A completely natural sweetener, it dates back more than hundreds of years, yet the health benefits of honey are still not widely known even today. Healthier and more pure than artificial sweeteners or sugar, honey provides more than a taste for the sweet tooth; honey benefits your health and your body inside and out.
History of Honey
Records can not definitively state how long honey has existed. Some believe honey dates back farther than 20 millions years, but honey bee fossils cause reason to believe that date could extend to over 150 millions years. Cave paintings in Spain suggest that beekeeping began approximately around 7000 B.C. and Egyptian records from 2400 B.C. provide evidence of their culture keeping bees in hives.
The Egyptians used honey in more ways than one. As well as its common use as a sweetener, Egyptians gave honey as a gift to their gods and used it as a component of their embalming fluid. The Romans also gave honey to their gods and were known to cover physical wounds in honey to cure and promote natural healing. The Romans and Greeks both utilized honey as a form of cooking but around the turn of the seventeenth century, honey became primarily used as a sweetener.
So, how do bees produce honey? The process begins at the flower as the bee gathers the flower’s nectar. The majority of nectar is water and a minority is complex sugars. Bees need to store and make the sugar usable, so the bees alter the nectar changing it into honey. To complete this task, a worker bee that has a full stomach of nectar flies to the hive to regurgitate the modified nectar for a hive bee. Then, the hive bee ingests the nectar to break down the sugars. Once the hive bee has completed that task, he regurgitates the nectar into a cell of the comb. The hive bees are responsible for beating their wings in order to evaporate any remaining water; once complete, the sugar converts to honey. In a lifetime, a worker bee produces 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey, but when bees in a colony work together, more than 200 pounds of honey are produced within one year.
Honeybees’ hard work provides us with a healthy and beneficial food. All in all, it consists of 80% natural sugars, 18% water, and 2% vitamins, minerals, and pollen. Keep in mind, honey does not expire because it does not harbor bacteria, so you can keep it on your shelf for as long as necessary!
Health Benefits of Honey
It is nature’s energy booster due to its carbohydrates; these carbohydrates provide energy, as well as strength. Athletes, in particular, benefit from honey due to its ability to create endurance and decrease fatigue. The glucose found in honey plays a role, also, as the body rapidly absorbs it to give immediate energy. On the other hand, the fructose in honey is absorbed at a slower rate to give sustained energy. As opposed to refined sugar, honey keeps the body’s sugar levels somewhat constant, instead of spiking the blood sugar which causes an energy crash.
It is anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and contains antioxidants to help boost the body’s immunity. Raw honey has approximately 5,000 enzymes and numerous vitamins, amino acids, and minerals. Honey helps fight respiratory problems and has increased the quality of life in cancer patients.
Unlike refined white sugar, it contains no empty calories. Use honey in place of white sugar to reduce blood sugar spikes and to fill those empty calories with vitamins and minerals. In addition, honey has been noted to suppress appetite. One teaspoon of honey contains approximately 21 calories and is sweeter than sugar, which means you are able to use less for the same sweetening effect potentially promoting weight loss.
When applied topically, the properties of honey have the ability to heal wounds including burns and ulcers. The two sugars found in honey, fructose and glucose, attract water so that when honey is applied to a wound, honey absorbs the water into the wound. This action dries out the wound to inhibit and deter bacterial growth.
Top Ten Ways to Cook and Eat Honey
- Use in your hot tea as a healthy sweetener.
- Mix into your plain yogurt instead of buying a less healthy, pre-sweetened yogurt.
- Spread a slice of toast with peanut butter, honey, and cinnamon to jump start your morning routine.
- Instead of sprinkling sugar over your cereal, drizzle it with honey.
- Substitute it for sugar in cookie, bread, and muffin recipes.
- Use it as a seasoning for meat. Apply honey to chicken or pork chops before cooking to give the meat a unique flavor.
- Create a dressing with olive oil, vinegar, and honey to use on top of salads.
- Drizzle it over vanilla ice cream for a decadent dessert.
- Add honey and lemon with hot water as a refreshing, soothing drink.
- Eat it straight from the comb! Take a bite out of the comb and chew it like chewing gum. The more you chew, the more honey will come out of the honey comb. When all of the honey is out of the comb, spit out or swallow the wax; the wax is safe to eat and is non-toxic.
Although it is a healthy addition to any diet, certain individuals should take precautions. For instance, children under the age of one should not ingest honey; it contains spores that can cause a life-threatening and paralyzing disease called infant botulism.
Persons with pollen allergies should take caution when eating it; although, serious reactions are rare. Most honey sold in stores is filtered and pasteurized, which lowers the amount of pollen in the honey. If one does have a pollen allergy, eating it straight from the comb should be avoided, as it is in its natural form.
How to Choose Honey
To reap the full benefits, choose raw honey. The raw version has not been filtered or pasteurized, which means that it has not been striped of its powerful vitamins and minerals. To choose the highest quality and gain the full health benefits of honey, look for one that states, “100% Raw” and enjoy your path to nutritional sweetness!
Jeff Andrews writes about the many common foods that are beneficial to your health.