Monday, February 13, 2012

Honey, Honey

I am so sorry for the title of this post. I've been singing that blasted 60's tune in my head all day. I love oldies music, but that song has to be the pop culture equivalent of "It's a Small World." Great. Now that one is stuck in my head.

Moving on.

As you may have noticed, I'm a bit obsessed with sweeteners right now. Perhaps it's because I can have so few on the Anti-Candida Diet (ACD). I've covered one of the three that I'm allowed, Stevia, previously, and was tempted to move straight into yacon syrup. I chose not to because I doubt many of you are on the verge of ordering yourselves yacon syrup. I'll cover it in a later post along with my other legal sweet, vegetable glycerin.

Since I'm moving on to mainstream sweeteners, I'd like to take a look at honey. I've been digging and doing some reading about all the various sweeteners and the more I learn, the more I like honey. It's ancient and therefore primal. It can be purchased readily from local producers. It tastes amazing. It makes me think of Pooh Bear.

Do any of those points make it healthy? Well, I planned to investigate for myself when I mapped out the month of blog posts. Coincidentally, Mark Sisson had the same plan. If you aren't familiar with Mr. Sisson over at Mark's Daily Apple, get to know him. He is the godfather of the Primal Movement and someone I really enjoy reading. Regardless of what you might think of the primal approach to eating, when he dives into a subject you will learn something. Please click over to his post on honey for some truly interesting insights on the golden sticky stuff.

For those of you who'd prefer the cliff notes, here's a summary:
  • Honey is more than a sweetener. It's a food with hundreds of elements including vitamins and minerals.
  • Honey has been shown to have a positive impact on blood, including lowering LDL, triglycerides and inflammatory markers.
  • Darker honey has more bioactive compounds and is, therefore, more beneficial.
I'll also add a few points of my own including some draw backs of honey. For one, the glycemic index of honey varies widely depending on the pollen source of the bees in question. Where sugar (sucrose) is around 65, honey can range from 35 up to 87. However, honey is also 1.5 times sweeter than sugar, so you might be able to replace sugar with half the honey, reducing the total glycemic load. Refer to the American Honey Producers Association website for some guidelines on baking or cooking with honey.

While doing my reading, I also stumbled on a rather clinical yet thorough report on the different characteristics of honey. The report was created by the National Honey Board, so it's not exactly a clinical or unbiased source. However, according to their report, honey is a very effective prebiotic. Prebiotics are food for the good gut bacteria that fight off the bad bacteria such as Candida. Ding, ding, ding! Honey also contains sucrose and small amounts of yeast that will feed Candida as well, so I can't have it on the ACD. However, once I've got my system back in order, I'll be using honey regularly to keep my gut in balance.

There are an overwhelming number of types and flavors of honey. I would recommend going local as long as it is pasteurized. Buying local honey will not only support local businesses, but will also be fresher, less processed and, therefore, more beneficial. However, and this is important, don't give any raw honey you've purchased at your local farmer's market to a child under the age of 3. Raw honey can carry botulism. Older children and adults have strong enough systems to fight it off, but little one simply aren't equipped. I keep raw honey in the house with my first aid stuff as it is a fantastic natural astringent, but don't keep in your pantry if you have little ones as it might be offered to them by an unwitting adult.

Lastly, if you do find yourself at the stand of a local purveyor of honey, you may very well find yourself overwhelmed by the variety in color. In general, the darker stuff is stronger and is ideal when the honey flavor is what you are wanting. For baking or cooking that simply requires sweetness, go for the lighter amber.

That's all I've got for today, but I'll have more tomorrow, including an update on how my 30 Days to Fit program is going.

Take care!


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