Sunday, 17 September 2017

Inside the Honey Dish


There's always a lot of hype around honey, and with Rosh Hashana coming- which is basically a honey celebration, I figured I should take a closer look at this natural sweetener. 


Sugar substitute:

Honey is not a "sugar free" sweetener. It is made up of glucose and fructose (along with small amounts of maltose and sucrose), and has an affect on blood sugar levels. Glycemic Index (GI) is the measurement of the effect in blood sugar from eating, and generally the higher a food's GI, the faster it raises blood sugar levels. Honey's GI is an average of 61 (it varies on location and what it's made from) and in comparison, table sugar is an average of 65. In one study  comparing honey to sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), all 3 had similar impact on blood sugar levels, lipid metabolism, inflammation and increased triglyceride levels, plus increased blood sugar specifically in people with impaired glucose tolerance. On the other hand, there does seem to be a quicker decline in blood sugar levels in honey versus sugar, possibly making it a better option in small amounts. Additionally, a small study suggests that long term  honey consumption may have a positive metabolic  affect on people with type 1 diabetes. One proposed mechanism for why this happens is possibly because of the fructose and the phytochemicals within honey act as a pre-biotic by enhancing bifidobacteria in the gut. This is why honey has a laxative effect for those with fructose malabsorption, and does not fit in a low FODMAP diet. 


Complementary Medicine:

Honey is often touted as a natural miracle healer. It does appear to have antimicrobial activity that is similar to antibiotics against certain bacteria (1) and prevents food spoilage and inhibits specific food-borne pathogens (2). While honey has been demonstrated as having anti-inflammatory capabilities, there is inconclusive evidence whether honey reduces inflammation caused from smoking (3). There is evidence that it is effective for healing wounds, burns and ulcers, and sterilizing infection, by stimulating tissue growth and minimizing scar formation (4). It's even more effective for healing diabetic wounds (5) as it combats many microorganisms that are involved in the wound process, and can fight inflammation. This makes it an "all in one" remedy that's safer, faster, more effective and more economical than traditional methods of wound healing.

Antioxidant Activity:

You've probably seen loads of varieties of honey- buckwheat, clover, acacia... Basically, this tells us which flowers were pollinated to make the honey. The flower variety influences the colour, flavour, and antioxidant level of the honey, resulting in over 300 honey varieties! Generally, the darker the honey, the more antioxidant content. Honey has small amounts of many minerals (calcium, iron and potassium among others), but with the small amounts, honestly you're better off getting your minerals and antioxidants from fruits and veggies! 


Want to start using more honey?

Honey is a pasteurized food, but this is only to make it last longer and be shelf stable. It still may contain botulism, and shouldn't be given to children under age 1 (adult's immune system should be strong enough to counter this).

When substituting honey for a sugar in a recipe, use 3/4 cup honey for each cup, and cut down on all other liquids by 2 Tbsp. Additionally, lower the baking temperature by 25 ℉.

At 17 grams of carbohydrates per Tbsp., honey is a good fuel source both pre-activity and during activity. It's possibly better than glucose as it increases heart frequency while keeping the blood sugar stable. 


What do you think? Is honey part of your usual intake, or relegated to once a year? Let me know below! 

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