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Not everything that tastes sweet is bad for you. Processed and refined sugars are low in micronutrients and can lead to an insulin spike, but there are less processed sugars like honey are good for you. Honey is a popular and tasty natural alternative to processed sugars, created when bees collect nectar from flowers and digest it, and is a popular and tasty sugar alternative.
Honey is rich in bioactive plant substances and antioxidants – the darker the honey, the more it contains – and these antioxidative qualities are strengthened by the presence of flavonoids and organic acid. There are practically no fats or proteins in honey, but it contains trace amounts of vitamins and minerals. For the greatest health benefits, opt for the healthiest honey of all, raw honey, which contains the most nutrients and antibacterial properties.
The bees were onto something when they started making honey as the health benefits of honey are plentiful. Turning to natural honey for health, healing and medicine, as well as food, has been practiced since ancient times.1 It is rich in antioxidants and studies have shown that the antibacterial properties of honey are effective against many bacteria, pathogens and fungi.2
A tablespoon of natural honey either pure, in tea or in milk, has long been a traditional remedy to help a sore throat or cough. It has the ability to coat the throat, acting as a cough suppressant and decreasing irritation from the mucus associated with upper respiratory infections. Infections of the upper respiratory tract often lead to coughing in children which can particularly impair sleep, but studies have shown good evidence that honey can reduce cough symptoms and improve sleep.3 Children over the age of one can safely consume honey as a nighttime cough suppressant,4 but raw honey, although good for you, should never be given to children under that age due to the risk of botulism.5
Honey is a great prebiotic, meaning that it can support your intestinal health – it can even sometimes be used to treat digestive problems like diarrhea, and studies have shown that it may help in the treatment of heliobacteria; a common cause of stomach ulcers.1 Manuka honey in particular is very beneficial for gut health. Include honey in your diet for a healthy treat and a great tasting food that is beneficial to your gut too!
There are so many health benefits of eating honey, and these extend to your cardiovascular system. Studies have suggested this this is down to the ability of honey to lower the risk of blood clots, by actively dilating and relaxing constricted blood vessels and preventing the oxidation of bad cholesterol LDL.6
Honey can also help to lower high blood pressure levels,7 and contains antioxidant compounds associated with low blood pressure.6 Furthermore, studies have shown evidence that blood pressure may actually drop slightly through the consumption of honey7 and finally, that honey can help to protect our heart from antioxidative stress8 – the health benefits of honey know no limits!
The health benefits of honey also extend to your skin, and studies have shown that its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties can help provide effective treatment for a number of skin diseases, as well as ulcers, wound healing and even burns.9
Honey also supports the healing of diabetic wounds10 and thanks to its antibacterial properties, it can be used to treat wounds infected following surgery.
If you suffer from dry, flaky skin patches as a result of psoriasis and herpes, honey can also be used to provide relief to these and finally, it can help to heal partial thickness to greater effect than through standard treatment practices alone.
All types of honey have natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory health benefits, although darker honeys such as Manuka and buckwheat honeys, contain more antioxidants than the lighter varieties. According to studies, raw honey is richer in antioxidants and polyphenols.11 Raw honey has not been filtered prior to bottling, so and includes pollen and beeswax.
It’s important to remember that while there are numerous health benefits to honey, as a food it is still high in carbohydrate and calories so it shouldn’t form a huge part of your main diet. A tablespoon of honey contains 64 calories and 17 grams of sugar, including fructose, glucose, maltose and sucrose.
While natural and good for our health, honey is still a sugar and it will therefore influence blood glucose and insulin levels, albeit to a lesser extent than the same quantity of refined sugar.
Lowering your sugar consumption is an important step to achieving better overall health and as natural honey nectar is sweeter than sugar, you don’t need to use as much to get the same effect. It’s packed full of nutrients that sugar doesn’t have, is better for maintaining stable blood sugar levels and is always a healthier alternative to refined white sugar.
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