A Brief History Of Honey – The Benefits Of Adding Turmeric In Your Diet – Nutritional Benefits of Honey – Honey Side Effects – Are There Any?
Did you hear the latest buzz? Honey is among the healthiest foods in the world – and it’s not surprising why.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture or USDA, the honey production in the country totaled 157 million pounds in 2019. North Dakota has the highest number of producing colonies followed by California and South Dakota.
But what’s in it anyway? You know it’s good for you but what exactly can it do to your health?
Stick around to learn more about honey and what it can do for your body.
Honey, In A Nutshell
Can you think of an insect-derived natural product we have today? Believe it or not, honey is the one and only when it comes to this department.
Honey is that thick, sticky, and viscous golden liquid made by bees from using flowers’ nectars. To produce honey, bees will collect the nectar and then regurgitate it. Then, water evaporates from the nectar and eventually produces what we know as honey.
When it comes to taste, honey is extremely sweet. In fact, it contains about 70 to 80 percent sugar. This explains why this ingredient has been used as a natural sweetener since the ancient times.
Honey comes in variety of types as seen in its color, smell, taste, and texture. It will also depend on the type of flower visited by the bees. Usually, darker types of honey are preferred since it is more potent. At the same time, it has more bioactive plant compounds and antioxidants compared to the lighter variants.
The production process will likewise be different, thereby producing the following variants:
There are also different types of honey based on the flowers where bees drink nectar. This includes:
- Manuka honey – where bees feed on New Zealand’s Manuka bush
- Eucalyptus honey – which is effective on children who are immune-compromised
- Alfalfa honey – which helps improve digestion
- Clover honey – which is among the safest antibacterial agents around
- Lavender honey – which is rich in antioxidants and phenolic compounds
- Rosemary honey – an effective antioxidant, and moisturizing agent
- Jamun honey – which promotes wound healing
Honey is available in many grocery stores and specialty food stores, usually in the produce area. You can also buy honey directly from bee keepers, honey manufacturers, or local farmer’s markets.
Online retailers are also on the rise. Make sure you check the product first and read reviews before buying.
How much do you know about honey? Believe it or not, it dates back to 8,000 years ago, particularly during the Stone Age where early civilization used honey as a treatment of disease. Beeswax, which experts believed was used for waterproofing, was also found in pottery as early as 7000 B.C.
Since then, ancient scrolls and Sumerian clay tablets (6200 BC), Egyptian papyri (1900 to 1250 BC), Veda or Hindu scripture (5000 years), Holy Bible, Qur’an, and Hippocrates referred to honey as a drug. In fact, Ayurvedic medicine showed that honey was used to treat indigestion while ancient Egyptians used honey to treat wounds. Even Greeks, Mayans, and Babylonians used honey for nutritional and medicinal purposes.
Back in the day, honey was also considered as of high value. In fact, German workers used to pay their feudal lords with beeswax and honey.
Fast forward today, honey is widely used either in the kitchen or for medicinal purposes. In fact, honey is a favorite ingredient, whether in cooking or baking. It is also commonly used as a spread in bread.
Aside from this, honey can also be used medicinally. Since ancient times up to today, honey helps in treating various conditions like asthma, fatigue, dizziness, eczema, and wounds among others.
Honey Nutrition Facts
You know that honey is among the healthiest foods around but what exactly is in it?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database revealed that a tablespoon of honey has 64 calories with 17.3 grams of sugar and zero fat, fiber, and protein.
Aside from this, honey is known for its antimicrobial, antioxidant, and soothing effects. This is because honey has the following nutritional properties:
- Carbohydrates, which is its main composition
- Sodium chloride
Pure honey also contains:
- Cardiac glycosides
Here comes the best part: honey does not have fat, fiber, or protein.
That’s not all. Honey is a natural sweetener, which means you will find monosaccharides such as glucose, fructose, sucrose, and maltose in it. Small amounts of disaccharides and oligosaccharides are also present in honey.
Here’s another interesting fact: did you know that honey is slightly acidic? Not to worry because its acidity level is what makes honey special in terms of preventing bacterial growth.
Still, don’t be complacent. Keep in mind that physical and nutritional components depend on the type of honey. It turns out that there are more than a hundred different types of honey, which means nutritional content will also vary.
Now that you know what honey is, are you wondering why many people are swearing by it?
Apparently, honey comes with the following health benefits:
Rich In Antioxidants
Antioxidants are crucial when it comes to boosting one’s health. It reduces the risk of stroke, heart attack, and some types of cancer. Consequently, a supply of antioxidants in the body promotes better eye health.
Luckily, honey has tons of that.
High-quality honey, in particular, contains antioxidants like flavonoids and organic acids. The combination of these compounds helped boost honey’s antioxidant powers.
If you want to ensure you’ll get honey’s antioxidant powers, then go for buckwheat honey. It helps boost antioxidant powers in your blood.
Comes With Antibacterial Properties
It’s not surprising to see that aside from antioxidants, honey is also loaded with antibacterial properties. Based on a study, honey is effective against tons of bacteria including salmonella and E. coli.
Why is this so?
When bees synthesize the flower pollen, they deposit hydrogen peroxide into it. Since honey is naturally acidic, it blends well with the hydrogen peroxide, thereby resulting to antibacterial properties.
Manuka honey and Malaysian Tualang honey are both helpful in attacking H. pylori, a type of digestive bacteria that is responsible for peptic ulcers.
Heals Burns And Wounds
What’s your first line of defense against burns and wounds? You might say that you’ll put antibacterial or antimicrobial creams, but did you know that honey could help you on this, too?
Thanks to its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, honey comes with healing powers that are effective against wounds and burns. In fact, one study showed a 43.3 percent success rate against wounds.
Another study also showed that honey is effective in healing partially-thick wounds and burns that got infected after surgery. The Scientific World Journal also published a research stating that honey is as effective as eusol antiseptic solution when it comes to reducing infection from wounds.
If you want the most effective treatment for burn wounds, Manuka honey is your best bet.
Still, you need to take antibiotics when necessary and only use honey as prescribed by your doctor.
Lowers Blood Pressure
High blood pressure could stem from tons of things, including cardiovascular disease. If you are looking for a natural way to lower it, then honey could be your friend.
One study revealed that taking honey could help reduce blood pressure. This is because honey is rich in antioxidants, which works against high blood pressure. This also helps reduce cardiovascular risk.
What does this entail? Thanks to honey’s antioxidant properties, you may experience a boost in your heart health. This is because arteries dilate, thereby improving blood flow in your heart. This reduces the risk of blood clot formation, too.
Improves Cholesterol Level
High blood pressure is not just the risk factor associated with heart disease. If you have high LDL cholesterol level, then you are more likely to be a candidate for cardiovascular conditions or stroke.
In what way, you might ask.
One study showed that honey helped reduce LDL cholesterol by 5.8 percent and increased HDL or good cholesterol by 3.3 percent. Consequently, honey contributed to weight loss of 1.3 percent.
This is significant because LDL cholesterol plays a big role in atherosclerosis or the buildup of fats in the arteries. This could lead to stroke or heart attack.
Lowers Triglyceride Levels
Low blood pressure and low cholesterol levels do not automatically mean that you are safe from heart attack. If blood triglycerides are on a high, then you might still develop cardiovascular disease. Worse, high triglyceride level is linked to insulin resistance, a crucial factor in type 2 diabetes.
Thankfully, honey can be of service.
A study was conducted by comparing the effects of honey and sugar in triglyceride levels. Based on the study, the honey group has up to 19 percent lower triglyceride levels compared to the sugar group.
Interestingly, replacing sugar with honey lowers triglycerides. This reduces your risk of developing diseases as well.
Natural Cough Supplement
What do you usually give to your kids when they have cough? Mainstream medications may be your first line of defense but sadly, the effects may not be good.
The good news is you have a safer and healthier alternative that goes in the form of honey. In fact, it is the safer option and effective when it comes to treating cough. More importantly, even the World Health Organization recommended honey as a natural remedy for cough.
A study conducted by Penn State College of Medicine showed that honey helped in reducing nighttime cough and improved sleep quality among children with upper respiratory infection. Nevertheless, honey as cough medication must not be given to kids below one year old.
Soothes Sore Throat
Honey is a recommended natural medication against cough. This follows that it is helpful against sore throat, too.
According to a study involving 105 children, buckwheat honey outperformed cough suppressant dextromethorphan in providing relief against nighttime cough. Wildflower honey as well as eucalyptus, labiatae, and citrus honeys provided better relief on children with respiratory infections.
As a result, kids who were given honey experienced a soothing effect in their throats.
Prevents Acid Reflux
Acid reflux is characterized as a burning pain, particularly in the lower chest area. If you experience this frequently, then you could be a candidate for GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease.
There is no exact cure for heartburn, but you can do something to help you manage it. One of the things that help is honey.
Based on a 2017 study published in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, honey helped in lining the esophagus and stomach. As a result, it reduces the upward flow of stomach acid and undigested food.
This reduces your risk of developing GERD as well.
Honey As A Holy Cure?
Apart from these benefits, did you know that Muslims regard honey as a holy cure? In fact, Quran and Hadiths, or the prophetic traditions, referred to honey as the healer of diseases.
More than 1400 years ago, Muslims believed that Allah told his followers that honey could treat illnesses. In fact, honey was described as a source of healing in Quran. In particular, Chapter 16, verses 68 to 69 stated that honey is a “drink of varying colors wherein is healing for men.”
Moreover, Chapter 47, verse 15 said that honey is among the foods of the paradise. Because of this, honey is considered as a holy cure for Muslims.
Honey Side Effects
Given these benefits, is it safe to say that experiencing side effects is not a cause of concern? Not necessarily.
Keep in mind that honey is still sugar. That being said, you need to watch your intake. The American Heart Association or AHA recommended 100 and 150 calories from added sugar per day for women and men, respectively.
What does this mean?
Women are allowed two tablespoons of honey while men can only take as much as three tablespoons.
You have to be careful on the type of honey you will use. Raw honey is highly recommended and a healthier alternative to sugar. Low quality honey could also be mixed with syrup, thereby putting more sugar in your body.
Don’t be too complacent. Despite its health benefits, honey must be consumed in moderation. After all, this is high in sugar and calories. Also, children below one year old are not recommended to take honey of whatever kind. Honey contains botulinum endospores, which may cause botulism, a rare but serious kind of food poisoning that could lead to paralysis among young kids.
Good news: honey is among the easiest kitchen ingredient you can store at home.
Here’s what you need to remember when it comes to storage:
- Place the honey in a cool, dry place.
- There’s no need to transfer the honey in another container. The original container will do.
- Make sure that the container is airtight.
That being said, below are the factors you need to avoid:
- Direct sunlight
- Metal containers because it can oxidize
- Placing it in the refrigerator since it causes the honey to solidify
- Using wet spoon when dipping into the jar. The slightest amount of water could trigger fermentation and introduce moisture into the honey.
Luckily, honey is among the most stable natural foods with longer shelf life. In fact, you could use it for years. Because it is among the foods that could almost last forever.
Depending on how the honey was made, you might notice that it will get dark or develop crystals over time. Don’t worry since this doesn’t mean that the honey is spoiled. Simply remix the honey and you’re good to go. Further, this only means that the aroma and flavor may be lost over time. Because of this, honey producers put a “best before” date on the label to make sure that you can get the most out of the honey.
Honey can be used in variety of ways, both in and out of the kitchen. Here are some kitchen ideas you can try:
- Drizzle on top of apples
- Use it as a spread for crackers
- Mix with yogurt, oatmeal, or cereal
- Stir into coffee or tea
- Use as a sweetener for salad dressings or marinades
- Combine one cup of honey and one tablespoon grated lemon peel in a pan and let it steep for 10 minutes. You can also add two slices of lemon for added flavor. Mix a spoonful of this to water and drink it to treat cough or colds.
Pour a cup of honey and one tablespoon of chopped ginger in a saucepan. Let it steep for 1o minutes then strain. Add this mixture on water or your favorite tea to cure upset stomach.
On the other hand, honey may be a treatment for certain illness. Here are some ideas on where and how you can use honey:
- Natural lip balm
- Warm one cup of honey and two tablespoons of whole milk. Mix the juices from one orange. Spread on your heels to keep it moisturized and avoid cracked heels.
- Combine 2 ¼ cups of brown sugar, ½ cup of olive oil, ¼ cup honey, and a teaspoon vanilla. Use it as a moisturizing exfoliant to prevent dry skin.
- As a mouthwash. Mix two lemons, ½ tablespoons cinnamon, one teaspoon of baking soda, one cup of warm water, and 1 ½ teaspoons of honey. Gargle this mixture daily to prevent halitosis or bad breath.
Mix two tablespoons of honey and one egg yolk as a hair mask. After you put shampoo and conditioner, massage this mixture on the roots of your hair and let it stay for 15 minutes before rinsing. This will help against greasy hair.
Honey is a natural sweetener, but what if you don’t have a jar in the kitchen? Since refined sugar is out of the question, below are the alternatives you can try:
This honey substitute may be too sweet for your taste. When using as an alternative, reduce the measurement by 25 to 30 percent. Cook in low fire as well since it tends to brown faster.
This is the surefire alternative that you have on the pantry. You might have to add a bit more than your usual honey measurement to make the dish sweeter. For instance, if the recipe calls for one cup of honey, you might have to put an additional ¼ cup.
Just make sure you go for the light or dark molasses instead of blackstrap variant. Otherwise, the dish will come out too strong and bitter.
This alternative is sweeter than honey, thereby giving a different twist to your meal. Go for the pure maple syrup or else, you’ll be munching on too much sugar.
This is a good and healthy alternative to honey. It is rich in minerals, low glycemic, and a good source of B vitamins. You can also use it in 1:1 ratio.
If you are looking for a calorie-free alternative to honey, then stevia is your best bet. It is a great substitute that won’t compromise your glucose levels.
Rice Malt Syrup
This honey substitute, which has similar profile with honey, is sugar-free; hence healthier. This is great if you are a vegan, too.
This kitchen ingredient can be substituted for honey without adjusting the measurement. But if you want a similar flavor with honey, then light-colored variant is better.
If you are looking for a cheaper alternative to honey, then golden syrup could be helpful. There’s no need for adjustment since the taste is the same. The best part is golden syrup is widely available in the supermarket.
Brown Rice Syrup
This is a great substitute, especially if you like honey on your coffee or tea. However, this alternative is stickier and has milder taste compared to honey. You might want to add an extra tablespoon to achieve the desired sweetness.
The Bottom Line
There are tons of natural products available in the market that will benefit human health. Honey is one of them.
It has tons of antioxidants and antibacterial properties that could help treat various medical conditions. Even the Quran considered it as a holy cure for various diseases.
Still, be careful about the type of honey you will choose. Not all honey products were created equally. Choose your sources wisely and as much as possible, go for raw, high-quality variants. This way, you can make the most out of this liquid gold.