Monday, December 9, 2013

Oh Honey Honey

I must confess that it would be an understatement to say that I have a sweet-tooth; they're ALL sweet teeth! [not sure if that makes sense, but it's true.]. That's why I was so interested in non-nutritive sweeteners to start with (see my previous blog post).  Every diet I ever tried (and there have been many) I always rushed to find out what sweet treats I was "allowed" so that I could consume them in large doses.

About 4 years ago I was introduced to the wonderful benefits of honey, again because of a diet. It was an elimination diet where you weren't allowed sugar, wheat, dairy, red meat, coffee etc etc. The first thing I checked was, how I was going to get my sweet fix and I discovered honey was going to help me out - and it was NATURAL! Woohoo I felt like "the good-eating guru". I loved the fact that honey cured so many diseases and that it was fresh from nature.

I first started consuming honey when I began eating a healthy breakfast of muesli, nuts, plain yoghurt, fruit and honey (yummy, my favourite brekkie ever.)  I would pour on copious amounts of honey to sweeten up the plain yoghurt and I felt soooo healthy!!  Little did I know that the honey I was eating, was doing nothing for me (great placebo effect though.)

About 2 months ago, for the first time in my life, I went into a health store. I was in search of raw chocolate [I was told I had to be healthy so I rushed out to find sweet stuff that I was allowed] - healthy chocolate of course sounded delicious, so there I was, in a health shop, so I thought I'd look around. There was a sign up saying  something about the legal issue with a local large retain chain regarding their honey.  Hmmm I was intrigued..... then I was shocked that the local retailer [let's call them Pure n Profit for ease of reference] was sourcing its honey from China and the label which boldly stated "Pure Honey" was not what I would call "pure."  Not fair Pure n Profit!

So I started investigating further and what I found, really annoyed me because I trusted this retailer to be honest with their labeling (apparently it is legal to say that honey is pure, it's what they DON'T say that is important) Who knows this stuff??  My naivety of healthy foods was beginning to show. One of the very few things that I thought I was doing right, I was doing wrong. My daughter suffers terribly from skin allergies and I did not realise how REAL, RAW honey could help, if you source local honey, the bees use local plants (obviously) and therefore you build up an immunity to those local allergens [duh] but I was feeding her "pure" instead, bad mom!  What I know now is that if it pours quickly, chances are, it's not good for you!

I read this article by Carrie Murphy and I couldn't explain it better myself, so why try, let her do it for me:

The Benefits Of Raw Honey vs Conventional Honey

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about the benefits of raw honey: it’s great for your immune system, it can help with allergies, it’s chock full of vitamins. But I wasn’t sure exactly what raw honey was, or what the difference was between raw honey and the honey you buy at the grocery store. So, armed with my curiosity, my sweet tooth and a boyfriend with terrible fall allergies, I learned more about raw honey and why it’s so good for your health.

Generally speaking, the basic difference between raw honey and “regular” honey is the way it’s processed. Raw honey has not been heated to high temperatures in order to achieve the golden, syrupy look we’re used to. Some people think that this heating, also called pasteurization, is necessary to make the honey fit for human consumption, as it kills bacteria and filters out bits of pollen and other debris.

But proponents of raw honey disagree that pasteurization is necessary, or even helpful. Some raw honey is filtered, too, but usually minimally. Margaux J. Rathbun, a Certified Nutritional Therapy practitioner, explained why raw honey is so great for our bodies:

Just like most foods that are processed or pasteurized, liquid honey loses a lot of its beneficial nutrients when it undergoes a heating process. Raw honey is loaded with nutrients like energizing B vitamins and immune-boosting vitamin C. It contains antibacterial and antioxidant properties, helping fight off free radicals in your body and keeping your immune system strong.

Raw honey can also reportedly help with burns,  wound healing, and respiratory problems. Dr. Peter Molan, a professor of biochemistry at Waikato University in New Zealand, said, “The remarkable ability of honey to reduce inflammation and mop up free radicals should halt the progress of skin damage like it does in burns, as well as protecting from infection setting in…there are very good grounds for using honey as a therapeutic agent of first choice.”

The anecdotal evidence from raw honey devotees is overwhelming. In fact, even some vegans have decided to use it (technically it’s an animal product, so it shouldn’t be included in a vegan diet). Vicki Chelf, the creator of Vicki’s Vegan Kitchen, says the health benefits of raw honey are worth compromising her vegan diet: she eats honey every day in her soy latte.

Almost everyone I spoke to discussed the reported benefits of eating local honey as a way to combat allergies, too. Holistic nutritionist Andrea Palen commented:

The idea behind eating honey as a remedy for allergies is kind of like gradually vaccinating the body against pollen allergens, a process called immunotherapy. Honey contains a variety of the same spores that give allergy sufferers so much trouble when the seasons change. Introducing these spores into the body in small amounts by eating honey might make the body more accustomed to their presence and decrease the chance of an allergic immune response.

And if raw honey contains a higher amount of the pollen used by the bees to make the honey, it might be a better bet to help you stop sneezing up a storm. Expert beekeeper and the volunteer mentor-in-chief of NYC Beekeeping Jim Fischer says, “The good news is that a jar of honey is the cheapest thing one could buy for one’s allergies, and it certainly can’t hurt. ”

If you want to buy raw honey, how can you recognize it? Palen told me:

“Raw honey is characterized by fine textured crystals and has a milkier look to it. It is solid at room temperature and might contain particles of bee pollen, propolis and honeycomb. You should be suspicious if a honey that is marketed as “raw” is clear and runny – it’s likely that this honey has been heated and filtered and is not truly raw.”

Not all raw honey looks milky or cloudy, though; there are a range of different filtering practices for beekeepers and honey producers. But Fischer emphasizes that lots of beekeepers claim their honey is “raw,” when the use and definition of that term hasn’t been widely agreed upon in the national community of beekeepers. He cautions, “The easiest one-step way to make sure that one is buying good honey is to get to know your local beekeepers, and buy only from local beekeepers.  But ”raw” is a term that is reluctantly used by ethical beekeepers.” You can check the label for the word raw, but it’s also good to ask whoever is behind the counter if they have any more information on the honey’s source.

It’s likely that raw honey isn’t sold at your local grocery store; in fact, a 2011 study found that many brands of honey sold in conventional stores don’t even contain any pollen.  If you want to go raw, look for honey at your local health foods store, at a farm stand, or at a farmer’s market.