Today we are talking about honey, one of the foods that is rising in popularity especially as a replacement for sugar.
With the increase in its consumption and availability, there seems to be uncertainty about whether honey is really a healthy food, if it is safe to use and if it is ok for people who are concerned about their weight or for those who have diabetes or problems with their blood sugar control.
But before we proceed, let me just quickly inform those who may have missed our last 2 articles on milk and olive oil, that they can still read them by clicking here.
Is honey really good for us?
I think that If taken the right way and if you use the right type then, yes, honey can be immensely beneficial for the body.
So how exactly is honey good for you?
What is known is that for centuries honey has been known for both its medicinal and culinary purposes and has been a big part of many people’s diet. What is also important to understand is that while honey is known to have quite beneficial properties, it is also a very calorie dense food, and this is what many people do not really know and yet need to consider as they consume honey for its health benefits.
Some of its known benefits include;
Honey has antibacterial, antiseptic and antifungal properties. It also has many beneficial minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants making it a good food for supporting our immune system and general wellbeing. It has also been shown to have beneficial effects in healing external wounds
Honey is good for the respiratory system. It is particularly beneficial for people who have asthma and chronic respiratory problems
Honey is similar in composition to blood and has a beneficial impact on the red blood cell (RBC) count in the blood. RBCs are mainly responsible for carrying oxygen in the blood to various parts of the body
Honey helps reduce constipation, bloating and gas, thanks to it being a mild laxative.
Honey is also rich in probiotic or “friendly” bacteria such as bifido bacteria and lactobacilli, which aid in digestion, promote the health of the immune system, and reduce allergies. Plus, research shows that honey acts as a prebiotic, which means it may also additionally promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut.
Preliminary results from several studies indicate that honey can improve the quality of sleep in children. Based on parents’ opinions, the studies concluded that honey reduced cough among children during the night and helped them sleep more soundly.
Even with all these benefits, as mentioned earlier, honey is known to have a lot of calories. And so if honey is being used as a sweetener this must understood.
Like sugar, honey also contains glucose, fructose and sucrose. But although honey also includes simple sugars in its chemical makeup, it is quite different from white sugar in that it contains about 30% glucose and 40% fructose – two monosaccharide or simple sugars – with 20% other complex sugars. Honey also includes dextrin, a starchy fiber. This combination makes honey slightly better than sugar but honey still also has the ability to spike your blood sugar levels if consumed in large quantities.
So when it comes to spiking of blood sugar, honey has an advantage of sugar only if used in moderation because our bodies can only handle moderate amounts of these sugars no matter the source.
Another important point to note is that honey is best for people who have normal blood sugar regulation and levels because although it has more fiber it is still very high in simple sugars and can still cause sugar levels to rise albeit slower than with sugar. Honey is therefore not much safer from white sugar when it comes to people with diabetes. Both products increase the blood sugar level and the same care must be taken by diabetic patients when using honey as when using sugar. People who have diabetes should generally avoid honey until they are able to naturally reverse it using nutritionally and other methods.
I also want to highlight that honey being an extremely calorie rich food actually has more calories than sugar. Yes…. That is true.
One teaspoon of honey will give you about 23 calories compared to 16 calories from a teaspoon of sugar. This means that honey actually has potential to sabotage your weight loss goals more than sugar and especially if you are consuming it in abundance because of its health benefits.
Honey though will never be as bad as sugar even though it is high calorie and can be potentially a problem to people who have diabetes and weight problems because when in the blood, honey produces anti-inflammatory effects while sugar produces inflammatory effects. This may be a bit technical but really honey is health friendly while sugar is disease promoting aside from the fact that they are both calorie dense foods. The challenge with honey is mainly calories while sugar has both a problem of calories and negative health effects on the body.
So on the health front, honey is great, but it is also a high calorie food that if consumed in large amounts can contribute to an expanding waistline and also make sugar control harder in people who have diabetes.
What is the best type of honey to use?
Just like all other food, the best type of honey to use is natural, unprocessed and unrefined honey. This is because the process of refining tends to make honey lose much of its beneficial health compounds and properties and removes some of the beneficial dextrin fiber. Unfortunately, much of the honey on the market is actually processed with heat (sometimes even burnt), overly refined and sometimes has added sugar added to it.
Look for raw natural honey from a good source if you want to use honey.
Other important information on honey.
Honey should not be given to infants under 12 months of age due to the risk that it may contain spores of the botulism bacteria that can lead to infant botulism. These spores are found in dust and soil and could find their way into honey. An infant’s system is still not geared to defend itself against this kind of infection. After 1 year of age, honey is safe to use.
Honey should never be cooked or put in boiling water. The water should be warm, not boiling hot.
Honeys that are darker in colour are considered to have more antioxidants and therefore much more beneficial.
How to use Honey
1-3 teaspoons with a glass of luke warm water, twice a day nourishes tissues, helps alleviate weakness in the nervous system, provides instant energy, helps in weight management and may soothe a sensitive digestive system.
Natural honey applied over abrasions promotes quicker healing and minimizes the scar.
Applied on the face topically once or twice a day, for 20 minutes each, equal parts of honey and freshly squeezed lemon can remove black marks on the face.
What about in tea? Well honey will always be a better alternative to sugar and if you must, use 1 teaspoon of honey per cup of tea (But remember that boiling water and excess heat is not good for honey)
We all know that honey, lemon and ginger are a good natural remedy for a cold or an upper respiratory infection.
In conclusion, I believe that honey is a very healthy food with many health and medicinal benefits but it is also a high calorie food with a good amount of simple sugars that have potential to spike blood sugar levels. Honey should therefore be used very cautiously in people who are trying to lose weight and must be avoided in people who have diabetes. It should also not be given to children less than 1 year of age.
Honey is definitely a much better alternative to table sugar and should be used in preference to sugar in people who do not have diabetes for sweetening their beverages or for other uses. It should also be used as necessary for its medicinal and herbal properties in people who have respiratory, circulatory and digestive challenges.
Always remember that just because you see the word honey, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is healthy. Only honey that is raw and natural honey should be considered healthy.
I wish you great health