Sweet Honey

Kara Bauer Health Guide
  • As a vegan and owner of a gourmet raw and vegan food business, many people ask me why I consume honey or use it in some of our food preparations. This has been a big debate amongst vegans for some time and one that continues to cause stress for those who want to consume a diet 100% free of animal products. Even though bees are not made into food themselves, many are concerned about the practices commercial beekeepers use, which I agree they should be. However, honey that is raw and natural and produced utilizing sustainable and kind practices, has many nutritional properties that make it one of nature’s best sweeteners and a gift for maintaining optimal health.

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    Honey in its pure, natural form, is rich in nutrients including proteins, enzymes, amino acids, minerals, trace elements, vitamins, aroma compounds and polyphenols according to a study published in the Journal of American College of Nutrition. It’s a great nutritional source of carbohydrates, made of glucose and fructose, both great energy sources when not consumed in excess or outside their natural form.[1] Depending on the botanical source, you can easily find honey with a low glycemic index of under 55 making it a much better choice over other sweeteners for those that have blood sugar and/or insulin sensitive health concerns.


    Honey is also high in antioxidants and has antimicrobial properties, promoting good bacteria in the intestinal tract and also delivering the same potency of antibiotics for certain bacterial infections.[2] A type of honey called manuka honey, produced in New Zealand and Australia from the nectar of the Manuka tree, has recently received a lot of attention for its anti-inflammatory and anti-infection uses. It has been especially effective in the treatment of wounds infected with MRSA bacteria, and is now FDA approved as a dressing for both wounds and burns. The honey has been shown to be extremely effective for drawing fluids out, preventing microorganism growth and for its low levels of hydrogen peroxide, which are released when honey makes contact with a wound due to a special enzyme called “glucose oxidase” that gets secreted into the nectar by the bees.[3] Honey has also been used as an effective cough suppressant, immunity booster, skin cleanser/moisturizer and as antidote for cancer treatment.[4]


    As with all natural and healthy diet choices, it’s very important that the honey you consume is raw. Like all food substances, once heated and processed, many if not all of the nutrients are lost. It’s also important, especially from an animal rights standpoint as presented by the vegan community, that you sway away from commercially mass-produced honey. Many of the bees in these farm factories are exposed to physiological stress and industrial processes that are abusive to the bees. For example, the queen bee’s wings may be clipped to keep her from leaving the hive and/or all of the honey gets extracted after the warm months, leaving the bees with artificial sweeteners to survive on through the winter or even die off. Some bees are even worked year round with no time for rest.[5] The farm where the bees are extracting the nectar should also be organic and preferably “wild” to avoid pesticides and other dangerous chemicals that get ingested by the bees and subsequently into the honey itself.


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    An apiary committed to healthy and humane practices such as letting the bees come and go as they please, take the winter months off with enough honey to live comfortably, and feed on organic sources of nectar offers an excellent guilt-free means of reaping the numerous health benefits of this naturally produced sweetener. For this reason, I recommend that if it’s possible, you go to visit the place where you obtain your honey to ensure that these standards are being met. Other great bee products for suburb health include bee pollen and royal jelly.


    [1] Pubmed.gov "Honey for nutrition and health: a review," Bogdanov, S. et. al. Journal of American College of Nutrition, December 2008: 27(6):677-89.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19155427


    [2] Pubmed.gov "Investigating the antimicrobial activity of natural honey and its effects on the pathogenic bacterial infections of surgical wounds and conjunctiva," Al-Waili, N.S. Journal of Medicinal Food, Summer 2004: 7(2):210-22. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15298770


    [3] Trump, E.F. (2007, August 7). Sweet Salve. Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/03/AR2007080301651.html?nav=rss_health


    [4] BBC News (2004, December 5). Honey 'could help fight cancer'. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4063377.stm


    [5] Veganmainstream.com (2010, Setember 30). The great honey debate. Retrieved from http://www.veganmainstream.com/the-great-honey-debate


Published On: November 01, 2012

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