughout your day.

Improve Athletic Performance

A recent study concluded that the consumption of honey after an intense workout can help you maintain optimal blood sugar levels afterwards, and assist in muscle recovery and carbohydrate restoration.

The study included 39 male and female weight-trained athletes, of whom half consuming sugar after the workout while the rest consumed honey. Researchers also found those who ate honey post-workout were more prepared to workout again just as hard the next day. Honey, it seems, has a tonic effect on athletic endeavors.

Wound Healing

The wound healing properties of honey are not only legendary, but are also factual and reproducible. Honey has been used to treat ulcers, burns, and other wounds for eons.

A study in India measured the effects of honey vs. silver sulfadiazine (the conventional treatment) on 104 first-degree burn patients. After one week, 93% of silver sulfa-treated burns had become infected; compare that to 91% of honey-treated burns that were infection free. Additionally, the honey treated burns healed more rapidly.

Honey’s wound healing ability is attributed to honey’s chemical compound of glucose, fructose and antioxidant and flavonoid enzymes.

Antioxidant Health

Eating 1 to 4 tablespoons of honey a day “raises blood levels of protective antioxidant compounds in humans,” per a University of California study. Antioxidants, of course, help reduce the free radicals (cell destroyers) that ramble around in our bodies with the intent of mayhem.

High Cholesterol and Type 2 Diabetes

In a study comparing sugar, artificial sweeteners, and honey on patients with high cholesterol, honey came out the winner. Regular consumption of honey decreased total cholesterol levels by 8% and LDL by 11%.

The same study was done with patients who have type 2 diabetes. Natural honey causes a significantly lower rise in blood sugar than either cane sugar or artificial sweeteners.

Honey Lore

The practice of beekeeping or apiculture has been around since at least 700 BC.

Honey is been used as both food and medicinally throughout history. It has also been deemed a sacred food due to its divine sweetness.

As a sacred food, honey was given to the Gods in worship. And it was also used in Egypt to assist in the embalming process.

Olympic athletes of ancient cultures were required to eat honey (and figs) as a part of their diet to enhance their performance.

Honey Selection

Choosing the best honey for you is mostly a matter of taste, but can also be a matter of style and selection of process.

Honey Styles:

  • Honey Comb: pulled directly from the hive, with the honey still in the beeswax comb.
  • Liquid Honey:  removal of the honey from the beeswax comb through the means of a honey extractor and the use of centrifugal force.
  • Chunk Honey: a combination of honeycomb and liquid honey.
  • Creamed Honey: a blend of granulated honey and liquid honey. The combination is cooled until it becomes firm.

Honey Bee and Comb

Honey Colors and Flavors

If the bee colony has abundant access to one kind of flower, then they will typically produce a honey that is ‘flavored’ with that essence. If no one flower predominates, then bees will produce a honey that is blended. Sometimes, honeys from multiple hives are blended by apiaries to create a specific flavor.  There are over 300 types of honey available in the United States.

The color of honey also ranges upon the flower source, from colorless to dark brown; it simply depends on where the bees had buzzed. Typically, darker colored honey has a strong and distinctive flavor which lessens as the honey color lightens.

Some of the most widely produced and popular flavors include: alfalfa, buckwheat, clover, fireweed, orange blossom, sage, tupelo, and wildflower.

Processing

Honey that comes to your local grocer has often been processed to be in alignment with the FDA regulations (though these days, raw honey is now often more available, especially at your local apiary or famer’s market).

  • Pasteurized honey has been clarified or filtered.
  • Raw honey has not been pasteurized, clarified, or filtered.

Sources

http://www.benefits-of-honey.com/health-benefits-of-honey.html

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=96

http://www.honeyo.com/types.shtml

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