Your Guide to Honey by Zlata.
Called “the nectar of the Gods” by ancient Greeks, honey is one of the most multifaceted staples in your pantry. It can work as a beauty elixir (used in facial masks or to soothe scars), but, above all, it is a delicious, healing food. Bees are responsible for one of the most sacred acts of nature: taking nectar from flowers and transforming it into honey, through interactions with enzymes in their saliva and digestion.
Honey ranges from colorless to a deep shade of caramel. It’s mild to richly complex in taste. Think of honey like a fine wine: Its color, flavor and aroma are uniquely dependent on the nectar of the flowers the bees visited, connecting you with a taste of a region. And with the growing interest in foods plucked straight from nature, not to mention the growing science behind its health benefits (research suggests raw honey helps kill H. pylori bacteria that cause ulcers, for instance), honey is an amazing superfood. Honey is also a straightforward sweetener, a 100% natural, right-from-the-earth food – from hive to table, if you will.
Here’s the lowdown on “liquid gold” and what you need to know.
This is as pure as it gets. Dubbed by honey enthusiasts as “nature’s perfect package,” most people are surprised to learn that these wax combs are cut straight from the hive and completely edible. While it may seem a bit waxy to some (you can just chew it until the flavor is gone and then discard the rest), the comb has an intense honey flavor that is delicious; look for it at your farmers market or favorite natural foods store. A word of advice: Be sure to put it on a plate – once it’s cut, the comb will start oozing honey.
Many naturopaths and nutrition experts suggest choosing raw honey for optimal health and beauty benefits. Raw honey is never strained, filtered or heated. Research suggests it’s loaded with many trace minerals, organic enzymes, antioxidants, plus antibacterial and anti-fungal properties that make it a powerful package of health. Its rich origins mean that it’s loaded with more interesting taste and flavor.
Raw honey is a shining example of food as medicine. Your grandmother’s home remedy of dosing you with a bit of honey for your cough, for instance, seems to have some science behind it. Honey has promising evidence as a cough suppressant, not to mention a favorite alternative topical remedy for cuts and scrapes.
How Much Honey Is Healthy?
With all the buzz around sugars these days, it’s important to remember that like any sweetener, honey should be savored in moderate amounts. The American Heart Association recommends that no more than 10% of your total calories should come from added sugars, which for the average translates into about 100 calories a day, or just about 5-6 teaspoons of honey.
Honey does have some unique appeal: For one, this golden liquid is significantly sweeter than table sugar (about 25% sweeter), meaning you’re satisfied with less. This can shave calories off of your morning cup of tea, your oatmeal (just add a drizzle), or even the amount of sweetener you need in a recipe when baking.
Another plus? Honey has long been loved by athletes as a source of a lower glycemic carbohydrate, which means it enters your bloodstream more slowly than other refined sugars, giving you sustained energy to power your performance. In ancient Greece, athletes feasted on honey and figs prior to the Olympic competitions; today many sports nutritionists include natural honey in the diet of pro athlets.