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Your granny definitely knew what she was talking about
While the latest ‘it' superfoods jostle for their spot in the limelight, honey holds the unique distinction of being universally championed by everyone for years, from the stalwarts of the beauty industry to your grandmother's treasured life hacks. If the syrupy taste wasn't enough to reel you in, this humble superfood serves as a miracle worker, regardless of whether you're ingesting it directly or slathering it on your skin and hair. If you haven't made the most of this kitchen staple yet, here's an all-in-one guide for you to bookmark for easy reference.
The credit for the creation of this golden elixir belongs to hardworking colonies of bees who drink the sweet nectar from flowers and turn it into honey. “How wonderful honey tastes depends on where and how it is collected and handled. Like most other foods, honey is potent in its raw, unadulterated birth form. The ancient science of Ayurveda popularly believes that raw honey retains the life force of its mother, which makes it hugely beneficial to the consumer,” says Anupama Menon, a Bengaluru-based nutritionist and food coach. While every local market serves up a plethora of varieties—manuka, acacia, dandelion, rosemary, buckwheat and sourwood being the popular contenders—manuka honey is believed to be the most beneficial option due to its potent anti-bacterial properties.
It should come as no surprise that raw honey has a host of medicinal benefits to its credit. “The antioxidant properties of the polyphenols that it contains helps quench free radicals that reduce the risk of tissue and cellular damage. Honey is also extremely beneficial in healing ulcers of the digestive system. When a scratchy throat comes calling, a spoonful of honey can provide instant relief. Consuming raw honey also triggers the release of melatonin in the brain by creating a small spike in insulin levels. Melatonin helps induce sleep, boosts immunity and helps rebuild tissue during periods of rest,” elaborates Menon.
The sweet taste of honey makes it a staple in every Indian kitchen. If you're looking at maximising its benefits, Menon shares her top suggestions.
DIY smoothies: Honey can be easily used in everyday smoothies that combine yoghurt, fruits and dry fruits.
Overnight oats: Mix dry, rolled oats with cow or almond milk, chia seeds, roasted almonds or walnuts, bananas, strawberries, dark chocolate bits and honey. Store it in a small glass jar overnight in the refrigerator, and wake up the next morning to a wholesome, highly nutritious breakfast option that requires absolutely no cooking.
Though honey is traditionally and more diversely used at breakfast, it can be of service during the major meals of the day as well. Just a spoonful of honey added to chicken (or paneer for vegetarians) during the marination process can help you harness its benefits, while whipping up a fantastic medley for your palate.
Salads: Honey can lend a kick to the daily humdrum salad routine as well. Start by mixing lettuce leaves, cherry tomatoes, paneer cubes (or grilled chicken) and feta cheese with some salt. Add a pre-mixed portion of apple cider, honey and mustard (optional) as vinaigrette, and you'll have a delicious dinner on your hands that will never see daybreak.
Skip the saturated sugars in favour of healthier options like chia mango pudding, or simply drizzle raw honey over a plate of ripe mangoes and melted dark chocolate. You can also opt for a glass of milk just before you go to bed, boiled with some organic haldi, organic coconut oil and honey for the perfect sleep sensitiser.
Honey has a lower glycemic index, and is often looked upon as an effective stand-in for sugar. “Research suggests that it can potentially help with weight loss, along with cinnamon. However, it is the digestive, antioxidant and antibacterial benefits that it possesses that merits its presence in your daily diet. Honey can be replaced for sugar in your morning coffee, and can even add sweetness to your lemon tea. It can be used as a substitute for sugar in pancakes, or to whip up a healthier version of cookies,” advises Menon.
“As with all things sweet, exercise moderation when you use honey. It contains exactly the same calories and carbohydrate content as sugar, and when used in large amounts, can spike your blood sugar levels greatly. Look to two or three teaspoons' worth of honey a day as a substitute for sugar, and no more. Ensure that it only serves the role of a substitute, and not an addition to your daily sugar intake, otherwise it can pack on the calories and lead to insulin spikes,” cautions the nutritionist.
If you haven't yet added honey to your daily haircare regimen yet, celebrity dermatologist Dr Harshna Bijlani advises you to remedy that, stat. “Honey is loaded with antioxidants that help improve your scalp's skin health. It is also highly hydrating, which, in turn, improves your hair health and controls its moisture level, preventing your locks from becoming brittle and damaged,” she explains. If you're looking for easy ways on how to introduce it to your haircare gig, here's her cheatsheet.
The enzymes and nutrients in raw honey add a sheen to dull hair without weighing it down. Coconut oil penetrates the hair shaft to condition and smoothen the cuticle, and together, they work on conditioning and strengthening your strands. Whip up a concoction of the two with a ratio of 1:2 for honey and coconut oil. Apply this to mixture to the bottom edges of your hair, and not the scalp, and let it sit there for 20 minutes before you rinse it off.
Eggs give your hair protein, making it stronger and helping it grow faster and stronger, while honey provides it with nourishment and moisture. Mix two eggs with one cup of honey, apply this mixture from your roots to the tips and let it sit for 20 minutes before you rinse it off well with shampoo.
Yoghurt has citric acid which helps fight dandruff, while honey hydrates your hair from within. For shinier hair with lesser dandruff, take one cup of sour yoghurt and half a cup of raw honey, blend it together into a smooth mixture, leave it on for 15 minutes and then rinse it off with shampoo.
“The term ‘honey skin' is buzzing in the world of K-beauty because it is used to indicate hydrated, dewy and plump skin,” explains Dr Bijlani. Add this skin superfood to your daily beauty regimen, but pay special care to the type you're picking up. “Manuka honey is generally considered the best pick, but always remember to pick raw honey as it contains more active phytonutrient antioxidants and enzymes as compared to heated or processed honey, hence giving better results for your skin and health.” While honey is nutritious for the skin in its raw form too, here are some of her favourite at-home recipes for the dewy fresh glow of your dreams.
Honey is naturally moisturising and is known as a humectant, which means that it helps to retain moisture in your skin and achieve soft, supple skin. Take one teaspoon of honey and spread it evenly across your face, let it dry for 15-20 minutes and then rinse it off with lukewarm water for hydrated skin.
Honey has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that help lighten scars and aid your skin in healing itself quicker. Honey is hydrating and healing on its own; when mixed and massaged with nourishing coconut or olive oil, it helps increase blood circulation, boost skin recovery and calm irritated skin. Mix honey and coconut or olive oil in a 1:1 ratio (one teaspoon of each should suffice) and massage it in circular motions on your face to reap its benefits.
Both honey and aloe vera contain powerful anti-inflammatory properties to calm burned skin and aid recovery. They are also extremely hydrating, nourishing and cooling for the visage. A combination of honey and some raw aloe vera gel in a 1:2 ratio works well to help sunburned or sun-damaged skin.
Honey's hydrating and anti-inflammatory properties work well with lemon's brightening and cleansing abilities. Mix lemon juice squeezed from half a lemon with one tablespoon of organic honey for cleaner, hydrated, de-tanned skin. Leave it on for 20 minutes and then wash it off with lukewarm water, followed by cold water to close your pores.
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