Honey: Health Benefits and Potential Dangers
People with sweet tooth have found the way to make it up for simple carbs: they use natural honey to diversify their nutrition. Cave paintings, archeological findings and historical sources prove that honey has been already used for a long period of time and it certainly has health benefits. Famous Pythagoras lived long and had a great memory thanks to regular consumption of honey. Avicenna recommended to use honey to stay young.
Greek historians used honey in a different way: they’d put a deceased body of Alexander the Great, who died in Babylon, into «white honey that does not melt» and, thus, mummified it. The body has been transported to Egypt two years later. Peter Sumarokov described how Ceylon inhabitants have managed to prevent meat of killed animals from spoiling during hot weather. They’ve covered the meat in honey and sealed it in a hollow. Modern scientists have studied this natural product by immersing it into medium with bacteria and germs. They concluded that honey has antibacterial properties and can kill even anaerobes, which antibiotics won’t kill.
Health Benefits of Honey
Hard working bees collected a nectar and brought it into the hive cleaning it from the excess pollen. Then sucrose got inverted: the bees convert sugar into fructose and glucose. The balance of the natural sugars makes up the base for natural honey – a unique product that underwent complex fermentation stages in the family of bees. This product contains all the necessary macro- and micro elements the human body needs:
Honey contains organic acids, vitamins, phytoncides. Chemists have found that honey contains lipids, amino acids and HMF. HMF is cancerogenic, however fresh honey contains only 5 mg of HMF per 1 kg of product. Concentration of this substances increases up to 250 mg in such an amount of honey if it is stored at high temperatures during 3 to 5 years. Such a result can be obtained if honey is warmed up at a temperature exceeding 60 degrees during one day, therefore candied honey should not be warmed up during long period of time to melt it.
There is myth circulating around potential dangers of melted honey: people say that vitamins are destroyed once honey is warmed up and it results in accumulation of HMF. Consumers are told not to use honey with warm milk and tea. Experienced beekeepers and scholars from the research center of the Moscow Veterinary Academy came to conclusion that the enzymes and the vitamins in honey get destroyed releasing metal ions. The ions ensure biological activity of the cells and evoke enzymatic processes as well as regulate certain chemical processes in the body. Folks’ medicine suggests to use warmed honey that heals sick people and helps to stay in good shape and young state of mind.
It has been found out that natural product does not cause an increase in the blood sugar. Once broken down, it provides the liver with free glycogen which acts as a “fast” source of energy in the morning after getting up. Sports doctors recommend bodybuilders to season meals with honey before and after strength training. Milk with honey helps to relax in the evening and before bedtime. It also promotes healthy sleep by producing the hormone called melatonin. Honey lowers cholesterol level and decreases the risk of development of diabetes. It also prevents heart diseases and hypertension. Honey contains the amino acids which are quickly absorbed by the body and help it to repair and build the muscle tissues. The bactericidal properties are manifested via healing of the abscesses, wounds, and respiratory tract infections. It also favorably affects sperm and eggs improving sexual function.
The interesting thing is that working bees should make 150 thousand trips to fields to get sweet nectar to produce 1 kg of honey. About one million of the honey-bearing plants are covered by one bee who picks the nectar from them up to make 100 g of honey in a hive. One bee colony produces around 150 – 200 kg of this sweet product during season, and 100 kg of it is being consumed during a whole year. Bee pickers consumer a nectar and a third of this nectar does not reach a hive.
The Ways to Choose a Right Type of Honey
Sweet product differs in terms of color, taste and flavor. The flower honey is a very popular kind; it can be made from a single or few flowers. Honeydew honey is rare as bees get it from bowel movements of the insects that live in the leaves. They also collect it from honey-dew – the sweet condensate which is formed in plants during temperature changes.
Here are some single flower honey types:
- White honey has a distinct flavor of the tree flowers and a yellow color. It quickly crystallizes and efficiently treats common cold, cough, strep throat and flu.
- Acacia honey is one of the best kinds. It is almost transparent in color and has a very subtle aroma and taste. It stays liquid for long. This honey should be used to treat heart and digestive issues as well as eye diseases.
- Buckwheat honey has a dark color and a slightly bitter taste. It is very rich in micro elements such as iron, copper and zinc. It heals vitamin deficiency, high blood pressure and gout. This honey has antibacterial properties and is used to heal different skin conditions of inflammatory origin. It restores protein exchange, therefore sportsmen use it during open carbs and protein window.
- Sweet clover honey has a white or slightly yellow color and immediately candies once obtained. It has a bitter taste with vanilla hint. This honey treats insomnia, expands blood vessels and improves metabolism. It relieves pain arising from strains and sprains of ligaments.
- Ericetal honey has an intensive red and brown color and a distinct bitter taste. It is thick and crystallizes slowly. It calms one down and regulates appetite.
- Chestnut honey is thick and has a dark color and subtle taste. It crystallizes slowly. It favorably affects the immune system and digestive tract.
- Sainfoin honey is obtained from the same perennial shrub, which is also called a «rabbit peas». It has an intensive yellow color and mild flavor. It becomes white after crystallization. This honey improves blood chemistry, state of the vessel walls and metabolism as well as stimulates the immune system.
Side Effects of Honey
Honey has certain health benefits if used in moderation. You can season your morning porridge with some little honey. It is recommended to consume not more than 100 grams or three tablespoons of honey per day. 100 grams of honey contains 310 to 320 kcal. Honey should be used in moderation to avoid pancreas issues and development of diabetes mellitus.
People with allergies and small children should not consume honey. Acacia honey does not cause strong allergic reactions, though.
Be aware of the fact that bees from South can produce drunken or poisonous honey as they collect it from rhododendrons which contain dangerous glucoside — andromedotoxin. Poisonous substances can also be found in pollen of azalea, bay tree and andromeda. Honey collected from these plants can cause cramps, vomiting and dizziness. There is a historical evidence that a drunken honey has knocked down a legion of Roman soldiers. There were recorded cases of poisoning caused by consumption of this kind of honey in the late 19th century in Batumi. When analyzing the structure of this honey, it was revealed that the bees have collected the nectar from bay trees. But the bees themselves stay safe consuming the nectar from such trees. Experts advise to heat the honey brought from the southern regions in a water bath up to 60 degrees to let the harmful substances evaporate.
The myth about potential dangers of honey heating has been already refuted by the research scientists from the Moscow Academy of Veterinary Medicine and due to a great amount of the folk recipes using honey extracts with herbs. It indicates that the hot honey does not lose its medicinal properties.
The Correct Ways to Use Honey
Honey contains «quick» carbs such as fructose and glucose, and, therefore, it is good for bodybuilders and sportsmen. It is recommended to use it half an hour before workout and right after it. Honey breaks slowly by the human body and enables even entering of glucose to the blood stream. Response of the human body to this source of energy implies a little use of the glycogen resources which ensure building of the muscle mass. Sports doctors advise to consume 20 to 30 grams of honey during workouts and important competitions. Honey should be diluted in warm water and complemented with citrus fruits. Cheese and curd, which are rich in proteins, should also be consumed along with honey. And one tea spoon will do the trick after workout.
Sportsmen should consume honey in accordance with the following recommendations:
- Take one tablespoon of honey diluted in water complemented with one teaspoon of natural apple or grape vinegar first thing in the morning.
- Take two tablespoons of honey along with protein shake before and after workout.
- Dilute 2 teaspoons of honey in one liter of water complemented with lemon juice and consume this drink during strength training.
- Combine one teaspoon of honey with a glass of warm milk and consume it a half an hour before bedtime.
There are many fake types of honey in market, which vary in price and are not beneficial for human health. Manufacturers can sell substitute of honey instead of a natural product: they feed bees with sugar syrup to quickly get sucrose and complement the product with starch, honeydew honey and molasses.
Keep the following hints in mind and you won’t buy fake product:
- Take a spoon along and put honey on it. It will continuously fall from spoon forming a small hill.
- Honey candies in the autumn, but natural product forms big and rough crystals. Such a honey forms hard batches and can be easily cut by knife.
- Taste the honey: it should be slightly bitter and tickle your throat. Crystals should completely dissolve in mouth.
- Put a bit of honey to warm water at home. If it dissolves in water and stays transparent once diluted with spirit, then it is natural and high-quality product.
Using natural and high-quality product in moderation, you will stay energetic fighting common colds and strengthening your immune system.