For a very long time, honey has been used for different purposes - from medicinal uses, to cooking, where it is used as a sweetener that is healthier than refined sugar. Including honey in your foods in place of refined sugar is very beneficial as it has some nutritional and other value.
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What Is Honey?
Honey is a thick, sweet and golden-brown liquid produced by bees and some other insects from the sugary secretions of plants.
The most commonly known honey is the one produced by bees, as it is collected, sold and consumed worldwide. It is collected from the honeycombs in the beehives.
Nutritional Value Of Honey
The nutritional value of honey is predominantly in the form of sugar and antioxidants. 1 tablespoon of honey contains 64 calories and 17 grams of sugar.
The sugars in honey include maltose, glucose, fructose, and sucrose. Honey is a healthier source of energy than refined sugar.
As it is produced from the secretions of plants, it is a source of antioxidants, and may contain bioactive plant compounds. The darker the honey, the richer it is in these compounds. These antioxidants include phenols, enzymes, and compounds like flavonoids. Antioxidants have been linked to a healthier heart, healthy skin, and protection from some infections.
Health Benefits Of Honey
There are many benefits of honey, as good quality honey is a source of antioxidants and plant compounds. From immunity to heart health, honey has numerous health benefits. Some of the health benefits of honey are as follows:
1. Improves Cholesterol
Having high LDL cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, as it is in the form of fat buildup which clogs arteries. Some studies have found that honey helps raise good cholesterol (HDL) and also slightly reduce total cholesterol as well as LDL levels.
2. Lowers Triglycerides
Honey can help lower the triglyceride levels. Triglycerides are fatty acids, and they have been linked to a risk of heart disease as well as type 2 diabetes. Usually, an unhealthy diet high in processed carbohydrates, sugar and unhealthy fats increases the triglyceride level. Using honey as a replacement for sugar may help avoid this risk.
3. Lowers Blood Pressure
Eating honey can help lower blood pressure because the antioxidants on honey have been linked to lower blood pressure. High blood pressure is often a risk factor for heart diseases and strokes.
4. Heart Health
The health benefits of honey are not restricted to replacing refined sugar. As honey is rich in plant compounds and antioxidants like phenols, one of the benefits of honey is that it improves heart health when it is used in moderation. Phenols in honey can help blood vessels dilate, increasing blood flow to the heart and reducing the risk of blood clots in the arteries, thus helping to prevent heart attacks and stroke.
5. Helps With Cough Relief In Children
For young children, due to developing immunity, cough is a common occurrence. Cough medicines are important, but they often have side effects and have limited effectiveness. Introducing honey as a supplement to prescribed medication has been shown to reduce cough symptoms. There are thus medicinal benefits of honey too. It should however, never be given to kids below 1 year of age.
6. Healthy Skin
Another of the many benefits of honey is that it can be used on your skin. It has moisturizing and nourishing properties. In fact, using honey instead of face wash can often act as a cleanser and a moisturiser in one. Including honey in your beauty regime can have benefits for your skin and hair.
7. May Improve Sleep
If you have trouble sleeping, honey can help! Drinking a cup of milk or non-caffeinated tea with a little honey in it a little before bedtime may help you sleep better. It also helps improve sleep quality in kids as it keeps cough symptoms away, allowing for undisturbed sleep.
8. Wound Healing
Minor burn on your skin from touching a hot pan accidentally? Small cut? Honey may help. The antibacterial and antioxidant properties of honey can help soothe the skin as well as avoid infections, helping your minor cuts and burns heal faster. You should however, never use it on major wounds.
9. Quick And Natural Energy
Drinking warm water, lime and honey is already known to be beneficial for health. But it is also a great energy boost before your morning workout. The sugars in honey enter the bloodstream directly, so honey is also a good source of natural energy.
10. Healthier Sugar
Honey is a safer alternative than refined sugar as it is unprocessed. Diabetics can replace the sugar in their tea or coffee with a few drops of honey. Although the healthy sweetening is one of the health benefits of honey, you should use honey cautiously as it is still a source of high energy and sugar. If you’re diabetic, although honey is safer, you should still consult your doctor before introducing honey.
11. Helps With Weight Loss
Honey with warm water can help reduce your cravings for sweets. When used as a sugar substitute within an already balanced and healthy diet, honey can make a huge difference and help you shed those last pounds that were holding on due to your sugar consumption and cravings.
12. Fights Infections
The antioxidants and antibacterial properties of honey help keep many infections away. It has been shown to help strengthen immunity slightly in the long run. Honey with warm water is often recommended as a sore throat remedy due to this reason.
Side Effects Of Honey
Although honey has many health benefits, it is important to restrict honey consumption to smaller quantities, preferably as a sugar substitute in beverages, or in your warm water or tea for a sore throat.
Too much of a good thing is not always good.
May Spike Blood Sugar
Although honey is safer than regular refined sugar, it is still high in sugars, which can spike blood sugar levels if you consume too much honey. So to keep your sugar in check, keep an eye on how much honey, sugar, or other sweet foods you consume. Diabetics should consult a doctor before using honey as a substitute for sugar.
The high sugar content of honey can interfere with the nutrient absorption capacity of the small intestine and also lead to stomach pains when you consume too much honey. It is also not recommended in excessive quantities if you are diabetic or already at risk for diabetes. The amount of honey you consume should be small amounts everyday. For example, add a few drops in each cup of tea you drink; or mix a quarter teaspoon in your warm lemon water in the morning.
During Pregnancy And Breastfeeding
When taken in small amounts as a part of your food, honey is usually safe for pregnant women and breastfeeding moms. However, the medicinal benefits of honey during pregnancy and breastfeeding are unknown as of now, so it is recommended to avoid using it in medicinal amounts or for healing skin wounds.
Honey is also not recommended for young children, especially those below 1 year of age, as it could pose a risk of botulism (food poisoning). This risk is only for babies, and there is no risk of botulism through honey for adults and kids.
Honey may be produced from pollen, so if you have a pollen allergy, you should consume honey cautiously or avoid it altogether. In case you feel any kind of stomach or skin issues after you consume honey, you should avoid it further, and speak to a doctor to check for allergic reactions and symptoms.
In severe cases, these allergic reactions can cause anaphylaxis or anaphylactic shock, which can cause breathing issues and dizziness, so you should speak to your doctor even if you feel mild discomfort after consuming honey.
When you consume too much honey, the high sugar and calories in honey can lead to weight gain. The excess energy is stored as fat, which can end up being excessive or unhealthy weight gain.
How To Include Honey In Your Diet
Honey should be consumed in moderation as part of a balanced diet to enjoy the real health benefits of honey. Here are some ways you can use honey in your day to day:
In a cup of warm water, squeeze the juice of half a lemon and mix in a half teaspoon of honey. Drink this in the morning instead of your caffeinated beverages. It can help keep you energetic as well as curb sugar cravings to an extent. It is also a good, mild and natural energy drink.
Alternatively, you can also add a half teaspoon of honey to warm milk or chamomile tea before bed to improve your sleep quality. For your beverages like coffee and tea throughout the day, if you add honey, restrict it to 2-3 drops per cup, assuming you drink about 2 cups per day.
2. Honey For Cough Or Sore Throat
If you have a sore throat, boil some grated or chopped ginger in water. Drain and bring to a warm temperature, after which you can drink this with lemon and a few drops of honey. The ginger as well as honey help soothe a sore throat, while also fighting infections.
3. In Foods
Whether it’s sweetening your oatmeal, or added to yogurt and fruits, keep the dosage to a few drops per food. It can serve as a healthy and natural substitute for sugar.
4. Honey For Kids
You should never introduce honey before the age of 1 year. Speak to your doctor before doing so. Start with a half teaspoon first if your child is below the age of 6 years. Watch out for symptoms of allergies like stomach upset or throat irritation.
5. Get Creative
You can mix honey with other condiments to make salad dressings or sauce that you can use in stir fries, salads and other dishes. There are many recipes that will use honey, ginger, soy sauce and other spices to make sauces and dressings for dishes.
To conclude, honey has many health benefits, medicinal uses and uses for skin and hair care. However, it should be avoided if you suspect allergic reactions, and only moderately consumed during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Honey is also unsafe for infants below the age of 1 year, as it can lead to infant botulism. Despite the health and other benefits of honey, it is best if it is consumed in moderation.