Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Good, The Bad, The Honey

My Sweet Thoughts: Part One: Honey


         Sick and tired about listening to friends warn me of the safety and healthiness of honey, agave nectar, and stevia, I decided to educate myself. Not surprisingly it is difficult to find credible and non-biased opinions. After spending hours and days scouring the internet I finally came to these conclusions only for my own health. 
     As I choose to live a different food lifestyle ( I am a pesceterian ), I often find that people are judgmental about my decision. After seeing how rudely people responded to my personal food habits I decided I would never impose my decisions on them. For instance, I believe that not eating steroid injected, antibiotic infused, cooped up for it’s entire life in a tiny box beef, is not something I am comfortable with. However, I am in no position to tell someone else it is unhealthy and inhumane of them to continue consuming that meat. If people act interested I love to share my opinions on food and health. But that is all I have, opinions. 
      So I am targeting three sweeteners which I feel have a lot of incorrect information  floating around concerning them. The first of which is honey. The other day someone told me they avoided honey because of all the negative associations with it. Curious, as I had never learned of such, I went looking for myself. 
      As it turns out, honey has almost the same amount of calories as sugar. So, as it pertains to weight loss you might not see many results by switching from sugar to honey. While a teaspoon of honey actually contains more calories than a teaspoon of sugar, honey is much sweeter and therefore less is needed to achieve the desired sweetness. Because less honey is used, the same amount, or sometimes even a smaller amount, of calories are consumed. So, if it’s calories you are focused on then now you understand that honey is no worse than sugar calorically. 
      Not all honey is created equal, this is what I have come to realize. Most of the honey bought at the supermarket is multiple-pollen honey and some of it is even mixed with corn syrup. Bee’s generally stick to one type of pollen therefore the honey they produce will be from only a few types of pollen, and it will be limited to their local pollens. When buying cheaper and mass marketed honey, multiple types of honeys are mixed together. Buying local honey is one of the best ways to ensure you get honey made from local pollens ( I will explain the importance of this later.) Also, often super market honey is mixed with corn syrup, which is unacceptable, as the consumer is often not consuming what they think they are. 
     Also, it is important to find raw honey. Without raw honey there is really no point in consuming honey and there are little benefits over refined sugar. Raw honey is cloudy and milky and contains chunks of honeycomb and wax and occasionally bee fragments. I know, it sounds gross, but trust me the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. Most honey we are used to seeing and buying has been heated through pasteurization and filtered, which produces that clear and golden color we associate with honey. The problem with pasteurization is that heating the honey kills some of the natural enzymes and nutrients. So basically, if you are eating non-raw honey you are mostly consuming the sugar and not reaping the benefits. Raw honey is also has antiseptic properties which make it great for a sore throat. 
      The most important thing to remember when choosing honey is raw, raw, raw! The best part about any raw living food is the enzymes which our bodies absorb and use. Once a food is heated, some or all of the enzymes are killed and our bodies don’t absorb them. 
      The second most important thing to remember when choosing honey is local. Don’t worry, if you can’t find local raw honey, non-local honey will do just fine. However, the benefits to local raw honey are great. Bee’s only have the ability to gather local pollen and by gathering local pollen the honey is made from those pollens that sometimes cause allergies. Consuming honey made with local pollens can actually lower allergic reactions to those pollens contained within the honey. It’s natures allergy remedy. 
      Not only can consuming local pollen help out with it allergy season rolls around but it also stimulates local economy, cuts down on wasteful transportation, and boycotts corporations. 
      Just to put everyone at ease, I also searched for drawbacks and negative reactions to honey. I was surprised to find limited information on this. It seems that negative reactions to honey are rare. Honey allergies do exist and honey should be avoided by anyone with a honey allergy. However, only 2%-3% of the united states population suffers from honey allergies. Surprised? I was.Chances are you are not one of the people who suffers from honey allergies and if you are then you probably already know of it, and should avoid honey. 
      The only other negative association I found with honey was infant botulism. Clostridium Botulism spores are present in both honey and corn syrup. Basically, infants bodies are unable to deal with botulism spores and they reproduce rapidly leading to severe symptoms and even fatal ones. That is why honey should never be given to a child under the age of one. In children over one and in adults the botulism spores very, very, rarely cause botulism because our bodies deal with them and the spores do not reproduce, as they do in infants. So again, this is another side effect you are very unlikely to experience. 
      With raw honey we are dealing with a natural and living substance which our bodies easily absorb. One of the reasons our bodies so easily deal with honey is because it has already been digested by the bees, making it much easier for us to digest. That may sound disgusting but it’s a far better process than what refined sugar goes through.
      While brown sugar retains some nutrients, refined white sugar has none and to top it all off it goes through chemical processes to refine it. Proteins, fats, enzymes, and vitamins that would be found in cane juice are all killed by the refining process. There is no way that refined white sugar can exist without being demineralized, because it won’t crystalize. To obtain sugar from cane juice, it goes through a process where it is either treated with sulphur or heated with bisulphide of lime. Chemicals! Give me a bee wing any day! By the way did I mention that refined white sugar is bleached? More chemicals! 
      Sugar has managed to get a bad wrap in our society, it is accused of causing obesity, diabetes, acne, arthritis, and much more. So we Americans, rush out to find things that are low in sugar or contains artificial sweeteners (which I will also address later.) However, it’s only the refined sugars that are truly awful for us. Honey, like everything else should be consumed in moderation. But the majority of our daily sugars should be consumed from fruits and vegetables. Those sugars are the simplest to digest and the ones that “give back” to our systems. 
      Something important to look for in all foods, not just honey, are foods that give back. Natural and raw with living enzymes and nutrients. There are negative and positive things to be said of every consumable product, specifically if you listen to the propaganda put forth by large corporations.
       I am so angered by the television commercials that say high fructose corn syrup is as good as honey. High fructose corn syrup is refined and processed even more than sugar, and denaturing foods makes them unstable to our bodies. Let us pass over the new studies that show many batches of high fructose corn syrup contain mercury and on to other issues. Fructose, in small amounts, actually helps our bodies digest glucose, the problem is we are consuming so much fructose that our bodies turn it directly into fat. Glucose (found in sugar) is processed through the pancreas but fructose is processed through the liver and when so much high fructose is consumed the liver can’t turn it into sugar fast enough so it begins turning it into fats (which are stored most commonly on our butts, thighs, and waistline.) 
       While fructose is found naturally in fruits (and in honey) it is found in small doses that our bodies break down quickly. Honey contains both fructose and glucose which, we know from earlier: the fructose helps our bodies process glucose. High fructose corn syrups and refined sugars are also addictive and we experience a wave of endorphins when we consume them. We also experience elevated energy levels, however when the wave crashes so do our moods and energy levels. Our brain tells us to consume more sugar to experience that rush of endorphins and energy surge again and the cycle continues. 
       I’m not saying people should eat a jar of honey a day. Honey should be consumed in moderation and should just be considered a safer alternative to processed high fructose corn syrups and refined sugars. However, the fact that raw honey contributes to our bodies makes it healthier. So unless you are one of the 2%-3% of all Americans who suffer from honey allergies there is no need to worry. 

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