Honey is nature’s natural sweetener and since today is the last day of National Honey Month, we’re discussing everything you should know.
How is Honey Made?
1. Flower nectar is first collected by bees and stored in honeycomb.
2. Second, by constantly flapping their wings, bees promote evaporation of water from the nectar, causing it to become thicker and more concentrated.
3. Bee keepers remove the honey a special frame before it goes in a special machine and then finally it is strained and bottled.
What’s the difference between raw vs. pasteurized honey?
Similar to fresh juice, the raw version contains more nutrients as many of them can be destroyed by exposure to high heat during the pasteurizing process. Certain populations should not use raw honey including those with compromised immune systems and infants (infants should never have honey). When possible and when safe, choosing raw honey may help to provide more nutritional benefit than pasteurized.
But there are so many types and flavors of honey?
The type of flower from which the nectar is collected determines the type and flavor of the honey, and there are many different types with many different flavors and colors. As a general rule, the darker the color of the honey, the more phytonutrients the honey contains.
Common Types of Honey:
Avocado: Pollen is collected from the avocado blossom and this honey is darker in color and tends to have a richer, more potent flavor. The darker color indicates more phytonutrients (similar to other plants- the richer the color the more nutrients it contains) and antioxidants too.
Buckwheat: Buckwheat honey is absolutely delicious (aren’t they all?!) and one of the more popular and easy-to-find varieties. Buckwheat honey comes from the buckwheat plant, the same plant that buckwheat the gluten-free grain comes from. This honey, like that which comes from the avocado plant is darker in color and has a much stronger taste than other and milder varieties of honey. The darker color also indicates more nutrients contained in the honey.
Blueberry: Blueberry honey comes from the blueberry bush and the flavor isn’t overly strong but may be slightly stronger than a light amber clover honey. This variety comes in a light amber and a darker amber and as always the darker amber color contains slightly more antioxidants and nutrients.
Clover: Perhaps the most widely known variety, clover honey is milder than many other types of honey and can be often found in teashops and at restaurants as a nice addition to toast, oatmeal and as a natural sweetener for almost anything-including coffee and tea. There are many different types and colors of clover honey, ranging from a very clear color that has a milder flavor to a much richer, light brown color with a slightly stronger flavor. Choosing the darker amber clover honey will usually provide more phytonutrients than the lighter colored amber clover honey.
Honey boasts a few potential health benefits as well:
- Anti-microbial: Honey naturally contains hydrogen peroxide, a compound that is often used topically to clean wounds and help prevent infection to minor scrapes and ulcers.
- Anti-inflammatory: Honey contains anti-inflammatory properties that may help to topically reduce effects of bug bites and other skin rashes.
- Immune-boosting: Honey contains antibacterial and antiviral properties that may help to boost immunity to fight colds and other common fall and winter illnesses.
- Antioxidant: Honey contains polyphenols that are compounds containing antioxidants that may help to prevent heart and artery damage and also may be cancer-preventive.
- Good for the gut: Preliminary research suggests that honey may positively benefit gut bacteria, although this finding needs to be further investigated.
- Soothing on the throat: As a means for calming a cough, honey may be just as effective as an ingredient used in over the counter cough syrups, dextromethorphan. The recommended dose is about 2 teaspoons before bedtime for help with soothing a cough.
- Sleep aid: Honey may promote the action of tryptophan, an amino acid that can cause sleepiness and therefore may help to cause fatigue and therefore sleep.
- Energy boost: Athletes may often use honey pre-workout in their smoothie or on its own as a way to boost energy. Honey contains easy-to-breakdown carbohydrates that act as quick energy that athletes may use for their exercise bout
But Sugar is Still Sugar
At the end of the day sugar is sugar. Although it appears honey not only may have more potential health benefits and also may cause a slightly blunted sugar spike when compared to regular sugar, it’s important to limit added sugars altogether. Choose to use a small amount of honey as a sweetener or add small amounts of fruit or a simple fruit compote to add some natural sweetness.