The Golden Elixir: Unraveling Honey's Hidden Health Treasures
Sweet healthy goodness
You know it as a syrupy, golden sweetness that’s created by hard-working honeybees, but although we see honey used in various ways for health and beauty, it often goes underappreciated.
Honey is often put into the same category as refined white sugar, which is someplace that it just doesn’t belong. Honey offers nutritional benefits, as well as being beneficial for health in many ways.
THE HONEY ENCYCLOPEDIA: VARIETIES GALORE
Whether you’re walking down the aisle of your local grocery store or visiting a farmer’s market, chances are you’ve noticed that there’s more than one type of honey. It’s not unusual to see somewhere between three and five varieties being offered, including Manuka honey, which has made news in recent years for its many potential healing properties.
What you might not know is that what you see on the shelf is only a very small fraction of the different varieties of honey. Overall, there are more than 300 different types of honey. You can tell them apart, not just by name, but also color, viscosity, and flavor. Sometimes, there are also differences in the health benefits offered. For example, Manuka honey is well-regarded as one of the most beneficial kinds of honey for therapeutic and medicinal purposes.
honey's not-so-obvious nutritional gems
Honey offers an interesting nutritional profile that many people aren’t aware of. It’s so much more than just sugar and calories. The nutritional value of honey varies slightly between varieties, with darker honey and Manuka honey offering the most complex nutrition.
In general, honey is rich in antioxidants and offers potassium, a small amount of calcium, copper, iron, zinc, magnesium, and B vitamins.
the science on honey: you don't need to overload
Some argue that it would be unhealthy to consume honey in amounts high enough to benefit from it, but science has disagreed many times. You don’t need to consume large amounts of honey to reap the rewards. Just adding a little to your regular daily diet offers health benefits.
If you’re diabetic or have concerns about blood sugar, you should speak directly with your physician or a nutritionist before adding honey to your diet. However, honey is metabolized by the body differently than refined sugar and has a lower GI value. It doesn’t cause sugar spikes in the same way that white sugar does, but this doesn’t mean you should proceed with abandon if you’re looking to control your blood sugar levels.
Sweet Antioxidant Powerhouse
“Antioxidant” has long been a buzzword in the health and beauty industry, and with good reason. Antioxidants are important for minimizing inflammation, oxidative stress and for fighting against chronic diseases. By this point, most people have seen at least one list of the most powerful antioxidant foods, but our friend Honey is often unrightfully left off this list.
Honey not only offers a variety of antioxidant agents on its own but it has also been shown to enhance the antioxidant capabilities of other antioxidants, including beta-carotene and vitamin C. A spoonful of honey in a cup of tea with a squeeze of lemon juice is not only a soothing treat, it packs a major antioxidant punch.
Nature's Cough Syrup
A cup of warm tea with honey has long been a home remedy for soothing coughs and sore throats. While it’s definitely a comforting drink, science backs the decades of anecdotal evidence of how soothing honey can be. In several studies, honey was shown to be as effective as commonly used OTC cough medicines, including diphenhydramine and salbutamol, especially for coughs requiring only short-term treatment of three days or less.
A spoonful of honey or honey added to a warm beverage may calm a cough or sore throat without the side effects of common cough suppressants – including drowsiness, rash, or upset stomach.
Honey: The Gentle Gut Supporter
The gut has been coined as our second brain, and gut health is extremely important to overall health and wellness. Whether your digestive health is in good shape or your tummy hasn’t been feeling so well lately, honey offers a gentle, natural, and supportive remedy.
Honey is a prebiotic food that helps to support healthy gut bacteria. Additionally, it offers antioxidant and antibacterial properties that help to soothe digestive upset caused by inflammation and common stomach bugs.
A Sweet Boost for the Heart
We don’t often associate things that are sweet with cardiovascular health, but honey appears to be the exception. Honey may potentially work to reduce the levels of bad cholesterol in the body, which is key to long-term heart health. This protective capability, combined with antioxidant capacity, makes honey a heart-friendly food to keep in your pantry.
A Natural Healing Balm
Honey offers broad-spectrum anti-microbial properties, which, combined with its anti-inflammatory actions, makes it useful as a topical application to support wound healing. It has been shown to be beneficial in a range of different types of wounds, from simple scratches to more extensive wounds, including deeper cuts, burns, ulcers, and fistulas, just to name a few.
The current thought is that honey could be even more effective for wound healing if we could find a more efficient delivery system rather than simply placing it on the skin or digesting it raw.
SAFETY BUZZ: HONEY FOR THE LITTLE ONES
Honey is generally safe for children as long as they are one year or older. Honey can contain Clostridium botulinum spores, which can cause serious illness in children under twelve months of age due to their immature digestive system. After a year, the digestive system is well developed enough for the spores to not cause health issues.
DIVE INTO THE SWEET WORLD OF WELLNESS
Honey is one of nature’s wonders. It’s the byproduct of the extremely important work of hardworking bees. It tastes wonderful and offers amazing health benefits. What more can we ask for?
The next time you’re at your local farmers market, make sure to pick up a jar of the local gold and discover for yourself how wonderful it is. Maybe instead of crediting the apple, we should start saying that a spoonful of honey a day keeps the doctor away.