‘Honey, honey, how you thrill me, a-ha, honey, honey’ … so sang ABBA, back in 1974. For me, this song sums up perfectly how I feel when devouring sweet things (or really any food that’s yummy, let’s be honest). But the next line, ‘Honey, honey, nearly kill me, a-ha, honey, honey’ has me a bit worried.
Let’s put aside the fact that ABBA were crooning about love, and get to the point at hand: while honey certainly pleases our tastebuds, is it actually any good for the rest of our body? And we’re talking 100 per cent honey here and not the recently exposed fake products that contain other substances.
Humans have eaten and used honey for various purposes since pre-historic times. The sweet, sticky substance is unique in that it’s still found in its natural form. Honey is an unprocessed sugar (good), but it’s still a sugar (not so good) and it’s a simple sugar at that (also, not so good). Just over 80 per cent of honey is sugar (not so good, obviously), with half of this amount being fructose. Honey also contains several antioxidants (very good news), which are responsible for honey’s health benefits.
So, what exactly are these health benefits? And have they actually proven to be beneficial?
Honey’s relatively high antioxidant content has been shown through trials to successfully kill some types of bacteria. This means it’s scientifically proven to help to heal wounds, settle stomach ailments and soothe throats. The darker honey is in colour, the higher its antioxidant content – Manuka honey from New Zealand is particularly high in antioxidants.
The jury is still out on the other health claims, which include honey being an anti-carcinogenic and a prevention against heart disease. Although it’s yet to be proven, scientists believe there’s some truth in these claims because the antioxidants in honey help to fight stress and inflammation in the body, which, when left unchecked, may cause cancer or heart disease.
So, should we all plunge into a honey-heavy diet from now on?
Mm, not exactly. For those who are overweight, obese, diabetic or have fructose intolerance, honey is probably best avoided. For everyone else, it’s a great source of (natural) energy and a far better option than sugars that are processed. In conclusion, honey need not be avoided altogether but rather enjoyed in moderation. Just like the songs of ABBA.
Do you use honey for its medical benefits? Does it really help?