Honey is a popular, natural sweetener that many of us enjoy almost as a condiment or to sweeten tea. Like many sweeteners, the sugars in honey can be fattening. What sets honey apart is that it also offers a bevvy of health benefits, which that means you’re not just indulging your sweet tooth. For example, honey can help you find relief from a persistent cough or sore throat. But, does it qualify as a superfood and should you be adding a significant amount of it? Well, after looking at the health benefits, we’ll give our opinion and leave it up to you to decide.
A Healthier Way to Sweeten Your Diet
A big benefit of honey is that it’s a healthier sweetener for your diet, compared to standard sugar. The reason for this is largely with the chemical makeup of honey. Unlike granulated sugar, honey is 40 percent fructose and 30 percent glucose. This makes honey naturally sweeter than regular sugar, which allows you to use less honey for the same sweetness. One study also found that honey could play a role in regulating blood sugar (though the study needs human testing), may help prevent diabetes, and is moderately low on the glycemic index (58). Honey consumption was even found to have positive effects toward body weight and blood lipid levels in diabetic patients.
Loaded with Antioxidants
Another way that honey can benefit our health is through its antioxidant content. One study by the American Chemical Society found that honey can directly raise the amount of antioxidants in your blood. Antioxidants protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals, which can help to prevent many chronic or degenerative illnesses, also known as oxidative stress. For example, oxidative stress has been linked with increased risks of cancer, certain cardiovascular diseases, and even macular degeneration. Antioxidants also influencing the aging process and longevity, since free radicals cause some of the damage related to aging. One popular theory was that free radicals were the primary cause of aging, though this is under dispute as to how central they are.
May Improve Heart Health
Honey has also been shown to help improve your heart health through two key factors. First, the antioxidant elements of honey can help lower your blood pressure. Specifically, antioxidative treatment with honey has been shown to moderately lower blood pressure in rats. Beside blood pressure, honey has can also help your heart health by lowering your levels of bad LDL cholesterol and your total levels of cholesterol, while increasing your levels of healthy HDL cholesterol. An overabundance of LDL cholesterol can increase your chances of heart disease, while HDL cholesterol can help remove LDL cholesterol from our bloodstream.
To take advantage of one of honey’s more interesting benefits, you don’t have to eat it. Instead, you apply it topically to treat wounds and burns. This sticky sweet band-aid has been in use since Ancient Egypt, and actually has stood the test of time. One major review of studies found that honey applied topically was effective at promoting healing of burns and wounds infected after surgery. Another study had a 43.3 percent success rate for patients treated with a honey dressing for diabetic foot ulcer wounds. Honey has also been noted to help with the treatment of skin diseases like psoriasis and herpes simplex virus-1.
Antibacterial and Fights Infections
One of the most well-documented benefits of honey is its antibacterial and anti-infection properties. This is a big reason why topical use of it is effective at healing wounds and burns. One study found that honey has a “potent antibacterial activity,” naming it “one of the best complementary and alternative medicines in diabetic wound management.” Due to its natural antibiotic capabilities, honey may even be effective against antibiotic-resistant strains of infection like MRSA. While you should still go to a doctor for open wounds and infections, honey is beginning to display promising signs for future medical use.
Is Honey Healthy?
So, with all that information, all those benefits, it’s time to decide. Is honey healthy, and should it be considered a superfood? In moderation, sure. Remember, honey is still essentially a syrup and is mostly made up of sugar. And, as we’ve covered in the past, sugar isn’t great for our bodies and can be fattening when overindulged in. Ultimately, it comes down to balance. Some suggest keeping your consumption under two tablespoons a day, but there’s no real firm number. If you replace much of the sugar in your diet with honey, especially raw honey (which is unprocessed and has more nutrients), you’ll receive many of the benefits in a healthy way. The important thing is to remember that no one superfood is a magic bullet; they should be used alongside a well-balanced diet to promote a healthier overall lifestyle.