Pure honey, nature's soother, is more than just sweet.
From ancient times, honey has not only been used as a sweetener but as a natural beauty agent and has been employed by some cultures for its medicinal attributes.
Watch Honey Labels
You do have to be sure to get pure raw honey. Some companies are mixing honey with cheaper sweeteners like sugar and corn syrup to cut costs. The FDA has called for full disclosure when honey is cut with anything else. Watch for labels that say "pure honey". Steer clear of any honey labeled "honey blend".
Honey contributes to a persons overall intake of recommended nutrients. Sweeteners, such as refined sugar, offer no additional nutrients. While honey should not be fed to infants under one year of age, honey is a safe and wholesome food for older children and adults.
Honey: A Quick Source of Energy
If you feel a boost of energy after eating honey, you're not imagining it! Honey is a natural mixture of the simple sugars glucose and fructose. Recent studies suggest that this unique mixture of sugars help in preventing fatigue and enhancing athletic performance.
Honey's Nutritional Profile
Honey is an invert sugar formed from natural floral nectars gathered by bees. Fructose and glucose rank as the predominate carbohydrates, with maltose and sucrose present in small percentages as well as trace amounts of nutrients.
In the United States alone, there are more than 300 varieties of honey. The color, flavor and even fragrance of a particular honey differ depending on the type of flower visited by the honey bees. Honey color ranges from nearly colorless to dark brown, and flavor from delectably mild to distinctively bold. As a general rule, lighter honey has a milder taste and darker honey is stronger.
Because of its high fructose content (almost 40-percent), honey has a higher sweetening power than sugar. One tablespoon contains about 64 calories.
Honey is composed primarily of carbohydrates and water, and also includes small amounts of a wide array of vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins such as niacin, riboflavin, and pantothenic acid, along with minerals such as calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.
Honey as a Source of Antioxidants
Research indicates that honey includes numerous compounds with antioxidant potential. The amount and type of these antioxidant compounds depends largely upon the floral source/variety of the honey. In general, darker honeys (Buckwheat honey) have been shown to be higher in antioxidant content than lighter honeys (Clover and Sage honey). While the antioxidant content of honey may not rival that of some of the more antioxidant rich fruits (berries and apples) and vegetables (kale and beans), on a gram for gram basis, honey may, nevertheless, provide an additional source of dietary antioxidants.
Honey and Calcium Absorption
It is estimated that by the year 2020, half of all Americans over the age of 50 will be at risk for fractures from osteoporosis or low bone mass. One of the key strategies for reducing the likelihood of developing low bone mass is to consume adequate calcium. Of course, it is also very important that the calcium consumed is absorbed. Researchers at Purdue University showed that honey enhanced calcium uptake in laboratory animals. In fact, researchers found that the absorption of calcium was increased as the amount of honey was increased. Although this data would need to be confirmed using human subjects, the preliminary findings are very compelling. Maybe you'd like to get your calcium through a fruit smoothie made with milk rather than by taking a calcium pill.
Honey and Athletic Performance
It is well known that carbohydrate consumption prior to, during and after exercise improves performance and speeds the recovery of muscles. Honey is a natural source of readily available carbohydrates, providing 17 grams of carbohydrates per tablespoon and may serve as an inexpensive alternative to commercial sports gels.
Preliminary data from the University of Memphis Exercise and Sports Nutrition Laboratory suggest that honey is as effective as glucose for carbohydrate replacement during endurance exercise.
Super Quick Honey Tips
- Sweeten coffee and tea with honey.
- Stir a spoonful of honey into fruit juice or nonfat yogurt.
- Drizzle warm honey over pancakes, cornbread and ice cream.
- Dip apple slices or other fresh fruit in honey.
- Dress up a snack of crackers and cheese with a dab of honey.
- Perk up bottled Italian dressing by adding a splash of honey.
- Mix 2-tablespoons honey into prepared barbecue sauce.
To keep the honey that's in the jar from making a mess in your cupboard, place the jar on a plastic lid. This helps to catch any drips that come down the sides.
Using Honey to Replace Refined Sugar
- Bake it. Replace up to half the granulated sugar in a quick bread or muffin recipe with an equal amount of pure honey.
- Restore crystallized honey. To restore crystallized honey, microwave 1 cup honey (in it's own glass jar) tightly covered with plastic wrap for 1-1/2 minutes.
- Drink Up. Sweeten iced tea or smoothies with a specialty honey infused with fruit - try raspberry or blueberry.
- Veg out. Use honey instead of sugar or corn syrup in glazed carrots and other sweetened vegetable dishes.
- Sweet ending. Drizzle a little honey on a bowl of fresh seasonal fruit.
Honey: A Popular Folk Remedy
Honey has been a popular folk remedy for colds, coughs, fevers, splinters, and skin infections (Maiscott 2000). According to modern research, its reputation as an antiseptic may be warranted (Peirce 1999).
Research has found that honey, sometimes mixed with sugar, has been found to be an effective treatment for infections from bedsores, treatment of burns, and has displayed antimicrobial properties with typhoid, dysentery, and other bacteria (Root-Bernstein and Root-Bernstein 1997).
In the South, from 1750 to 1820, people used honey for chest complaints (Moss 1999). A modern folk remedy for colds among Southern African Americans is honey, lemon, and whiskey tea (Watson 1984).
Honey and "Good" Bacteria
The gastrointestinal tract (GI) is full of bacteria. These bacteria are essential for life and good health. One group of bacteria that have been shown to be particularly important to the health and proper function of the GI tract are called Bifidobacteria. One way to increase the Bifidobacteria populations in the gut is by consuming foods containing prebiotics, substances that increase the growth and activity of good bacteria.
Prebiotics help these "friendly bacteria" grow and "be happy". Honey contains a variety of substances that can function as prebiotics. Research conducted at Michigan State University has shown that adding honey to dairy products such as yogurt can enhance the growth, activity, and viability of Bifidobacteria.
Effective Face Mask: Mix the pulp of an orange with one of two spoons of honey. Apply it on your face and leave it on for approximately 20 minutes. Rinse with lukewarm water. When done, your skin should feel soft and velvety.
Honey for a Cough
In several studies, honey was as effective as over-the-counter medicine for reducing the frequency of coughing fits. Bonus: It's antimicrobial. Add bacteria-killing thyme to speed recovery. Dose: Mix 1/2 cup honey and 1/2 ounce thyme tincture. Adults can take 1 to 2 teaspoons of the mixture as needed. Children over 2 can take 1/2 to 1 teaspoon as needed. Not recommended for children under two.
Spoon a few tablespoons of honey on toast to feel better fast, says Audrey Halpern, MD, a headache specialist and neurologist in New York City. Honey is loaded with fructose, which speeds up the metabolism of alcohol.
Cough Syrup Recipe
Simple and effective for soothing a nagging cough.
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup honey
1/4 cup warm water
In a medium-size bowl, combine the lemon juice and honey and slowly stir in the water. Store in the refrigerator until needed; take 1 or 2 tablespoons once every 3 hours to relieve coughing.
Hot Honey Dip Recipe
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Ground black pepper and cayenne pepper, to taste
Combine ingredients; mix thoroughly. Use as a dip for pretzels and bread sticks, fresh vegetables, or chicken wings. Yield: 4 servings
Honey Cinnamon Spread Recipe
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Combine ingredients; mix thoroughly. Spread on English muffins, biscuits or sandwiches. Yield: 4 servings
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