Thank the Bees for Honey

April 17, 2013

Are you trying to clean up your diet for spring? You might want to consider using honey, find out why here

It’s spring and that means the bees are buzzing and flowers are blooming. As many of us are looking to clean up our diets with the change of season, substituting and improving our choices and when it comes to natural sweeteners, honey might be a good choice. Honey, the sweet fluid produced by honey bees by adding enzymes to the nectar of flowers, has long been rumored to have a multitude of healing powers – from relieving a sore throat, allergies, or a stomachache, to a facial mask for healthy skin or mixing with your shampoo for healthy hair. SupermarketGuru wants to share with you more of honey’s beneficial properties, as well as why it might be a good replacement for other sweeteners.

Honey has antimicrobial properties, which means that compounds in honey discourage the growth or persistence of many microorganisms. Honey also has the capacity to serve as a natural food preservative and research has demonstrated the potential for honey to reduce enzymatic browning in fruits and vegetables and prevent fat oxidation in meats.

A study from the University of California, Davis found that consumption of buckwheat honey increased antioxidant levels in study participants. Antioxidants provide defense against free radicals, which cause cell damage. The same study also showed no weight gain in participants for the month they were consuming honey. Some participants claimed that eating honey for breakfast actually made them feel full and satisfied. Keep in mind however, researchers are not suggesting replacing antioxidant and fiber rich fruits and vegetables with honey. But, these findings give good reason to consider sweetening your tea with honey instead of sugar. One tablespoon of honey contains 64 calories.

Honey acts as a prebiotic. Prebiotics are non-digestible dietary components that help balance the intestinal microflora, stimulating the growth or activity of the beneficial bacteria, while suppressing the growth of the harmful bacteria. The most common prebiotics are non-digestible oligosaccharides and inulin. Honey contains a variety of oligosaccharides. Research conducted at Michigan State University demonstrated that adding honey to fermented dairy products such as yogurt can enhance the growth, activity, and viability of beneficial bacteria.

All of the combined properties of honey can lead to a healthy immune system, providing protection from colds and flus, as well and boosting resistance to seasonal allergies.

How to choose honey? The types of flowers the bees pollinate determine flavor and color of honey. The color and flavor of many honeys are linked; that is, the darker the honey, the more likely it will taste stronger and more robust. The lighter colored honeys are usually more delicate and taste sweeter.

Honey is composed primarily of carbohydrates (natural sugars) and water, as well as trace enzymes, minerals, vitamins, and amino acids. Honey also contains a variety of flavonoids and phenolic acids, which act as antioxidants, scavenging and eliminating free radicals. Generally, darker honeys have higher antioxidant content than lighter honeys.

What about organic honey? Organic honey is made from bees that do not / can not travel to conventionally grown plants, this is considerably harder these days as you never know what your neighbor has put on their lawn and you can not control where the bees are going to fly. With that said, there are places that produce truly organic honey, and if you are looking for these products you have to do some research. It is also interesting to mention that organic honey producers have a lesser problem with CCD.

There has been some controversy about “adulterated” honey, so how can we be sure we are getting “honest” honey? Read labels on honey jars, make sure the honey is actually honey and does not contain any other added ingredients - pure honey does not need added preservatives as it is naturally antimicrobial. Also be sure to purchase domestic honey, look for country of origin labeling. Not only does this support domestic bee keepers, but also ensures the little pollinators are well taken care of, and that you are getting the best product available. For the time being it may be advisable to avoid imported honey, especially from China for reasons mentioned above.

Note: Experts do not recommend giving honey to infants 2 years or younger because it may be difficult for them to digest.

For more information visit the National Honey Board