Most Americans happily consume several pounds (at a minimum) of processed sugars and sweeteners each year, but honey – we average a measly pound of the stuff. That's too bad, because honey, especially raw honey, is not only the superior sweetener, but it's also far more healthful than white sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.
Honey is one of nature's true miracles. To make a pound of honey, a hive of bees will have to visit almost two million flowers and travel almost 50,000 miles – that's the equivalent of over two round trips around the world.
Raw honey – honey that is unpasteurized and has not been heated above 116 degrees Fahrenheit – is high in natural sugars glucose and fructose. While a tablespoon of honey clocks in at approximately 64 calories, it has a glycemic load equivalent to that of a banana, meaning it won't cause sugar spikes and crashes like other sweeteners. Compared to white sugar, at 15 calories per tablespoon, honey is a far superior energy source. If you want to sweeten up a smoothie, you can't do better than raw honey.
Unlike other sweeteners, raw honey is rich in antioxidants, enzymes, and nutrients, including several B vitamins and vitamin C, selenium, zinc, iron, calcium, and phosphorous. Raw honey also contains nutritious bee pollen and propolis. Bee pollen is rich in proteins, vitamins, and amino acids, and propolis, which bees use to build and repair beehives, is a potent antibacterial and antimicrobial agent.
Once honey undergoes pasteurization, many of these healthful components are lost. Processed honey is still better than white sugar, but nowhere near as much as the raw stuff.
Honey comes in many different varieties, depending on the flowers they visited. Unlike white sugar, which pretty much comes in just one flavor, honeys made from clover, buckwheat, orange blossom, and alfalfa, to name a scant few, are prized by honey aficionados. During the summer months, most farmer's markets will have many different flavors of honey you can try.
Honey can also be used to treat cuts, burns, and abrasions, something the ancient Egyptians figured out. Honey is mostly sugars, and sugar is a hydroscopic agent, which means it loves water. Can't get enough of it, which is why its categorized as a “wet” ingredient in baking. It'll suck the water out of anything it comes into contact with – which includes bacteria. Rub a little honey on an open wound, put a bandage over it, and the odds of an infection drop to almost zero. It is also very effective at providing an airtight seal of minor burns as well. Manuka honey from New Zealand is especially prized for its antiseptic properties.
Please note that while raw honey is very healthful, it should never be given to infants due to a small chance of contracting infant botulism, a gastrointestinal disorder that can be potentially life-threatening. As Good Eats host Alton Brown once said, “until the kid is one, honey there shall be none.”
Next time you're reaching for the sugar bowl to sweeten something up, consider going for the honey pot, instead. Raw honey isn't just good, it's good for you.
Dave Meddish, Live Superfoods
OrganicFacts.net, “Health Benefits of Honey” found here.
Natural News, “The Benefits of Raw Honey” found here.
Draxe.com, “The Many Health Benefits of Raw Honey” found here.