What is the best gift for a baker? When my cousin asked me if I wanted some fresh honey from their farm, my answer was a resounding YES! If you haven’t caught on I do not like to use refined sugars, natural sweeteners are more my style. I still think most of the time we should eat whole foods: meat, fruits, vegetables, fats, but when I go to a party or event sometimes I’ll make a treat. Cue in natural sweetness’ like honey. Of course this country can turn any good, natural thing into an industrialized mess. We like convenience. We want to make it fast. We want to make a lot of it. We want to make it last on the shelf. And we want to make it cheap. Hence, I think a lot of the honey at the store is shit. When I go shopping I look first to make sure it is raw honey. Next I look and see if I can get a local honey. I’m a big fan of shopping locally and supporting local grocers and farmer’s markets. Does it cost more? Hell yes it does. But I ask myself and maybe you’d like to too, when you’re eying the sometimes pricier healthier option: Do I want to pay a little more now or do I want to pay in my health and deterioration later? Do I want to be shelling out down the line for doctors appointments and medication followed by more medication?
I am a recovering research junkie. I started out blogging for my father’s health site BodyChange.net. I wrote over 800 posts on a variety of topics (and I mean variety from macronutrients to exercise to orgasms to pooping. You name it and I probably covered it). Of course I did a little digging on natural sweeteners. Honey is not our only option. There’s maple and maple sugar and molasses. There is also coconut sugar and nectar, but I’m just not thoroughly convinced on them, so I usually stick to the first couple of options. What is going on with honey? Are there some redeeming qualities that make it the ‘pick me option’?
How can we distrust something with such a long history. Early hunter-gatherers used smoke to get the bees out of their hives, so our ancestors could sneak a sweet treat. There are neolithic art depicting honey and Egyptian text dating back to 5500 BC talking about honey. I think that’s a pretty rock solid history, besides honey Indians have been tapping into the sweet maple succulence since before the Europeans brought their honeybees. Let’s take a closer look at these individually, but I’m thinking by the end, you’ll want to have a supply of all three on hand to interchange to maximize benefits and to satisfy your ‘sweet tooth’. HONEY
Like I’ve already said honey has a long history, and boy are the bees working hard for that tooth. Honey is the sugary nectar of flowers (the type of flower plays a role in flavor, texture, and color) that is gathered by bees. These gracious bees have to travel thousands of miles just to accumulate 1 teaspoon of honey (and you think you work hard for the money)! Profile of honey?
- 35-40% fructose, 30-35% dextrose, 17-20% water, traces of pollen, wax, acids, proteins, enzymes, vitamins, minerals, pigments, and gum (which determines thickness)
Different components of honey have been sending waves throughout the health world. A study done in 1992 showed positive correlation between propolis in honey and anticancer characteristics. As honey is already predigested making it is easy for us to digest, and it actually has friendly bacteria too. It’s been used topically to heal, to suppress coughing, and to boost immunity. But some of what I found most interesting was its effect on blood sugar. Because it has a 1:1 ration of fructose to glucose, this means the that the fructose is able to unlock enzymes in the liver that turn glucose into glycogen. Glycogen in turn is used by the brain during sleep and prolonged exercise for fuel. If glycogen is not up to par than those pesky stress hormones like cortisol are released to convert your precious muscle protein to glucose. Over time this can: impair glucose metabolism, insulin resistance, diabetes, and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. If that’s not enough studies comparing honey, sucrose and low GI sugar-free diets found that the honey diet showed: decrease in weight gain and body fat percentage, less anxiety, better spatial recognition memory, improved HDL, improved blood sugar levels, and less oxidative stress damage. Wow, pretty impressive! Raw and less processed is obviously the way to go with honey. To tie into yesterdays post and talk of fermentation the last couple of months, man has made fermented drinks out of honey for ages (does mead ring a bell?). Honey can actually ferment itself, but never spoil. Hello a new option to pop?
MAPLE: Like I mentioned Indians have been using granulated maple sugar (which now comes in names like maple powder, maple sprinkles, maple granules) before the Europeans came. Profile? Maple has 88-89% sucrose, and the rest is fructose and glucose. Important nutrients:
- rich in calcium and potassium
- excellent source of manganese
- good source of zinc
- contains magnesium, phosphorus, malic acid, citric acid and some amino acids
If you need a refresher on minerals check out the blog from last month. This is your maple syrup that you find out of the grocer shaped like cabins or motherly looking woman, which actually have hardly maple in them. We’re talking real here (and yes it’s probably going to cost more, better to pay now than in health care down the road), check online or at trusty health food stores.