Before writing this article, I knew very little about honey. Some people like to drink their tea with a little bit of honey. Some doctors have recommended honey as a way to alleviate a cough or sore throat. And I know that the sweet stuff is made by bees. But did you know that honey, because it comes from nature, has so many health benefits?
Senior dietitian at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center Dana Hunnes explains how honey is made from nectar: “Bees collect the dilute-sugary nectar of flora plants, produce an enzymatic activity after ingestion, regurgitate it into honey cells and evaporate a high percentage of the water out of it, producing a super-sweet viscous liquid known as honey.” How cool is that?! It’s made out of simple sugars and water, and when we take it in, our bodies turn it into energy.
The type of flowers bees take nectar from greatly affect the taste, texture, and smell of honey—which is why there are so many types of honey out there. And yes, Manuka honey, the one Kourney Kardashian is obsessed with, is one of them. Other types of honey include acacia, clover, eucalyptus, and orange blossom.
There’s been significant research proving honey’s health benefits: alleviating the effects of coughs and improving gut microbial balance, among others. So when a doctor recommends honey when you’re coughing, it makes sense: According to dietitian Jenny Friedman, the nutrients in honey have “antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties.” Still, it’s important to know all the facts.
Honey, as good as it is, is also sugar. And we all know that too much sugar is never a good thing. It can lead to weight gain and heart disease. So how is honey (and the type of sugar it contains) different from the bad stuff, refined sugar? Honey has 40 percent fructose, 30% glucose, and the rest is made up of water, pollen, potassium, calcium, and magnesium; refined sugar, on the other hand, is 50-50 fructose and glucose.
If this is what you’re after, we suggest going for darker honey because they have more antioxidants. Antioxidants are known for protecting or slowing down cell damage against “free radicals.” While it’s important to pack your diet with antioxidants, most doctors recommend getting them from sources like fruits and vegetables. To get the right amount of antioxidants from honey, you’ll have to consume more than two teaspoons a day, which is already a third of the daily recommended intake.
As mentioned, honey is largely made up of fructose, which quickens the oxidation of alcohol in the liver. But here’s the catch: Studies have shown that for this to work, you’d have to use around two ounces of honey (that’s eight tablespoons) per 25 grams of alcohol. If those numbers sound confusing, that’s almost 500 calories.
This practice can be traced all the way back to ancient Egypt. Topical honey has been used to for healing partial-thickness burns and post-surgical infected wounds. Believe it or not, honey has also been effective in treating diabetic foot ulcers; in case you didn’t know, that’s pretty serious stuff ‘cause it could lead to amputation. Honey has also been found to treat skin conditions like psoriasis.
Scarlett Johansson raved about Manuka honey in 2011: “It really adds an amazing glow and your skin is so soft afterwards. It pulls out the impurities—and it’s a nice foundation, especially if you are going to a big event where you want a great glow.” Kourtney Kardashian adds the stuff to her diet saying, “Every morning I have a shake for my breakfast—a whole avocado blended with coconut milk and Manuka honey. The avocado is great for skin and hair. I am a big tea drinker and I put honey in that, too. I also put honey and coconut milk into my green tea—I love it.” In a Vogue video, Priyanka Chopra revealed that she makes a hair mask out of honey, yogurt, and a raw egg as a “scalp treatment” for people who have dry scalps or dandruff.
What else do you want to know about honey?
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