The Nutrition of Honey.
Honey is a natural delicacy with many health benefits. Golden in hue and molten in texture, it is often referred to as “nectar of the gods”. Bees create honey through a process of regurgitation and enzymatic activity. Nectar is collected by female worker bees and then passed to a bee inside the hive. Exchanging the substance mouth-to-mouth until its moisture content reduces, the substance is transformed into honey. A kind of alchemical act!
Despite the seemingly treacherous retrieval of honey from a bustling hive, humans have been consuming honey for thousands of years. Traditionally, ancient societies used honey to heal wounds and assist with intestinal disease; today, honey’s properties are continuing to intrigue health professionals. Nutritionally, one tablespoon of honey (21 grams) contains 64 calories and 17 grams of sugar, including fructose, glucose, maltose and sucrose. It contains virtually no fat, fibre or protein. However, despite being low in minerals and vitamins, honey has many surprising health benefits.
Despite honey containing sugar, it is an excellent natural substitute. Sweeter than sugar, consumers need less added in food and drinks to produce the same effect. It also has a lower GI value than sugar, so does not raise blood sugar levels as quickly. This makes honey a positive alternative to artificial sweeteners, which can effect hormone levels, pollute the environment and contain cancer-causing ingredients.
Honey’s major benefit is its rich antioxidant content, including phenols, enzymes and compounds such as flavonoids and organic acids. Antioxidants slow down and expel harmful molecules that can damage cells, cause aging, increase heart disease, strokes and cancer. High-quality raw honey rivals many fruits and vegetables, containing the same amount of antioxidants as spinach, apples, oranges and strawberries.
These antioxidant compounds have a positive and promising effect in the treatment of cardiovascular disease, helping neutralise inflammation-causing free radicals and preventing the oxidisation of unused LDL (bad) cholesterol. By reducing this inflammation, honey can reduce plaque accumulating in arteries and help protect against heart attack and stroke. In conjunction, honey can also reduce the body’s insulin response, lower cholesterol and improve circulation, adding to its heart-heath properties.
Raw honey has long been used to heal wounds, as an antiseptic, and to rejuvenate the skin. It is thought that some of the chemicals contained in honey actively eradicate bacteria and fungus. When applied to the skin, honey can act as a protective barrier to moisture skin and stop wounds from sticking to dressings, whilst simultaneously providing nutrients and other chemicals thought to speed healing.
Nutritious and antioxidant-rich, honey has been used since ancient times for its medicinal and health benefits. This makes it a powerful remedy, as well as a delicious substitute to sugar and artificial sweeteners.
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