The Real Good Food series will highlight raw foods that are nutritional powerhouses. In this age of processed garbage, it is still possible to make nutritious meals at home if you use real foods.
A Real Food
When most people think of honey, they think of the stuff that comes in the little plastic bear bottle that you’ll find in the baking section at the grocery store. I’m going to preface this entire article by saying that that kind of honey is not a real food, and is NOT the stuff we are talking about. The kind we are talking about is the unprocessed, unfiltered, unpasteurized stuff that you’ll find in your specialty and health foods stores. Sometimes this kind of honey still has chunks of comb in the bottle with it, and if you can find types that still contain pollen, propolis or royal jelly, the benefits increase even further! Oftentimes, these types of honey are even creamy or crystallized, and appear more solid than liquid. This is perfectly natural and according to some experts, the harder the honey is, the more nutrients and beneficial compounds it contains. Bees create honey by combining their saliva with the nectar from plants and flowers, storing it in the wax combs that they create in their hives. There are hundreds of different types of honey, and the color and flavor of the honey vary greatly depending on which plant’s pollen the bees harvested to make it. Some experts say that the darker the honey, the more antioxidants it contains, but the color is largely related to the type of plant pollen. However, as we have seen in previous articles, the more colors a plant has, the more beneficial compounds it likely contains, and often times darker is better.
All That Glitters is Gold
Mankind has been harvesting honey for roughly 9,000 years and many cultures throughout the world have used honey as a type of medicine since ancient times. The Romans used honey as a type of currency to pay their taxes, and the ancient Egyptians valued honey so much that they even buried it with their dead so they could have it in the afterlife. Honey is loaded with vitamins, minerals, enzymes and amino acids, and it contains many antioxidants in the form of flavonoids, which can help fight free radicals, inflammation and cell damage.
A Teaspoon of Sugar AND Medicine?
Honey has been studied quite a bit, and research has shown it to be beneficial for immune system functioning and wound healing, possibly because of its acidic pH. It has been shown to have very powerful antibacterial properties, preventing the growth of E.coli, Salmonella, and many other strains of bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus, and it has been shown to even help prevent the build up of dental plaque. One study showed that even though it is a sweetener and contains large amounts of sugar, that it actually lowers plasma glucose (blood sugar levels). That same study showed that it also lowers the amounts of C-reactive proteins, which is an indicator of inflammation and that it reduces homocysteine levels, meaning that it could be beneficial for preventing heart disease.
Honey has been shown to help reduce coughs, and also to help treat sleeping disorders, although the research on its use with treating allergies is not very promising. The big debate surrounding honey lies in its use as a sweetener for diabetics. Some honey advocates claim that honey is the only sweetener diabetics should use, while many medical practitioners state that it is no better than granulated sugar. I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Honey does contain a ton of sugar and diabetics need to be careful about how much they consume. But at the same time, if they are going to use a sweetener, honey is a great one. All the beneficial compounds and nutrients that it contains doesn’t quite offset the amounts of sugar, but they do help in other areas. As with everything, I would say that they should use it in moderation, but be very mindful of their insulin and blood sugar levels when using it.
Can Young Kids Eat Honey?
You may have heard that really young children shouldn’t eat honey. This is absolutely correct! Kids younger than one year old should never eat honey and I might go so far as to say 18 months just to be safe. Honey contains many beneficial compounds, but can also contains spores and microorganisms that can cause botulism toxicity. Adults’ immune and digestive systems are strong enough to kill these bacteria and fight off any infections, but infants’ systems are too immature to properly deal with them.
Honey is a great natural food if you can find the right kind. The benefits and uses have been documented for thousands of years, and I know people that even eat a teaspoon or two of raw honey straight with a spoon every day. I would recommend that you find one that has been heated the least amount possible, since heat destroys the good stuff in the honey just as we have seen with milk. If you can find some that has never seen any heat, it might be for the best. Eating this kind of honey regularly can give lots of antibacterial immune system boosts, kick up your antioxidant amounts, help with sleeping better and you could even slap it on that paper cut or scrape you picked up at the gym to help things heal faster. I know unfiltered, unprocessed honey has become my sweetener of choice when I feel my sweet tooth kicking in, and I like to put some in my oatmeal and tea when I need a little sweet kick.
So ditch the cute little bear and use some REAL GOOD honey to help curb your sweet tooth!
Bowden, Jonny, Ph.D, C.N.S, The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. Beverly, MA: Fairwinds Press, 2007
Margen, Sheldon, M.D., and the Editors of the UC Berkeley, Wellness Letter. Wellness Foods, A to Z: an indispensible guide for health-conscious food lovers. New York, NY: Rebus, Inc. Health Letter Associates, 2002
Chek, Paul. How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy! San Diego: CHEK Institute Publishing, 2004.
Bowden, Jonny, Ph.D, C.N.S, The 150 Most Effective Ways to Boost Your Energy. Beverly, MA: Fairwinds Press, 2009
S A, S S, Malgi V, Setlur KP, R S, Setty S, Thakur S. A Comparative Evaluation of the Anti-Bacterial Efficacy of Honey, In Vitro and Anti-Plaque Efficacy in a 4 Day Plaque Regrowth Model In Vivo - Preliminary Results. J Periodontol. 2012 Feb 6.
Al-Waili NS. Natural honey lowers plasma glucose, C-reactive protein, homocysteine, and blood lipids in healthy, diabetic, and hyperlipidemic subjects: comparison with dextrose and sucrose. J Med Food. 2004 Spring;7(1):100-7.
Edgar, Julie. "Medicinal Uses of Honey: What the Research Shows." WebMD. WebMD. Web. 09 Apr. 2012. <http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/medicinal-uses-of-honey>.
Nuwanee Kirihennedige – Is a nutritionist and dietician that works with athletes and health minded individuals on sports performance and weight loss. Nuwanee currently is the nutritionist for the California Strength Academy in San Ramon California. Nuwanee can be reached at email@example.com.