Reconsidering HoneyJuly 12, 2013 Written by JP [Font too small?]
At this very moment, my opinion about honey is in a profound state of flux. On the one hand, I’m well aware that honey contains a relatively high percentage of fructose – a form of sugar that has increasingly been linked to adverse health consequences, such as fatty liver disease and obesity. But, why is it that so many learned, holistic advocates recommend it and use it in recipes? I believe I’ve figured out the reason why and have now come to terms with the rightful place honey ought to hold in my own diet.
In nature, individual components of foods and medicinal plants rarely compare to the sum of their parts. As ironic as that may seem, natural foods and supplements are almost always more complicated than over-the-counter or prescription medications. My basis for this steadfast assertion is that in nature, hundreds and sometimes thousands of chemicals can be identified in any given fruit, herb or vegetable. The majority of synthetic medications only contain a solitary chemical created in a laboratory setting. If you apply this philosophy to honey, you can readily understand why it is so much more than just fructose. Point in fact, health promoting substances, including various antioxidants (caffeic acid, luteolin, quercetin, etc.) and prebiotics (oligosacharides) have also been identified in honeys from around the world.
Anytime a concentrated sugar source is evaluated, diabetes, heart disease and overweight ought to factor into the discussion. And, that is what’s most intriguing about the published research on honey and human health. Studies indicate that adding honey to the diet of diabetics (including type 1 diabetics) and healthy adults tends to lower fasting blood sugar, body fat and weight, insulin and a host of other cardiovascular risk markers, such as C-reactive protein, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides. Honey has also been shown to increase plasma antioxidant levels which may discourage the development and progression of chronic and degenerative diseases. One exception to my current optimism about honey is that daily use can increase long term blood sugar or hemoglobin A(1C) in type 2 diabetics. This is an important consideration and suggests that honey should only be used in a limited capacity in this at-risk population.
On my list of preferred sweeteners, honey ranks below coconut sugar, dates, luo han guo (monk fruit), maple syrup and stevia. I think using small amounts of honey in wholesome recipes, as a natural cough remedy and for (topical) wound healing is indicated and supported in the medical literature. However, I wouldn’t advise most people to go out of their way to add honey to their daily menu plan. As always, I think it’s preferable to find sources of sweetness in nutrient dense, whole foods. I’m talking almonds, apples, berries, cherries, coconuts, kiwis, pecans and other low glycemic candidates. Sound boring? At first it may be. There! I’ve admitted it! But, I’ve seen time and time again that ones taste for intense sweetness mellows as you back away from refined sugar and artificial sugar substitutes. If interested, give this a try. It really does work and it really is worth it.
Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!
To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:
Study 1 – Fructose Might Contribute to the Hypoglycemic Effect of Honey … (link)
Study 2 – Oligosaccharides Might Contribute to the Antidiabetic Effect of Honey … (link)
Study 3 – Honey – A Novel Antidiabetic Agent … (link)
Study 4 – Metabolic Effects of Honey in Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus: A Randomized … (link)
Study 5 – Subjects with Impaired Glucose Tolerance Exhibit a High Degree of … (link)
Study 6 – Natural Honey Lowers Plasma Glucose, C-Reactive Protein … (link)
Study 7 – Effects of Natural Honey Consumption in Diabetic Patients: An 8-Week … (link)
Study 8 – Honey: A Novel Antioxidant … (link)
Study 9 – Honey w/ High Levels of Antioxidants Can Provide Protection to Healthy … (link)
Dietary Maple Sap May Improve Bone Density in Mice
Source: Int J Biol Sci. 2012;8(6):913-34. (link)
Tags: Honey, Luo Han Guo, Stevia
Posted in Diabetes, Diet and Weight Loss, Food and Drink