Winnie the Pooh might have been on to something. There is something undeniably enchanting about honey; the product of flower nectar transformed by bees. Honey is a thick, sticky and sweet-tasting liquid which is rich in minerals such as iron, calcium and magnesium. While honey is known as a natural way to sweeten foods, it may have benefits for your body.
Sure enough, modern science has shown honey’s effectiveness in treatment of ulcers, bedsores, burns, skin sores and inflammation. Honey has even been known to heal wounds that do not respond to antibiotics, although care must be taken to be sure the honey itself is free of contaminants.
Honey has long been used for both nutrition and medicinal healing. For centuries, honey was used to pay homage to the gods and help embalm the dead, as well as for medical and cosmetic purposes. Today, it is a popular, versatile sweetener that can be used instead of white cane sugar in baking, sauces and hot drinks.
It works well in moist, dense, full-flavoured bakes. It is sweeter than sugar, so you will need to use less, and because honey is liquid, you will need less fluid in the recipe. It caramelises quicker than normal sugar and gives a darker finish to your bake. It is most often sold pasteurised, although you can find raw honey. As a rule, the darker the colour, the stronger the flavour.
The health benefits of honey depend on its processing as well as the quality of the flowers the bees collect pollen from. Raw honey is honey that has not been heated, pasteurised, clarified or filtered in any way, and this form typically retains more of the health-promoting nutrients that can be lost to the standard processing methods.
Honey, particularly darker varieties, is a rich source of chemical compounds such as flavonoids. Flavonoids have been reported to have antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic properties. Due to the flavonoid content, some view honey as a healthier alternative to sugar and a source of antioxidants.
Honey has a lower GI value than sugar, meaning that it does not raise blood sugar levels as quickly.
For diabetics, or those trying to manage their blood sugar levels, there is no real advantage to substituting sugar for honey as both will ultimately affect blood sugar levels. It is also worth remembering that like other syrups, honey is classified as free sugars; the type we are advised to cut back on. If you do prefer honey, try to choose a raw variety, which contains more vitamins, enzymes, antioxidants and nutrients than white sugar, and use it in moderation.
Ever noticed how a sugar high leads to a rapid energy crash and burn more often than not? It is time to ditch the energy drinks and forget your coffee fix. Use honey instead of sugars and sweeteners in your tea, baked goodies or spread to it on a hot toast. Its natural sugars even prevent fatigue during exercise, so it is also good for improving athletic performance. The glucose in honey is absorbed by the body quickly, giving an immediate energy boost, while the fructose provides sustained energy since it is absorbed more slowly. Honey has also been found to keep levels of blood sugar fairly constant in comparison to other types of sugar.
Do you lie awake all night staring at the ceiling, tossing and turning? Use the famous milk and honey remedy to fall asleep quickly. All you need to do is add a teaspoon of honey to a glass of hot milk. Honey releases serotonin (a neurotransmitter that improves your mood), and the body converts serotonin into melatonin (a chemical compound that regulates the length and quality of sleep). You can also add a teaspoon (or two) of honey to a cup of chamomile tea.
It is a familiar feeling … a heavy head, raging thirst, waves of nausea, oversensitivity to light and noise. Yes, it is the dreaded hangover! Fret not, honey is here to rescue you. Just a few tablespoons of honey will help speed up your body’s metabolism and help you combat that hangover, since fructose helps speed up the oxidation of alcohol by the liver.
It is believed that drinking warm water with honey and a splash of lime first thing in the morning is an effective anti-cellulite treatment, as it helps to increase body metabolism. But with 64 calories per tablespoon, how can honey help you shed those extra pounds? If you consume honey before bed, the body begins to burn more fat during those early hours of sleep. You can even take a step further and replace all refined sugar in your diet with honey in order to rebalance the brain signal that compels you to consume more sweet stuff.
Honey is a fantastic moisturiser and works wonders on patches of dry skin. You can use it to soften up your knees and elbows, even chapped lips. During the cold winter months, just rub some honey on to your face and wash off after 30 minutes. You can even create a moisturising scrub – all you need to do is add some sugar. It works as a natural exfoliator. Give your skin the benefit of honey’s powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and ultra-moisturising properties.
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