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 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