Honey & health; “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. “
Throughout the ages, honey has always been used as a natural remedy. To this day, the golden bee product is associated to good health. This post intends to explain why that is. This posts will answer three critical questions; why is honey healthy, what are its proven health benefits and how much to eat it? Hopefully, this post will shine a brighter light on honey.
1. Why is honey healthy?
The answer to this question rests on understanding how honey is produced and its composition. Honey starts from flower nectar. Flower nectar is a thin and lightly sweet liquid that plants produce to attract pollinators. Every nectar is a unique blend of water, natural sugars, pigments, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins. Forager bees will collect nectar of flowers surrounding their beehive. Once ingested, the forager bee will add digestive enzymes. Invertase is one of them and it is responsible for breaking down complex sugars into glucose and fructose, two simple sugars. Glucose oxidase is a second added enzyme. It converts glucose into hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide kills off any bacteria in honey and acts as its natural preservative. The forager bee will return to its hive and regurgitates the ingested liquid. A second bee will collect the liquid and will continue to add digestive enzymes. This process of drinking and regurgitating will be repeated until sufficient enzymes are added. The last bee in this telephone chain will deposit the liquid in one honeycomb cell. Next, bees will begin an evaporation process by actively beating their wings. Flower nectar starts with upwards of 80% water. Bees will evaporate water until a viscous liquid honey is formed. Honey contains between 15 and 20% water. Low water content combined with a low pH (3.2 to 4.5) makes honey inhabitable to most molds, fungis and yeasts.
2. What are the proven health benefits of honey?
Honey and medicine have a long history together. Ever since men discovered bees, he used bee products to nourish and heal himself. There exist numerous health claims that are mainly based on historical anecdotes. It is in recent times that extensive health studies provided scientific evidence. There is an abundance of studies on the effectiveness of wounds and burns healing. When honey is applied, it fights offs bacteria and inflammation and creates an impenetrable barrier. Honey with high antimicrobial properties have been shown to effectively treat stomach ulcers. Comparison studies between honey and over-the-counter cough syrup revealed that honey is more effective in relieving coughs. Studies on natural cosmetics revealed honey’s hydration power. Honey on skin is effective in retaining water due to the presence of simple sugars. Studies have shown than the antioxidants present in honey help in reducing bad cholesterol and triglycerides levels. Honey compared to most sweeteners is more nutrient dense. Its offers up to 12 minerals and up to 8 vitamins. Honey is recognized as a potent prebiotic. Its antimicrobial components promote the growth of good gut bacteria. Other health claims studied but with insufficient results are calcium absorption improvement, seasonal allergies reduction, hangovers suppression and cancer treatment.
3. How much honey to consume daily for optimal health?
The first point to make when it comes to giving any food recommendation is to remember two fundamental truths. The first is to consume any food in moderation. Honey is an exceptional superfood, but it is rich in simple sugars and calories. One tablespoon (tbsp) of honey contains 16g of simple sugars and 64 calories. It is well known that a diet rich in calories and sugars leads to weight gain, accelerated aging and higher risks of cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, less is better. The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends that our daily honey intake does not exceeds 10% of total calories. For the standard 2000 calories diet, it equates to 3tbsp. The second truth to remember is that food intake is very personalized. We all have a unique lifestyle and level of health. We are of different age, height and sex. Thus, there is no one solution. It is our personally responsibility to listen to our body and to get educated. Final note, it is recommended to avoid feeding honey to a baby under 1 year old due to potential link between honey consumption and infant botulism.
We hope that this post was informative. Knowledge enables everyone to make better health and life decisions. Please leave a comment if you learned something new. Leave a comment if you have any questions. Stay tune for next post. Honey will be compared to common sweeteners such as Stevia, maple syrup and cane sugar. Stay healthy and safe, best regards.