Did you know that honey is so much more than a natural sweetener? Read on to discover honey’s many health properties and how you can get more of that sweet nectar in your diet.
If there exists a perfect ratio of sweetness to nutritional benefit, you’d be hard-pressed to find something better than Mother Nature’s very own liquid gold—honey.
Humans have been eating honey on its own and as a sweetener for thousands of years. And for more reasons than one.
First, Honey Versus Table Sugar
Let’s briefly address the most obvious questions people have about honey: How can something so sweet be good for you? Or the other popular one: Isn’t honey still sugar, just less processed?
We did some research on table sugar. Guess how many different kinds of molecules are inside your average package of granulated sugar?
Just one. It’s sucrose.
Sucrose is good for 3 things: sweetening, baking, and extending shelf life. Pretty much zero health benefits for human beings.
Now take honey. Honey is sweet. But it’s quite a bit more complex than table sugar.
Honey has at least 14 different molecules in every drop—most with a different health benefit. This smorgasbord of molecular complexity includes health goodies such as
- water (14–20%)
- amino acids
- vitamins (such as small amounts of vitamins B and C)
- minerals (like potassium, calcium, and magnesium)
And that’s just a small taste.
Yes, honey has a high sugar content. But it’s not straight sucrose in there. Honey contains two other kinds of sugar molecules: glucose (the body’s primary source of fuel) and fructose (the natural sweetener found in fruit).
So, if you’re wondering whether it’s worth it to substitute table sugar for a few spoonfuls of honey, the answer is YES. It’s really no contest.
Now let’s get into the details on how honey benefits your health.
Health Benefits of Honey
Probably the most potent benefit is that honey’s full of antioxidants—nature’s cellular maintenance workers. Antioxidants, also found in foods like pomegranates, blueberries, and blackberries, help protect cells from oxidative stress and damage caused by free radicals. Said free radicals are linked to aging and a bunch of chronic diseases including cancer.
Honey has been used topically (right on the skin) to heal wounds for centuries. Its antibacterial properties, low water content, and ability to create a protective barrier can help prevent infection and facilitate the healing process.
It was probably what every medieval parent used instead of Neosporin when their kid scraped a knee.
Cough and Sore Throat Relief:
Honey can provide temporary relief from coughs and sore throats. Teachers, we know you get a scratchy throat every year around the beginning of the school year (all that talking). Tea with honey is great when you’re losing your voice.
Speaking of back-to-school, honey is great for the inevitable coughs and sore throats that permeate that season. Honey has a soothing effect on the throat and may help reduce irritation. It can also be used as a natural cough suppressant.
Start incorporating more honey into your diet and you might not even have to deal with as many colds and flus this season. Some research suggests that honey has immune-boosting properties. It may help stimulate the production of immune cells and enhance the body’s defense mechanisms.
On a similar note, some believe that consuming local honey containing pollen can help alleviate seasonal allergies. Why does it need to be local? Well, because that’s the kind of pollen that you need immunity from come allergy season.
The idea is that exposure to small amounts of local pollen in honey may desensitize the immune system over time. While scientific evidence for this is pretty limited, it makes sense to us!
Honey has mild prebiotic properties, which means it can support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. It may help maintain a healthy gut microbiome.
Honey provides a quick source of natural energy due to its high sugar content, primarily glucose and fructose. It can be a useful source of energy before or after physical activity. Add it to your protein bites, your pre-workout, or your morning oatmeal for a quick energy boost.
Antibacterial and Antifungal Properties:
Honey contains natural antimicrobial compounds that can help inhibit the growth of certain bacteria and fungi. If you’re on a gut health kick, honey could be an asset as you try to propagate healthy bacteria and keep less helpful bacteria populations in check.
Honey is used in skincare products for its moisturizing and nourishing properties. It can help hydrate the skin and may have mild anti-inflammatory effects.
Rich in Nutrients:
Honey contains small amounts of vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins, vitamin C, and minerals like potassium, calcium, and iron.
Ways to Use Honey in Your Diet
Add a teaspoon of honey to your morning tea or coffee instead of sugar.
Mix honey into your smoothies or shakes for natural sweetness.
Create flavored water by adding a drizzle of honey with lemon or mint.
Stir honey into herbal teas like chamomile or peppermint for a soothing and naturally sweet beverage.
Dressings and Sauces:
Make a honey mustard vinaigrette for salads by mixing honey with Dijon mustard, olive oil, and vinegar.
Drizzle honey over roasted vegetables to create a sweet glaze.
Use honey in marinades for meat, poultry, or tofu to add flavor and promote caramelization when grilling or roasting.
Spread honey on whole-grain toast or English muffins for a sweet and satisfying breakfast.
Drizzle honey over yogurt, oatmeal, or cereal for natural sweetness.
Mix honey into your pancake or waffle batter for added flavor.
Create a honey and nut butter (peanut, almond, or cashew) sandwich for a sweet and protein-rich snack.
Make a yogurt parfait with layers of yogurt, fresh fruit, granola, and a drizzle of honey.
Make your own energy bars or granola bars with honey as a binding agent and sweetener.
Combine rolled oats, nuts, dried fruits, and a touch of honey for a nutritious snack.
Use honey as a natural sweetener in baking recipes for cakes, muffins, cookies, and bread.
Top ice cream or frozen yogurt with honey and your favorite toppings.
Drizzle honey over fresh fruit, cheese, or a cheese platter for a simple and elegant dessert.
Pair honey with a variety of cheeses like brie, goat cheese, or blue cheese for a delightful appetizer or dessert.
Honey complements the savory and salty flavors of cheese.
Add a drizzle of honey to grain salads (quinoa, couscous, or bulgur) for a hint of sweetness.
Mix it with olive oil, lemon juice, and your choice of herbs for a flavorful dressing.
Use honey to sweeten stir-fry sauces, teriyaki marinades, or glazes for Asian-inspired dishes.
Before You Go
September ushers in fall. Soon honey bees north of the equator will retire to their hives to shiver, sleep, and snack on stored honey in a pseudo hibernation.
We’d all do well to grab a cup of tea and follow their example.