As sweet as sugar is, it doesn’t have the best effect on your health. That said, a lot of people have now turned to natural sugars that will serve to nourish the body and promote good health. A popular staple, honey is one of the best ways you can get your sugar fix without compromising your health. In fact, not only does it date back hundreds of years, but it also comes with a number of health benefits.
Free of fiber, fat, and protein, one tablespoon of honey contains 64 calories and 17 grams of sugar (which is broken down into fructose, glucose, maltose, and sucrose) (1). Additionally, it also contains iron, calcium, magnesium and is rich in bioactive plant compounds and antioxidants, which are at the source of its beneficial effects on the body.
Here’s how there’s more to honey than just a sweet side.
Benefits of Honey
1. It contains anti-cancer properties
With cancer accounting for an estimated 9.6 million deaths in 2018, it is important to find various ways in which to curb the disease’s terrifying rates.
That said, research has proposed adding the bee-made sweetener to your pantry may help lower your rates of developing the disease. According to research published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, the compounds found in it contain anti-cancer properties, and a separate study published in the journal Molecules discovered that the compounds in honey help to destroy cancer cells, and they do so without harming any healthy cells.
2. It helps with wound healing
Honey may be the missing key to your first aid kit.
As it is rich in antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, there is a consensus that it helps to nourish the area surrounding a wound. Whilst more studies are needed to better evaluate its effects on wounds, research published in The Cochrane Library suggested that the topical application of the bee-made sweetener is effective at helping to heal wounds and burns.
Additionally, it has also been found to help treat diabetic foot ulcers. These are open sores that occur in the foot of diabetics and if left untreated, they can lead to amputation. Luckily, one study published in the International Wound Journal found that topical honey helps to heal over 90% of patients’ diabetic ulcers.
In addition to this, the antibacterial properties found in honey were revealed to help protect a wound and prevent infections.
3. It may ease coughing fits
As mentioned, honey contains antibacterial, as well as antiviral and anti-fungal, properties thus it will help to alleviate any sickly symptoms.
Research published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that sweet syrup was more effective at suppressing coughs than common, over-the-counter cough medications.
It’s important to remember that honey should never be administered to children under the age of one year. This is due to the risk of infant botulism. This is an illness that occurs when a baby ingests bacteria that later produce a toxin inside the body. In fact, it has been associated with a number of infant botulism cases (2).
4. It may help you sleep better
Sleep is important for overall health, and anything that compromises it may increase the risk of heart disease, diabetes, depression, and obesity. However, adding honey to your nighttime routine may help to address any sleep issues.
When ingested, honey raises the levels of insulin and this then causes the release of the brain chemical tryptophan. It is then converted to the feel-good brain chemical serotonin, before being converted to melatonin, which is the hormone responsible for regulating the length and quality of sleep. So, if you’re looking for natural sleep remedies, taking a spoonful before bed may help.
5. It helps to boost energy
If you’re feeling a bit sluggish about your next workout, turning to honey will help provide a great energy boost.
According to the research published in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism, honey was as effective as glucose (used in a number of energy products) in helping to replenish energy levels during exercise.
6. It helps to protect memory
Honey may help to protect the memory of postmenopausal women.
A study revealed how its daily, spoonful consumption helped to improve the memory of postmenopausal women (3).
7. It may protect your heart health
Cardiovascular diseases are the leading causes of death worldwide. However, the use of honey may help to address each of the factors contributing to heart disease.
For one, elevated levels of poor low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol raise the risk of heart disease. This is because it can lead to blocked arteries, which then increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes. However, studies have found that it not only helps to lower the levels of LDL cholesterol but it also serves to raise the levels of good high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (4,5).
High blood pressure is also a precursor to heart disease, yet an animal study published in the journal Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity found a correlation between the consumption of honey and a reduction in blood pressure.
8. It supports a healthy gut
Gut health is incredibly vital to the maintenance of overall health and well-being. That said, the bee-made sweetener may help maintain gut health.
According to an animal study published in the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal, raw honey is rich in probiotics. As a result, eating it will help to encourage the growth of good bacteria within the gut.
9. It helps to promote dental health
According to research, the rich antimicrobial found in honey allowed for it to cause a reduction in both plaque and bleeding sites in people suffering from gingivitis. There is also the idea that honey can help alleviate toothaches, but more research is needed in this area.
Choosing the right honey
Honey comes in different types, so it may be difficult to make a choice when you’re at the grocer’s. That said, the most notable types are Manuka honey and raw honey.
What is Manuka honey?
Produced in New Zealand by bees that pollinate the Manuka tree, this form of honey is known for its rich nutritional value as it contains high levels of amino acids, B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium and other essential nutrients (6).
While regular honey may contain the same nutrients, the reason as to why the Manuka one has a better reputation is because it contains additional compounds that make it even more beneficial for human health.
Verifying Manuka honey
Manuka honey has such a big reputation and is so beneficial for human health, poor imitations are not unlikely. Thankfully, there exists a system that helps to ensure the quality of the product.
The Unique Manuka Factor (UMF) helps identify natural and unadulterated Manuka honey. It does this by ensuring that three particular compounds are present in the product – leptosperin, methylglyoxal, and dihydroxyacetone. The rating begins at UMF5 and goes all the way up to UMF16+. In terms of ratings, UMF 10- UMF 15 is considered effective, yet anything above UMF16+ is viewed as superior quality.
Additional information that should be on the label includes:
- Information stating that the product came from a UMF-licensed company in New Zealand.
- Made in New Zealand.
- The UMF rating number
- The UMF’s company name
- The UMF’s company license number
In addition to the UMF rating, another way to measure Manuka is through the KFactor. This form of measurement helps to ensure that the chosen honey is raw, unpasteurized, non-GMO, produced and packed in New Zealand, free of antibiotics. glyphosate, and pesticides and that it is traceable from hive to home (7).
Buying Manuka honey
If you’re looking to buy it for medicinal purposes, then it’s advisable to go for the ratings of UMF 15+.
What is raw honey?
It’s important to opt for the pure, unfiltered, and unpasteurized product known as raw honey.
The process that commercial honey goes through rids it of beneficial nutrients. On the other hand, raw honey does not undergo any processing. After being taken from the beehive, it is strained to help remove any dead bees, wings, and other impurities. After this, it then makes its way to the shelves.
The risks associated with commercial honey include the possibility that the bees have been treated with antibiotics, and the inclusion of pesticides and other detrimental ingredients, such as high fructose corn syrup.
Tips for buying raw honey
- Look for labels that say raw or unfiltered
- Hold the product up to light and look out for any small particles lingering in the product. The particles are most likely pollen, which is good for you.
- As opposed to sparkling, and clear, the color is more opaque.
Are there any risks?
Yes, honey can be beneficial to one’s health, but it’s still a form of sugar. This then means that one has to moderate how much they consume.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that women should not exceed over two tablespoons of added sugar a day and that men should stick to three tablespoons. That said, diabetics may want to consult their doctors before deciding to add honey to their diets.
Want to know more?
Lemons are another natural ingredient that has grown in popularity over the years. In fact, they’re even a common staple on legendary supermodel Naomi Campbell’s grocery list. Click here to find out why lemons should be a staple on both you and Ms. Campbell’s grocery list.