Nutritionally, honey is liquid gold. (Learn about other powerhouse foods.) This natural sugar source contains anti-oxidants that boost your immune system and protect against seasonal allergies. Plus, honey is full of vitamins and minerals that aid digestion. A single tablespoon contains only 64 calories, making honey a healthy alternative to processed sugar. (Learn to decode the facts about sugar on a nutrition label.)
Here are some facts and reasons why and how you should include a bear's favorite snack in your diet.
The color and flavor of honey depend on the nectar source. Typically the darker the honey, the more antioxidants it contains. Several varieties are available, each offering its own unique benefits. For instance, raw honey has better healing properties; buckwheat honey relieves sore throats and coughing; and Manuka honey (found in the flowers of New Zealand's manuka bush) has high levels of non-peroxide antibacterial elements.
Since honey contains natural sugars, it can play an important role in preventing fatigue during exercise and stressful times during the day. Honey contains both glucose and fructose, so it does not have a "crash and burn" effect like other sugar sources. The body absorbs glucose quickly for a fast energy boost, while fructose takes more time to absorb and provides sustained energy.
Scientists have found floral flavonoids in honey. These traces of bioflavonoids, better known as antioxidants, have a powerful influence in fighting free radicals. Honey's antioxidant and anti-bacterial properties improve digestive function and help keep you healthy.
Honey is also great for sore throats and cuts, and it even speeds up recovery from burns. Its viscosity provides a protective barrier, and its hydrogen peroxide, released slowly, kills germs in the wound and/or abrasion.
Avoid store-bought honey because it could be tainted with artificial sweeteners, pesticides, illegal animal antibiotics and heavy metals. Recently, some exporters have completely eliminated real honey from their products, which are thickened and colored with natural or chemical sweeteners and labeled as honey.
Buy local! If you are not a fan of farmers markets, look for honey from trusted suppliers in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Uruguay and Mexico. You can even buy bee pollen, which is great in smoothies! Natural honey is not subject to any heating or processing, unlike table sugar, which is highly processed. Heating and processing kills the naturally occurring trace minerals and important enzymes.
Before your next workout, take a spoonful of honey with your protein. It should help you go that extra mile or complete those extra reps.
If you are feeling low and lethargic in the morning, instead of reaching for a carbonated energy drink, try honey. Spread it on hot toast or replace the sugar in your coffee or tea for a refreshing surge of natural energy.
Add honey to cake mixes or your special bakery instead of using white sugar.