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Honey: How Sweet It Is

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

A few weeks ago I wrote an article on sugar titled, “The Poison We Love”, pointing out the toxic effects of refined sugar on human metabolism.

This week I want to write about a sweetener that is far better for you than sugar, if consumed in reasonable amounts.

For the past 2,500 years, honey has been an essential ingredient, used by countless cultures all around the world.  Perhaps one of the reasons why, even today, honey is so widely consumed, is due to the variety of ways it can be eaten:  You can eat a spoonful of honey directly, spread it on bread, or mix it with juice or tea for a sweeter taste.  No matter how you use it, honey has become an extremely useful and versatile energy source.  It is also becoming increasingly recognized not only for its amazing taste, but its medicinal properties. To reap its benefits, using the right type of honey is key.

Knowing the difference between raw and processed honey

When purchasing honey, remember that raw honey (honey in its purest form) is best. Raw honey has not been filtered, strained or heated above 115°F, unlike many of the commercial varieties we find lined up in our conventional grocery stores. In fact, most of the commercial kinds have been processed to the point that many of the beneficial enzymes, nutrients and antioxidants have been completely destroyed.
How can you identify the difference between the types of honey? Here are 3 tests that will help you determine whether the honey you purchased is raw and pure or not:

1. The texture test
Unlike processed honey, pure raw honey is solid. A spoonful will remain intact and will not drip off or spread easily.

2. The water test
Processed honey, dissolves easily in water. Pure raw honey, on the other hand, will settle at the bottom of a glass that is filled with water.

3. The shelf life test

Pure raw honey will crystallize over time, while processed honey will continue to look like syrup, no matter how long it has been stored.

Key nutrients found in raw honey

Raw honey is loaded with many essential vitamins and minerals. It is packed with essential B vitamins, including B1 (Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin), B3 (Niacin), B5 (Pantothenic Acid) and B6 (Pyridoxine), all of which function as coenzymes that help the body attain energy from food. The B-vitamins are also important for normal appetite, good vision, healthy skin and nervous system function, as well as red blood cell formation. Honey is also a good source of vitamin C.

Honey also contains minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium, copper, iron, manganese, sulphur, zinc and phosphate - most of which aid in body metabolism, water balance and bone health, among many other beneficial qualities.
To get the most out of this beneficial food, purchase raw, organic honey from a grocery that carries properly identified raw honey.
Ways pure honey can benefit your health

1. A great source of energy
According to the USDA, honey contains about 64 calories per tablespoon.  Carbohydrates in the form of glucose and fructose supply the body and mind with energy, which can boost endurance and reduce muscle fatigue. For this reason honey is used by many athletes as an instant, yet sustained, energy source.
2. An excellent source of antioxidants
Besides containing a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals, honey also contains the flavonoid pinocembrin - which is unique to honey. This supports and promotes healthy enzyme activity.
3. Potentially helps white blood cell count
Honey may be a promising and inexpensive way to prevent low white blood cell count caused by chemotherapy. In one study, 40% of cancer patients who were known to be at risk of neutropenia (low blood count) had no further episodes of the condition after taking 2 teaspoons of honey each day during chemotherapy.

4. Supports good bacteria

Honey supports Bifidobacteria, which is present in the gastrointestinal tract and is essential for efficient digestion and good health. Honey contains pro-biotics, which helps growth and activity of Bifidobacteria. Honey doesn't ferment in the stomach and can be used to treat indigestion.

5. Treats allergies and supports a strong immune system

In the late 19th century researchers discovered that honey has natural antibacterial qualities.  Honey contains antibacterial and anti-fungal properties that can treat allergies by supporting a strong immune system, strengthening the white blood cells, which help fight bacterial and viral diseases.

6. Promotes better blood sugar control

Experimental evidence suggests that consumption of honey may improve blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity compared to other sweeteners. The body's acceptance of honey is significantly better than to sucrose and glucose sourced from other foods.

7. Helps lower high cholesterol

In a series of experiments involving healthy subjects and those with high cholesterol, honey has been found to be the healthiest sweetener. The study also found that in patients with high cholesterol, pure natural honey decreased total cholesterol by 8% and LDL cholesterol by 11%, whereas processed honey increased LDL (bad) cholesterol.

8. Helps suppress a cough

In children and teens aged between 2 and 18, honey has been found to be more effective than the cough suppressant dextromethorphan.
9. A beneficial wound healer

Raw honey applied topically to the skin, has been revealed to contain a number of wound healing benefits.  Because honey is composed largely of glucose and fructose (two sugars that strongly attract water), honey absorbs water in the wound so that the growth of bacteria and fungi is inhibited. Studies have also discovered that honey decreases the surface pH level of wounds so that germs can no longer survive and bacterial growth is suppressed.  

10. Slows the signs of aging

The slow depletion of enzymes in the body partly contributes to the aging process. Raw honey is one of the few foods that helps slow the depletion of enzymes through the ingestion of amylase (an enzyme that breaks down sugars and carbohydrates). This has the ability to restore damaged skin, giving a softer, younger look.

The average American consumes more than 150 pounds of refined sugar, plus an additional 62 pounds of high fructose corn syrup every year.  In comparison, we consume only around 1.3 pounds of honey per year.  According to our research, if you can eliminate your intake of refined sugar and use pure raw honey instead, the health benefits can be substantial.

Spencer Thornton, MD

Disclaimer: Be aware if you are allergic to pollens. Raw honey may contain pollen from the flowers pollenated.