Friday, July 11, 2014

Carb Cutting: What Honey Brings to the Table

Dark honey -- like this buckwheat honey -- is high in antioxidants.
I have been working on cutting carbs at the same time as I’m feeding sugar to my bees and looking forward to their honey. A bit of a disconnect, I suppose. Though, truth be told, it’s not the honey that I’ve been most excited about, it’s the pollination they bring to my garden and the feeling that I’m helping honeybees survive that rewards my efforts as a beekeeper.

Honey is a natural sweetener that seems intuitively good to me (besides having a far more complex sweetness than sugar). It has antibacterial, antiseptic properties reputed to heal. Some say it can heal and soothe bedsores when nothing else works; and it’s like a natural allergy fighter for people with pollen-related allergies. But what about the nutritional aspects of this golden, flower-based sweetener?

My mom recently recommended a book called “The Sugar Smart Diet.” Interesting book. It points out the problems with zero-calorie and low-cal sugar substitutes—even with sweeteners like stevia. Reading it, I was beginning to feel a little guilty about that honeybee-managed sugar factory sitting in my back yard.

Then I read this paragraph:

“…honey contains an estimated 180 different substances—proteins, enzymes, amino acids, minerals, vitamins, phytochemicals—that may account for its health promoting effects. For example, gram for gram, honey is as rich in antioxidants as some fruits and veggies…even small amounts may offer some protection against cancer and promote heart health. In test tube studies, honey—the darker the better—slows the oxidation of LDL cholesterol in human blood.”
~ The Sugar Smart Diet, by Anne Alexander

Well. As if I needed another reason to be amazed by bees.

Honey is not the only substance produced by bees. Propolis is a tar-like glue that bees create to fill in cracks and close gaps, but it has been studied for its potential in treating numerous illnesses from cold sores to cataracts to cancer. Bee pollen and royal jelly are also purported to be beneficial. But I’d not heard much about what honey itself brings to the table.


I’m working on cutting carbs and reducing the amount of sweeteners in my diet, but in this case, my instincts about honey as a beneficial side-effect of pollination seem justified. All things in moderation, of course, but it makes me feel happy to read about the natural goodness in the sweetener my bees are producing.

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