Honey was said to have been the nectar of the Gods. Archeologists have discovered honey, sealed in containers, in ancient tombs in Egypt. And it is no wonder, the sweet stuff is a beautiful color of amber with an abundance of anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-fungal properties.
Honey has been used for centuries in home remedies such as a cough suppressant and an anti-bacterial agent to help heal wounds and burns. According to Ron Fessenden, MD, MPH, co-chair of the committee for the Promotion of Health and Honey, taking honey before bedtime can improve your quality of restorative sleep. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has even approved a line of honey-based wound dressings, named Medihoney, manufactured by Derma Sciences. I can remember my aunt taking a tablespoon of honey with a tablespoon of vinegar for “keeping everything healthy”, she used to say.
Should you add honey to your diet? Honey is loaded with nutrients, raw honey is best, as processing destroys some of those nutrients. The darker the honey, the more antioxidants it contains. Vitamins include B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and certain amino acids. It also includes the minerals calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and zinc. “In a year-long animal study comparing the effects of sucrose, honey and a low glycemic index (GI) sugar-free diet, rats on the honey-based diet showed: reduced weight gain and percentage of body fat, decreased anxiety, better spatial recognition memory, improved HDL cholesterol (15-20% higher than rats fed sugar or sucrose diets), improved blood sugar levels (HA1c), and reduced oxidative damage.”
Honey is primarily a carbohydrate, with 80% being the sugars fructose and glucose.
Studies show that honey is an effective carbohydrate for endurance athletes. Controlled studies were conducted at the University of Memphis Exercise and Sport Nutrition Laboratory, led by Dr. Richard Kreider. "Our first study suggested honey could operate as a ‘time released’ muscle fuel for exercising muscles. Our second experiment suggested that honey would be a good carbohydrate source to replenish muscles. However, our last study convinced us that honey can improve endurance exercise capacity," concluded Dr. Kreider. “This research demonstrates that honey is a carbohydrate option for athletes based on its low glycemic index, positive metabolic response, and effective energy production.”
Honey is a great sweetener for tea, or try blending it with orange juice, yogurt, fruit, whey protein and ice cubes for a delicious smoothie. I also like a tablespoon of honey mixed in with my yogurt as an afternoon snack. After researching the benefits of honey, I am also going to try a tablespoon before bedtime to see if it will help me sleep better.
Honey is a good replacement for table sugar and artificial sweeteners, and can be used in baking. However, honey is still a sugar and should be used within your daily caloric/added sugar guidelines as excess sugar use can contribute to weight gain and other illnesses.
Warning: Do not feed raw honey to children less than one year of age because of risk of infant botulism.