The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that Americans eat about 65 pounds of sugar plus nearly 65 pounds of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) every year. This means an American woman of average weight and eating habits consumes her weight in HFCS about every two and a half years. However, according to some new research and the advice of nutritionists and medical doctors, if you can eliminate refined sugar and use pure raw honey instead, you may find that the health benefits provided by raw honey are many.
Raw honey is a pure, unfiltered, and unpasteurized sweetener straight from the hive and made by bees from the nectar of flowers. Most of the honey we eat today is processed honey that has been heated and filtered. Unlike processed honey, raw honey keeps it’s incredible nutritional value. It can help with everything from low energy to sleep problems to seasonal allergies. Switching to raw honey may even help weight loss efforts when compared to diets containing sugar or high fructose corn syrup.
Raw honey is one of nature’s purest foods and considered a “functional food”, which means it’s a natural food with health benefits. Raw honey contains 22 amino acids, 27 minerals and 5,000 enzymes. Minerals include iron, zinc, potassium, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and selenium. Some of the vitamins found in raw honey include vitamin B6, thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and niacin.
One tablespoon of honey contains 64 calories; however, it has a healthy glycemic load around 10 for 1 tablespoon, which is a little less than a banana. Raw honey does not usually cause a high sugar spike and elevated insulin release like refined white sugar. Honey is typically about 18% water, but the lower the water content, the better the quality of honey. Best of all, you do not need to refrigerate raw honey and you can measure it by the spoonful straight from the jar.
DID YOU KNOW? Bees spend thousands of hours collecting pollen from around two million flowers to make one pound of pure honey.
Benefits of Raw Honey
- anti-bacterial properties
- anti-fungal properties
- anti-viral properties
- contains cancer preventative phytonutrients
- anti-tumor properties
- relieves nocturnal cough & sleep difficulty better than dextromethorphan (DM)
- contains a large amount of friendly bacteria (6 species of lactobacilli & 4 species of bifidobacteria)
- blood sugar support
- helps sore throats & laryngitis
- effective natural preservative
- ideal liver fuel containing a nearly 1:1 ratio of fructose to glucose
- supports a healthy immune system
- supports healthy weight management
- improves athletic performance
- used successfully as a topical antiseptic agent for the treatment of ulcers, burns & wounds
- keeps free radicals at bay
- helps reduce allergy symptoms
- supports healthy cholesterol levels
- provides energy boost
Did You Know? Raw Honey Facts
- God used raw honey to motivate the Israelite people when He told them to, “Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey.” (Exodus 33:3) “Wild” honey is often mentioned; whether this was meant as a contrast to domesticated honey is difficult to know.
- Honey’s ability to attract and retain moisture means that it has long been used as a beauty treatment. It was part of Cleopatra’s daily beauty ritual.
- Raw honey has been used for its medicinal qualities since ancient times.
- Honey lasts for ever – or almost. An explorer who found a 2000 year old jar of honey in an Egyptian tomb said it tasted delicious!
- Beekeeping to produce honey, dates back to at least 700 BC.
- The Romans first discovered the beneficial effects of honey on digestive disorders when they would prescribe honey as a mild laxative.
- Honey was used by runners in the Olympic Games in ancient Greece as an energy source.
- Honey bees must gather nectar from two million flowers to make one pound of honey.
- It takes 12 bees their entire lifetime to produce just one teaspoon of honey.
- Raw honey contains small amounts of the same resins found in propolis as well as bee pollen.
- When raw honey is overly processed and heated, the health benefits are highly diminished.
- Raw honey feeds good bacteria. It has been experimentally demonstrated in in vitro (petri dish) conditions to increase the number of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus plantarum counts 10-100 fold compared with sucrose.
Raw Honey as a Sweetener
Unfortunately not all honey is created equal. The antibacterial activity in some honey is 100 times more potent than in others; however, processed refined honey will lack many of these beneficial properties. And much of the honey in grocery stores comes from China.
In an investigation conducted by Food Safety News (FSN) they discovered:
- 76 percent of honey samples bought at grocery stores (such as TOP Food, Safeway, QFC, Kroger, Harris Teeter, etc.) were absent of pollen
- 77 percent of the honey from big box stores (like Costco, Sam’s Club, Walmart, and Target) were absent of pollen
- 100 percent of the honey sampled from drug stores (like Walgreens, Rite-Aid, and CVS Pharmacy) were absent of pollen
All honey samples from places such as farmers’ markets, co-ops, and natural stores such as Trader Joe’s contained the full, proper compliment of pollen, as did organic brands from regular grocery stores. The lesson here is when choosing honey, be sure it is raw, unfiltered, and 100% pure, from a trusted source.
Raw honey and blood sugar
Probiotics also help us digest and process our foods – and L. kunkeei, a particular probiotic bacteria endemic among honeybees, can also perform this function.
Researchers at University of Stellenbosch also found the L. kunkeei bacteria feed off complex D-fructose – which both flower nectars and honeys provide.
This fact reveals a much more complex mechanism and benefit of eating raw honey – and at least one reason why honey is one of the healthiest forms of sweeteners in terms of blood sugar control. The fact that these bacteria feed from fructose means they also break down the fructose that can be responsible – in its pure forms – for hiking our blood sugar.
Other research has shown that fructose from raw fruit comes with complex fibers that help prevent the fructose from surging into the blood. This process is further slowed down by gut probiotics that feed from fructose, thus breaking down these polysaccharide chains into healthy components such as lactic acids and acetic acids.
But honey provides another level above this – assuming raw honey is eaten: It delivers the probiotics that reduce the absorption of fructose of not only the honey, but other fructose-containing foods. This also provides the missing link that underscores the fact that probiotic supplementation has been shown to improve the fructose/glucose response.
Raw honey and cholesterol
Researchers at Iran’s Isfahan University and Mashhad University, indicate that honey aids the body in healthy processing of fats by decreasing the overall amount of cholesterol and fats in the bloodstream. This study was published in the August 2018 journal of the European Society for Clinical Nutrition and Metabolism (ESPEN), Clinical Nutrition ESPEN.
Sixty healthy subjects, aged 18-30 years, were randomly recruited into this double blind randomized trial and assigned into two groups: honey (received 70 g honey per day) and sucrose (received 70 g sucrose per day) groups for a time period of six weeks. Total cholesterol, TG, LDL and HDL were measured in the control and intervention groups at the beginning and end of study. Body mass index (BMI) was measured and participants’ physical activity was self-reported via the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ), a survey that assesses walking time, moderate and vigorous physical activities and time spent sitting throughout a typical week.
Lab testing was repeated after the six-week intervention period was complete. All sixty participants successfully completed the trial.
After the final blood lipid profiles were made, researchers put together the following findings:
- Consumption of honey decreased total cholesterol and LDL and increased the presence of HDL in the blood.
- Consumption of sucrose had the inverse effect, increasing total cholesterol and significantly raising LDL levels, while decreasing HDL in the blood.
In summary, total cholesterol significantly decreased in the honey group compared with the beginning of the trial, while total cholesterol increased in sucrose group. LDL cholesterol was decreased by honey consumption and increased by sugar intake. Honey also increased HDL cholesterol in the blood, while sucrose decreased the presence of this healthy fat.
Researchers described the main finding as “the ability of natural honey to modulate some of the risk factors of cardiovascular disease.” The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), indicates that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. with one person dying from cardiovascular disease every 37 seconds. Researchers have decided that further clinical trials are needed to confirm these promising results.
Raw Honey Caution
Those allergic or sensitive to celery, pollen, or other bee-related allergies should not consume raw honey. Honey made from plants in the Rhododendron genus may also cause allergic reactions due to toxicity. Allergic reactions have been reported after honey use, including asthma, cough, difficulty swallowing, hives, lip or tongue inflammation and itching, lung inflammation, shortness of breath, swelling under the skin, voice changes, and wheezing, as well as severe life-threatening reactions. Proverbs 25:16 reads, “If you find honey, eat just the right amount; otherwise, you’ll get full and vomit it up.” Even though honey is natural and healthy, moderation should always be practiced.
Resources & Research
Kamel Gharzouli, Smain Amira, Akila Gharzouli, Seddik Khennouf Gastroprotective effects of honey and glucose-fructose-sucrose-maltose mixture against ethanol-, indomethacin-, and acidified aspirin-induced lesions in the rat. Exp Toxicol Pathol. 2002 Nov;54(3):217-21. PMID: 12484559
The effect of honey consumption compared with sucrose on lipid profile in young healthy subjects (randomized clinical trial). Rasad H, Entezari MH, Ghadiri E, Mahaki B, Pahlavani N. Clin Nutr ESPEN. 2018 Aug;26:8-12. doi: 10.1016/j.clnesp.2018.04.016. PMID: 29908688