Liquid gold. Ambrosia. Manna. Nectar of the Gods. There are countless names for sweet, golden honey and they all imply the same thing: “this stuff is good.” And not just good in terms of taste, but good for you, too. Known for its incredible health benefits, sweet taste and holistic properties, honey has been prized and revered for thousands of years.
Healthy Ingredient Spotlight: Honey
Used medicinally, for vitality and in religious ceremonies as far back as 8,000 years ago – it’s far more than just the latest health food trend. Real, natural honey is:
- Great for athletes: it’s a source of natural carbohydrates that are quickly converted to energy
- Great for blood sugar: unlike other sugars, which can cause blood sugar levels to spike, honey has actually been shown to help stabilize blood levels
- Great for healing: it contains antibacterial and antifungal properties, which can help support and improve the digestive system and boost immunity. Even more, it has antiseptic properties that can inhibit the growth of certain kinds of bacterial. Finally, it contains antimicrobial properties that can help fight bacteria that cause sore throats
- Globally recognized: the World Health Organization (WHO) lists it as a demulcent – a substance that relieves irritation of the mucous membranes in the mouth by forming a protective film
Take care to make sure that what you buy is actually honey. Impostors have been showing up in grocery stores more and more recently and don’t contain any of the incredible health benefits that make it worth its weight in gold. If in doubt, head to your local farmer’s market or coop and ask for local jar from farms near by – they’re a safe bet.
A Sweet Treat: Honey vs. Sugar
While honey contains roughly 64 calories per tablespoon, compared to the 15 in sugar, it also contains vitamins and minerals that sugar does not, including calcium, vitamin C, iron, fiber and protein. It’s is also more easily digested and quickly converted to energy than sugar, making it a better choice for those who need a pick-me-up but don’t want to eat a sugary snack.
Even better, it’s delicious with kefir! Try our Wasabi Honey Kefir Salad Dressing, this delicious kefir smoothie, drizzled over scooped Frozen Kefir (or bars!) or on top of a bowl of fresh fruit and Farmer Cheese. We love the flavor of it so much, we even have a series of Greek-style kefir product devoted to it *!
Raw vs. Pasteurized Honey
There are more than three hundred different varietals of honey, but conversation now focuses on raw vs. pasteurized. Pasteurized honey is what you typically find in grocery stores (think bear-shaped bottle). It has been heated and filtered, which helps delay crystallization, improve clarity and remove pollen. Bee pollen is prized for its incredible health benefits and many people believe pasteurizing honey lessens the nutritional profile of honey.
However, according to the National Honey Board, the macronutrient and antioxidant (re: the most prized components of honey) are not impacted by the pasteurization process. Critics contend that the live enzymes and beneficial bacteria found in honey are destroyed in the heating process, resulting in a less than ideal product. We say, “too each her own,” but be cautious: honey of any variety should never be consumed by infants or children under the age of one. Those with compromised immune systems should also take care when considering raw honey.
Beyond the Belly: How to Use Honey Outside of the Kitchen
Honey isn’t just great to eat, it’s great for your skin and as a cold remedy! Mix honey with kefir and lemon juice for a cleansing and revitalizing skin mask, or try adding a tablespoon to hot water or herbal tea for a delicious, chemical-free sore throat remedy.
*Helios Greek-style Kefir contains does not contain actual honey, only flavor. Honey’s antibacterial and antimicrobial properties can compromise kefir cultures when kept in a bottle together for too long.