Do you ever have those times when you rediscover a food you haven’t been eating for a while and then wonder why you haven’t been eating it for a while? Right now, that’s me. Last week I came across a jar of honey I hadn’t touched in weeks and now I can’t stop thinking of more ways to keep adding to my diet.
That day I decided to try something a little different for my smoothie and I swear, it was the best smoothie I’d ever had. Ever. (recipe below) So the next day I added honey to a salad dressing I was making and once again it happened. Best. Salad. Ever. Who knows why I hadn’t been using it, it just fell off the radar. In case that’s happened to you here are a few reminders why honey should be included as part of your healthy day.
First thing I should point out is that your honey should be raw and organic, not refined or pasteurized. The heating process of pasteurization kills the enzymes and many of the phytonutrients that make honey so amazing. And because this is something that we can get locally, I suggest we try to support our local beekeepers. Here’s the brand I have:
Organic Wildflower Honey from Hockley Valley Honey Farm, right here in Ontario. I dare you not to eat it straight out of the jar.
A few reasons to consider why honey is an ideal natural sweetener:
- Normally when we have to digest regular table sugar (sucrose) we utilize and deplete some of our body’s stores of vitamins and minerals in the process. Honey actually supplies us with a wide array of nutrients including Vitamins A,C, D, E, K, all the B’s plus the following minerals: calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium and zinc. Sugar is empty calories and zero nutrients while honey restores.
- We metabolize sucrose and honey quite differently, primarily due to the enzymes present in unpasteurized honey. As a result, it provides readily available glucose and fructose for energy. Glucose can cause a rapid rise in blood sugar but fructose is released more gradually into our bloodstream. It has been argued that this may keep you feeling fuller longer, which can in turn help with weight loss and help reducing cravings.
- Honey is rich in antioxidants, which prevent cellular damage and help slow the aging process
- Honey contains prebiotics (which feed the healthy bacteria in our gut) and may sometimes even contain probiotics (such as lactobacilli). This of course means optimal digestion and assimilation of nutrients plus a boost to your immune system (70% of which is found in your gut).
- Honey is widely touted for its antimicrobial and antibacterial powers. This further supports a healthy digestive tract by inhibiting the growth of H. pylori (which causes stomach ulcers), Candida albicans and E. coli
- These same powers can also help kill the bacteria that causes a sore throat. We all know how soothing honey lemon tea can be for a scratchy throat and dry cough
- And finally, studies have suggested that it can be used as an ergogenic aid - ie, it can boost your athletic performance. We endurance athletes know we need quality carbs to exercise over a sustained period of time. This study is one which showed that supplementing with honey before and/or during exercise can help maintain power and energy output for competitive cyclists over a 64 km ride.
There you have it, honey truly is one great substitute for less natural sweeteners. Keep in mind that it is still calorie-dense and very sweet so the key word is moderation. A tablespoon or two a day is fine but you don’t want or need to go overboard.
What are some easy ways to include honey in your diet? Mix a teaspoon into a cup of water with lemon to kick off detox processes and metabolism first thing in the day; spread some honey on your sprouted grain toast along with almond butter before your morning workout; it tastes great with plain yogurt and this granola; drizzle on some apple slices and sprinkle a little cinnamon on top for an energizing afternoon snack; and of course it’s the perfect sweetener for a soothing cup of warm tea.
I’d like to leave you with the recipe for that amazing smoothie I mentioned above. I’ll call it “The Antioxidant Boosting Smoothie” thanks to all the phytonutrients it contains. Hope you like it!
- 10 ounces of water (or 1/2 water, 1/2 unsweetened pineapple juice)
- 1/2 frozen banana
- 1/2 cup frozen blueberries
- 2 tbsp plain organic yogurt (great source of probiotics)
- 2 tsp raw honey
- 1 tbsp flax oil
- 1 scoop protein powder (optional)
- 1 tbsp chia seeds (here’s why you want chia in your diet too)