For centuries, honey has been used as both food and medicine. It’s very high in plant compounds, which offer quite a few benefits. Honey is particularly healthy when used in replace of refined sugar, which contains mere calories. Here are the top 10 health benefits of honey with scientific basis.
1. Honey Contains Nutrients
Honey is a sweet, thick liquid made by honeybees. The bees swarm the environment and collect the sugar-rich nectar of flowers. Then inside the beehive, they repeatedly consume, digest and regurgitate (“vomit”) the nectar. The end product is honey, a liquid that is supposed to serve as stored food for the bees. The smell, color and taste depend on the types of flowers the bees visit. Nutritionally, 1 tablespoon of honey (21 grams) contains 64 calories and 17 grams of sugar including fructose, glucose, maltose and sucrose. It contains virtually no fiber, fat or protein. It also contains trace amounts (under 1% of RDA) of several vitamins and minerals, but you would have to eat many pounds to fulfill your daily requirements. Where honey shines is in its content of bioactive plant compounds and antioxidants. Darker types tend to be even higher in these compounds than lighter types.
Bottom Line: Honey is thick, sweet liquid made by honeybees. It is low in vitamins and minerals, but may be high in some plant compounds.
2. High-Quality Honey is Rich in Antioxidants
High-quality honey contains many important antioxidants. These include phenols, enzymes and compounds like flavonoids and organic acids. Scientists believe that it is the combination of these compounds that gives honey its antioxidant power. Interestingly, buckwheat honey increases the antioxidant value of blood. Antioxidants have been associated with reduced risk of heart attacks, strokes and some types of cancer.
Bottom Line: Honey contains a number of antioxidants, including phenolic compounds like flavonoids.
3. Honey is “Less Bad” Than Sugar For Diabetics
The evidence on honey and diabetes is mixed. On one hand, it helps with some risks common in diabetes. For instance, it lowers LDL cholesterol, triglycerides and inflammation, and raises HDL- the good cholesterol. However, it can also increase blood sugar levels, even though not as much as refined sugar. While honey may be “less bad” than refined sugar, it is still to be taken with caution by diabetic patients.
Bottom Line: Some studies show that honey improves heart disease risk factors in diabetics. However, it also raises blood sugar levels, so it can not be considered “diabetic-friendly.”
4. Honey Can Help Lower Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is a key risk for heart disease, and honey may help lower it. This is because honey contains antioxidant compounds that have been linked to lowering blood pressure. It's been proven that blood pressure can be brought down from consuming honey.
Bottom Line: Eating honey may lead to modest reductions in blood pressure, which is an important risk factor for heart disease.
5. Honey Also Helps to Improve Cholesterol
Having a high LDL cholesterol level is a notable risk for heart disease. It plays a major role in atherosclerosis, the fatty buildup in the arteries that can cause heart attacks and strokes. Interestingly, honey can improve cholesterol levels, reducing total and LDL cholesterol while significantly raising HDL (the “good”) cholesterol.
Bottom Line: Honey seems to have a positive effect on cholesterol levels. It leads to modest reductions in total and LDL cholesterol, while raising HDL.
6. Honey Can Lower Triglycerides
Elevated blood triglycerides are another major risk for heart disease. They are also a key sign of insulin resistance, a major driver of type 2 diabetes. Triglyceride levels tend to increase on a diet that is high in sugar and refined carbs. Multiple studies have linked regular honey consumption with lower triglyceride levels, especially when it is used to replace sugar.
Bottom Line: Elevated triglycerides are a risk factor for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Several studies show that honey can lower triglyceride levels, especially when it is being used to replace sugar.
7. Honey is Linked to Other Beneficial Effects on Heart Health
Again, honey is a rich source of phenols and other antioxidant compounds. Many of these have been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. They may help the arteries in the heart dilate, increasing blood flow to the heart. They may also help prevent the formation of blood clots, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. All this being said, there is no long-term study on human available regarding honey and heart health, so take this with a grain of salt.
Bottom Line: The antioxidants in honey have been linked to beneficial effects on heart health, including increased blood flow to the heart and a reduced risk of blood clot formation.
8. Honey Promotes Burn and Wound Healing
The history of using honey to heal wounds and burns can be traced back to ancient Egypt, and this practice is still active today. In one review from 2015, 26 studies on honey and wound care were evaluated; it suggested that honey is most effective at healing partial thickness burns and wounds that have become infected after surgery. It is also an effective treatment for diabetic foot ulcers, which are critical complications and can lead to amputation. Researchers believe that its healing powers come from its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects, as well as its ability to nourish the surrounding tissue. What’s more, honey can help treat other skin conditions including psoriasis, hemorrhoids and herpes lesions.
Bottom Line: When applied to the skin, honey can be part of an effective treatment plan for burns, wounds and many other skin conditions. It is particularly effective for diabetic foot ulcers.
9. Honey Can Help Suppress Coughs in Children
Coughing is a common problem for children with upper respiratory infections. It can affect sleep and quality of life, for both the children and their parents. Several existing studies have shown that honey reduces cough symptoms and improves sleep even more affectively than cough medication. Nevertheless, honey should never be given to children under 1 year of age, with a concern of botulism.
Bottom Line: For children over one year of age, honey can act as a natural and safe cough suppressant. Some studies show that it is even more effective than cough medication.
10. Honey is Delicious, But it’s Still High in Calories and Sugar
Honey is a delicious, healthier alternative to refined sugar. Make sure to choose high-quality honey, because some of the lower-quality brands may be adulterated with syrup. However, keep in mind that honey should only be consumed in moderation, as it is still high in calories and sugar. The benefits of honey are most pronounced when it is replacing another unhealthier sweetener. At the end of the day, honey is simply a “less bad” sweetener than sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.
Source: Authority Nutrition
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