20 May The Sweet Truth Behind Honey
Many people are wary of honey because it is very rich in fructose. Some nutritionists even go as far to say that it isn’t any better than white sugar. It is true that about 40% of the total weight of honey is represented by fructose, a sugar that easily turns into fat in the liver. Used extensively by the agri-food industry, which produces cheap fructose from corn and wheat (wheat syrup), fructose is now considered to be highly responsible for the rise of obesity and diabetes. However, eating fructose added in industrial foods is not the same as eating high fructose honey. Honey is an authentic natural food that has been accessible to human beings throughout history, and deserves to be on our tables and better understood.
The Origins of Honey
Bees forage flowers to collect nectar, a liquid rich in sugar, which they then store in their crop and bring back to the hive. Honey is made inside the hive. It is a collective activity that consists of swallowing, digesting and regurgitating the nectar, repeatedly, expelling it from the digestive tract. After a few cycles, the nectar is then transformed into honey and heated by the activity of the bees to evaporate the excess water. Its composition and nutritional properties depend on the origin of the nectar, and therefore the flowers that are close to the hive.
The usual composition of honey is as follows:
- Sugar accounts for 82% of its weight
- 30 to 50% fructose, the most liquid honeys having the highest fructose content
- Contains small amounts of vitamins and minerals
- Contains a varied mix of antioxidants
- Contains hydrogen peroxide (oxygenated water, highly oxidizing and antiseptic)
- Contains enzymes, organic acids, amino acids and peptides.
- Honey contains many rare and interesting ingredients for health
More than 4000 scientific studies have been carried out on honey and have shown that it has healing and antibacterial properties when applied to the skin. Honey acts against some sixty germs and against certain strains of bacteria multi-resistant to antibiotics. It can especially be used against infections with E. Coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Helicobacter pylori and Salmonella. Its virtues originate in its composition: acid, it prevents bacteria from developing, especially since it is able to attract and absorb the water they need to live. It also contains hydrogen peroxide (antiseptic and antifungal), as well as defensins, peptides capable of inhibiting the growth of germs, and especially flavonoids and many enzymes that destroy micro-organisms by ‘digesting’ them. Honey is therefore a highly active living substance and it is not surprising that it alone can be used to treat many diseases in the field of ENT infections, gastrointestinal infections and skin infections.
Effects of Honey on Blood Composition
Honey is a product extremely rich in sugar and calories. And so it is only normal for you to wonder if itwill make you gainweight and increase your blood sugar and triglyceride levels. A study on this subject matter was carried out among 48 people with diabetes. You will probably be happy to hear that those who consumed honey for 8 weeks lost weight and saw their triglycerides and total cholesterol levels drop. However, their level of HbA1c (a marker of blood sugar) had increased, which is bad. Another study on three types of people: healthy, diabetic, or suffering from hyperlipidemia (too much fat in the blood) revealed that honey:
- Increases blood glucose less than dextrose (glucose) and sucrose (table sugar, chemically formed of glucose molecules associated with fructose).
- Reduces the level of C-reactive proteins, a marker of inflammation and cardiac risk
- Reduces cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Also reduces the homocysteine level, another blood marker associated with the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Antioxidants in Honey
Untreated honey contains an abundance of varied antioxidants that could have major health implications. In general, the consumption of antioxidants in the diet is associated with better health and a lower risk of disease.Two studies on humans have revealed that the consumption of acacia honey increases the level of antioxidants in the blood.
Choose a Dark Honey
We are naturally attracted by the golden colour of honey, and tend to think that a clear or even white honey is better. It is true that lavender honey, for example, very clear and creamy, is exquisite .However, the content of honey in antioxidants can range from 1 to 20. In general, the darker honeys such as chestnut honey, are superior to others in nutritional terms. In North America, it is currently the buckwheat honey of Canada that is the most sought after for its therapeutic virtues. Brown and thick, buckwheat honey gives off aromas and scents of wood and earth, even if its first smell is relatively discreet.
What about Manuka Honey? Manuka honey is known for its antibacterial and healing properties: numerous clinical studies have shown that it reduces the duration of healing, reduces the number of recurrences and so on. However, the commercial success of manuka honey, produced in New Zealand, is causing some beekeepers’ associations to cringe. They state that if the same studies had been done with other local honey (thyme, rosemary, acacia, lavender, etc.), the results would probably have been identical. These arguments developed seem convincing. It would seem that the price of manuka honey is greatly exaggerated, and that its therapeutic virtues may even be lower than those of other honey!
So, should you eat honey? It is up to you to decide and, as in most other nutrition issues, it depends. This depends on the type of honey: its glycemic index can range from low to high. But it depends mainly on you: if you are healthy, active, and have no tendency to diabetes, honey will be good for you if consumed sparingly (for example at breakfast). On the other hand, overweight people who already tend to eat a lot of sweets and carbohydrates (bread, pasta, potatoes, and pastries) should instead avoid honey as much as possible. But to choose between a huge spoonful of honey and a handful of sweets, it is undoubtedly the honey that will do you the least harm!
When making pastry, consider replacing sugar with honey. It is an excellent alternative that will give an extra fragrance, richer, a more melting texture, and will bring its share of antioxidants.