When I was sick as a kid, wrapped in quilts on the couch in the den, my mom would bring me steaming hot cups of raspberry tea. There was something magic about that tea that I could never figure out...but it always made me feel better. I just assumed the healing powers came from my mom since she was making it. Once I grew up, moved out on my own, and became a mother - well aware that we don't actually have magical powers - I called my mom to ask her what it was.
Turns out that she replaced the teaspoon of sugar she used for her coffee with a dollop of honey.
As it turns out, honey is an ancient health remedy that people have been using for thousands of years. Among its health benefits, honey...
- - Works to soothe sore throats and acts as a cough suppressant
- - Aids and smooths digestion
- - Relieves and heals some wounds and burns
- - Tastes great as a natural sweetener on a healthy eating plan
And, as more and more Americans are suffering from allergies and asthma, honey is getting more attention as an alternative to antihistamines.
Honey was used to treat infections for thousands of years, right up until the discovery of penicillin. Propolis - a substance bees use to sterilize the bee hive, and is consumed in raw honey - is rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals that promote good health and fight free radicals.
But honey isn't just an amazing aid in your weight loss efforts, there is ample anecdotal evidence (scientific studies are ongoing), that consuming locally cultivated, raw honey may be an effective treatment for seasonal allergies and hay fever. Because raw honey is completely unprocessed, pollen that the bees bring back to the hive is present in trace amounts of the honey. Consuming raw honey with potential allergens in it acts as a natural vaccine, helping you build immunity to a virus or infection by exposing you to it.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when adding honey to your favorite sweet treats and drinks:
- Only use raw, 100% pure, unprocessed honey: Processed honey is striped of the nutrients and antioxidants that make this sweetener such a good choice. Always make sure to read the ingredient label AND the labels on the front of the package - some minimally processed honey can still be labeled "raw"...even though it's not.
- Use in moderation: Honey can be exceedingly sweet so be sure not to ruin any meals with too much. In one study examining the effectiveness of honey in allergy prevention, many of the participants dropped out because they couldn't take a tablespoon of honey every day. While honey is a healthy eating alternative to artificial sweeteners, make sure you don't use so much that you don't enjoy it.
- Consult your doctor if you have severe allergies: Since raw honey's allergy-fighting potential comes from exposing you to the allergen, there's the possibility that you could actually suffer an allergic reaction to honey if you have a severe allergy. If you do, talk to your doctor before adding it to your daily meal plan. Do the same if you have high insulin levels or diabetes.
- Do not give honey to children under 12 months: While honey is a great addition to an adult's healthy eating plan, it contains endospores that can cause botulism in infants. The risk is small, but avoid it anyway.
Honey is an amazing alternative to the artificial sugars flooding our supermarkets and store-bought treats these days. Use the guidelines provided above to add this all-around sweetener to your next baked good, coffee, tea, smoothie, Greek yogurt, even meat and poultry can take the sweetness.
But what about white sugar vs. brown sugar, coconut sugar (the newcomer on the block), and stevia? Learn more in the link below...