No one should be shoveling sugar cubes into their mouth each day, but that doesn’t mean every single sweetener is harmful. People have consumed honey for thousands of years and there might be a good reason why: it has some extremely healthful properties. Jodi Baretz, LCSW, CHHC, of The Center for Health and Healing in Mount Kisco, says honey can be a boon to good health when consumed in moderation.
“Honey, a natural sweetener, can have surprising health benefits such as decreasing allergy symptoms, providing energy, and helping with sleep and weight loss,” says Baretz. “It is a great substitute for sugar and can aid medications in regulating blood sugar.”
However, Baretz advises that consumers keep a sharp eye on what kind of honey they are purchasing. She says that raw honey tends to carry the most nutritional benefits, as nutrients can be lost during the filtering and pasteurization processes.
So, how does honey actually help you out? “Honey raises the levels of antioxidants in the body, which helps block free radicals that cause disease and it also boosts the immune system,” explains Baretz. “Studies have shown that honey contains the disease-fighting flavonoids pinocembrin, pinostrobin, and chrysin, and can increases levels of polyphenols [in the body].”
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â€‹Baretz also notes that there have been studies that have demonstrated honey’s ability to act as a prebiotic in the gut, and that it may promote the growth of beneficial bacteria. “One tablespoon of honey contains 64 calories, yet it has a healthy glycemic load and does not cause a sugar spike and elevated insulin release like white sugar,” explains Baretz.
However, this doesn’t mean you should be unleashing your inner Winnie the Pooh and guzzling honey at every opportunity. “Despite raw honey’s numerous health benefits, it should be consumed in moderation,” says Baretz. “It should never be given to children under the age of 1 because it is a potential source of botulism. Also, ask your doctor before consuming raw honey if you have a compromised immune system or undergoing cancer treatments.”
According to Baretz, you should not cook with raw honey at high temperatures either, since it may negate the benefits and can produce a dangerous chemical found to be carcinogenic in rats. “When adding to tea, let the tea cool for a few minutes before adding honey,” she says.
When it comes to actually consuming the sweet stuff, Baretz says that adding honey to yogurt, smoothies, salad dressings, or atop toast are great choices. “I recommend a teaspoon or so daily,” says Baretz. “Try it at night if you have a bad cough instead of cough medicine.”