Honey has been used for centuries as sweet and delicious food. Today we hear that this is the best alternative to sugar. But what about the honey that you buy in your local supermarket is it healthy as it says on the label, what is the difference between branded and raw honey?
While some claim that honey can be a delicious and nutritious way to help satisfy your sweet tooth, others dismiss it as little more than a high-sugar indulgence.
Lets go step by step: What is honey?
Honey is a sweet substance made by bees from the nectar of flowering plants. There are many different types, but it’s generally high in calories and carbs with only trace amounts of micronutrients.
Many types of honey are available, differing based on the plant source, the extraction method, and whether it’s raw or pasteurized.
Common types include:
*Orange blossom honey
Although the nutrition profile varies depending on the type, a single tablespoon (21 grams) of honey typically has 64 calories and 17 grams of carbs with little to no fat, fiber, and protein (1).
It also contains several micronutrients, such as potassium, iron, and zinc — but in trace amounts, less than 1% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) (2).
High in Antioxidants
Honey is high in antioxidants — such as phenolic acids and flavonoids — and eating it may increase the antioxidant status of your blood.
Antioxidants are compounds that help fight disease-causing free radicals, thereby reducing your risk of oxidative cell damage.These compounds play a central role in health and disease — with some research suggesting that they may protect against chronic conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
May Improve Heart Health
Animal and human studies suggest that trading regular sugar for honey may help reduce cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure.For example, one 30-day study comparing the effects of table sugar and honey in 55 people found that honey helped decrease levels of total and “bad” LDL cholesterol while increasing “good” HDL cholesterol.
Additionally, animal studies have found that supplementing with honey may reduce systolic blood pressure (the top number of a reading), another major risk factor for heart disease.
You can heal wounds and treat burns with honey
This is one of the less commonly known health benefits of a spoonful of honey. However, honey has been a go-to for wounds and burn-related injuries as far back as the ancient Egyptian times.
Thousands of years later, studies have proved honey to be a successful treatment. One study proved its effectiveness on patients suffering from post-surgery wounds as well as burns. Again, we have honey’s antibacterial properties – in the form of its hydrogen peroxide levels – to thank for this natural remedy.
The low, but effective, levels of hydrogen peroxide (a weak acid) within honey cleans wounds and burns, helping to keep infections at bay.
Honey strengthens our immune system
The combination of antioxidants and antibacterial properties means honey can help fight off bacteria and viruses. Look beyond your standard honey though – to see the benefit you want one with higher antioxidant levels.
Buckwheat honey and manuka honey both have some of the highest levels
High in Sugar
Honey is a form of sugar, which can have negative effects on your health when consumed in high amounts.In fact, studies show that high-sugar diets may be linked to obesity, inflammation, insulin resistance, liver issues, and heart disease.
Excess sugar intake may also be tied to a higher risk of depression, dementia, and even certain types of cancer.
Therefore, the best way to take advantage of the potential benefits linked to honey is to opt for a high-quality brand and use it to replace unhealthy sweeteners, such as high-fructose corn syrup or refined sugar.
Still, be sure to moderate your intake and use it sparingly to minimize your risk of side effects on health.
What to buy: Regular or raw honey
Regular honey is often pasteurized, filtered, processed, and mixed with syrup in an effort to cut costs. Selecting raw versions instead is the best way to maximize potential health benefits.In fact, some low-quality brands are often mixed with syrup in an effort to cut costs and maximize profit.
While it may be slightly more expensive, opting for a high-quality brand of raw honey is a simple and effective way to guarantee you’re getting the best bang for your buck.
Unlike regular honey, raw versions are not pasteurized, filtered, or processed, allowing them to retain their potential natural health-promoting properties.
What’s more, choosing a raw variety ensures that your honey is free of added syrups or extra ingredients that can diminish possible benefits.
Keep in mind that raw honey should never be given to children under one year of age due to the risk of infant botulism, a serious disease caused by toxins from a specific strain of bacteria called Clostridium botulinum.
After the age of one, the digestive system is typically developed enough to fight off potentially harmful toxins and minimize the risk of disease.