Is Honey Good For You?
Well the short answer is YES.
As producers of honey it will not surprise you that we believe that honey is good for you, but we really should look at this scientifically and as impartially as a bee farmer can.
Is All Honey The Same?
Before we start we need to be clear that we are talking about proper honey here. The more you do to honey, the more you take away and the more you make it like processed sugar. Honey, as it comes off the hive in an unprocessed and unadulterated fashion, is food for the bees and so contains vital nutrients. The more it is processed by filtering and heat treatment the more it resembles sugar and the less it resembles honey. If you want to really get all the health benefits of honey then eat it in the raw state, in other words still in the comb. If you don’t like the texture of the comb then make sure you buy a honey that has just been spun out of the comb and not treated further.
Whilst we will look at the general health giving effects of honey here it is important to remember that honey is made from the nectar of flowers and therefore the make up of each honey will be different depending upon the flowers where the bees have been collecting.
Everyone Says Sugar Is Bad For You So What Is Different About Honey?
In recent years sugar has increasingly been identified as one of the bad boys of food, to be avoided or at least reduced. Type 2 diabetes is a disease that is increasing at a truly alarming rate and one of the reasons is thought to be down to the large amount of sugary food and drink the average person consumes.
In many ways honey and sugar are very similar and it is certainly true that you should not eat too much of either of them, but let’s have a look at honey and why it is better for you.
There is an important difference between the percentage of the two sugars in honey and processed sugar.
Processed sugar is approximately 50% fructose and 50% glucose and that’s it, whereas honey is approximately 40% fructose and 30% glucose and then a number of other elements including:
What Is Raw Honey?
There is no legal definition of raw honey and so everyone makes up their own rules. Here at Cotswold Bees we believe the only honey that should be described as ‘raw’ is honey still in the comb. Just as the bees made it.
Do Honey And Sugar Taste As Sweet As Each Other?
Honey is sweeter than processed sugar and so you need to use less honey than sugar to get the same sweetness in your food. This helps to keep the total amount of sugar you eat down whilst also getting the health advantages of honey.
How Can Honey Be Used As A Health Food?
Just before we start here a disclaimer. Research into the health-giving effects is ongoing. Whilst many areas have now been scientifically proven (both in the case of honey and other hive products), others are still under investigation. Unprocessed honey is not a licensed medicine and should not be used as such. What follows is a summary of current thinking and research and should not be viewed as a recommendation to treat any particular disease or symptom with honey. I am a bee farmer – not a doctor.
Honey can be used orally, either combined with other foods that need sweetening or in a drink with lemon or turmeric (see later), or used externally on wounds and other skin problems.
Does Honey Really Relieve Allergies?
Probably the most talked about health properties of honey is the possibility of relief from allergies, and most specifically hay fever. The way it is believed to work is that by eating honey containing the pollen allergen on a regular basis the body will build up a resistance and this will bring about relief. Certainly, on a personal basis, I can confirm that since we have been producing and eating our own honey my wife, who previously suffered very badly from hay fever, has seen the symptoms dramatically reduced.
If you are going to try this then it is most important that you eat unfiltered honey because if the honey has been passed through a fine filter the pollen will have been removed. Many large commercial honey producers do this as it slows or eliminates altogether the formation of crystals in the honey.
The recommendation, therefore, is to try honey from a local beekeeper who does not filter the honey. Alternatively eat comb honey which will not have been filtered.
What About Honey For A Sore Throat Or Cold?
Remember some of the old wives tales are now being scientifically proven. The first sign of a cold or flu is often a sore throat and mixing the honey with lemon in a warm drink provides relief. There is also some evidence that honey also boosts the immune system and speeds recovery.
Does Honey Help Wounds To Heal?
Honey has been used for centuries to heal wounds and this is because of three very specific properties of honey.
- The Sugar Content
You may be aware that honey will never go off and this is because the sugar content is so high that bacteria cannot live in it. This makes it ideal for dressing wounds as it forms a sterile barrier.
- Honey Is Hygroscopic
This means that honey will suck in moisture from the surrounding area. It is the reason that you must not leave a jar of honey with the lid off as it will suck in the moisture, dilute the sugar content and begin to ferment. In the case of wound dressing however this is an advantage in that as well as forming a sterile barrier the honey will ‘draw’ the wound, pulling out infection.
- Hydrogen Peroxide
This might sound a bit scary but honey naturally contains hydrogen peroxide, but don’t panic. Hydrogen peroxide in a natural antibiotic and anti-fungal. Work is still being done in this area and it appears that the effectiveness will vary from variety to variety, but all honey contains this valuable chemical to some extent.
Do All Types Of Honey Have The Same Antioxidant Level?
The amount of antioxidant will depend upon the plants the bees have been using to produce the honey. It is certainly shown that the antioxidants in honey (once again unprocessed honey) help protect the body against the damage done to cells by free radicals. This may be helpful in combatting some chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Be a little bit careful here as excess sugar has been shown to be a contributory factor in these diseases. Remember, it is a little bit of what you fancy that does you good and not a lot!!!
What’s So Good About Honey And Turmeric?
Turmeric is a well known anti-inflammatory and there is some evidence that making a honey and turmeric drink provides the body with help to fight a number of inflammatory diseases including arthritis. It may also be good at reducing inflammation after a sports related injury or other inflammation brought about by exercise.
Adding honey to turmeric acts as a ‘tying agent’ for the curcumin in the turmeric and increases its effectiveness. Adding a small amount of ground black pepper will enhance the effects still further.
Does Honey Help The Human Gut?
The human microbiome is being talked about as one of the most important discoveries ever when it comes to the regulation of the health of the body and also the mind. Study of the correct balance of microbes is still very much at the early days stage but it is without doubt that an unbalanced microbiome will cause you all sorts of problems.
Honey has been shown to be a natural prebiotic that feeds several known good bacteria that live in the human intestine. It is also believed to have a positive effect on digestive problems and, as well as feeding good bacteria, is shown to be effective against the helicobacter pylori which is a cause of stomach ulcers.
Honey, The Great Healer
As you can see honey is a great healer and good quality, unfiltered and non-pasteurised honey has many advantages.
Eat honey as the wonderful, valuable product that it is. Don’t forget quality is always better than quantity and all the research shows that a little and often is the best way to consume it.
Please enjoy your honey and stay well.