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benefits of honey

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People are finally starting to acknowledge the many dangers of sugar. We’ve written at length about how processed sugar promotes chronic inflammation, feeds the growth of cancer, [1] and contributes heavily to the development of heart disease, [2] diabetes, obesity, [3] liver disease, [4] high cholesterol, [5] and other serious health conditions.

This doesn’t mean, however, that anything sweet-tasting has to be bad for your health. For example, honey not only lacks the dangers and health risks of processed sugar, but also actively helps heal and prevent the very conditions caused by sugar consumption.

Amidst the anti-sugar frenzy in recent years, honey has often been lumped into the same category and derided as just another health-sapping sweetener—but nothing could be further from the truth.

Other than its sweetness, honey shares very little in common with processed sugar (just make sure you’re using raw, unprocessed honey).

In another article, we discussed the subtleties of sugar versus honey: how sugar is a glucose isolate, whereas honey is a complex whole food containing over twenty-five different types of sugars, as well as an abundance of other nutrients, prebiotics, probiotics, enzymes, and more.

As researchers delve deeper into exploring honey’s therapeutic properties, it’s reputation as “just another sweetener” is quickly disappearing. The chemistry is so complex that we still don’t quite know how it all works—but we do know that, as long as honey is consumed as an unprocessed whole food, it does not have the same metabolic effects as sugar (and thus doesn’t lead to any of sugar’s negative health consequences).

Studies have demonstrated that raw honey can boost immune function, combat allergies, improve glucose response and the function of appetite hormones, [6] lower inflammatory biomarkers and triglyceride levels, [7] and prevent fat accumulation. [8]

Specific honey varietals such as Manuka honey have even been shown to function as an anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, antibiotic (it even works against MRSA, without disrupting your microbiome), and healing agent for the digestive system. [9]

Now researchers have added another therapeutic application to honey’s already impressive list: the ability to fight cancer.

Could honey be better than chemotherapy?

An exciting study published in the journal Molecules examined the role that honey can play in inhibiting the growth and spread of cancer. The researchers found that a number of honey’s compounds function like phytoestrogens, which are known to work therapeutically against cancer via estrogenic activity.

Additionally, they found that some honey varietals even go a step further by directly killing cancer cells. These types of honey are therefore said to exhibit “selective cytotoxicity,” by which they induce cancer cells to destroy themselves (this process is called apoptosis or programmed cell death). [10]

It’s extremely important to note that honey exerts this cancer-fighting effect without harming the body’s healthy cells in any way. Chemotherapy, on the other hand, kills healthy and cancerous cells alike, severely weakening the body in the process.

But can honey stand up to the cancer-killing efficacy of chemotherapy? Another team of researchers pitted a specific honey varietal called Tualang against tamoxifen, the leading chemotherapy drug. They found that the effectiveness of Tualang honey against breast cancer cells was entirely comparable to that of tamoxifen, and that no damage was done to healthy tissues.[11]

Another limitation of chemotherapy is its inability to target a wide variety of cancers. Pharmaceutical companies have had to develop many different drugs for different treatment protocols, and even this approach falls short.

Honey, on the other hand, has been shown to fight many kinds of cancer, including liver cancer, colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, bladder cancer, endometrial cancer, cervical cancer, skin cancer, renal cell carcinoma, lung cancer, mouth cancer, and bone cancer. Analyses of many studies conclude that honey is “antiproliferative, antitumor, antimetastatic, and anticancer,” and that it can benefit cancer patients without the risk of side effects. [12]

Everyone can benefit from honey

Whether you’re struggling with health problems or simply want to optimize your well-being (so as to prevent future problems), honey is an all-star food to include in your diet.

Remember: always choose raw, organic honey. Commercially processed honeys bear little resemblance to their wild cousins—they’re stripped of their beneficial enzymes and nutrients, and often contain toxic fillers, coloring, and even unhealthy sweeteners like sugar or corn syrup (that’s right, manufacturers add more sweeteners to honey).

For acute therapeutic purposes, seek out special types of honey like Manuka or Tualang. For general maintenance, or if you’re focusing on alleviating allergies or immune issues, choose a locally produced honey (which will modulate your immune response by exposing you to trace amounts of the offending allergen).

When using honey as a functional food to treat illness and disease, it’s best to absorb it under the tongue. Tea with honey is another match made in heaven, but be aware that boiling water can break down some of honey’s beneficial components.

 


References

[1] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0306987783900956

[2] http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/86/4/899.short

[3] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/199317

[4] http://www.journal-of-hepatology.eu/article/S0168-8278(07)00427-8/abstract

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2673878/

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21504975

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15117561

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21310307

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3609166/

[10] http://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/19/2/2497

[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5387200/

[12] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3865795/

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Overconsumption of sugar is one of the fatal flaws of the Standard American Diet.

Natural sugar sources—such as fruits, juices, and high-sugar vegetables like carrots and beets—are an essential and healthful part of a balanced diet. After all, glucose (the type of sugar naturally found in the foods you eat) is a primary energy source for your body and brain’s cells.

But sugar can also pose serious risks to your health, especially when consumed in the form of refined sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and other modern monstrosities. As we’ve covered in a past article, refined sugar hides behind many names, so always check the ingredient labels of packaged foods carefully.

The most well-known effect of sugar overconsumption is weight gain—as evidenced by the fact that a whopping 37.9% of American adults are obese.[1] And sadly, obesity is just the beginning of sugar’s ill effects. Research shows that sugar worsens high blood pressure, leaches nutrients from the body, and suppresses the immune system. And because sugar is highly inflammatory, it has been linked with the development of nearly every major disease, including cancer,[2] heart disease,[3] diabetes,[4] liver disease,[5] high cholesterol,[6] and more.

The good news is that there’s a perfectly sweet alternative to sugar that’s far more healthful: honey. While moderation is still always a good idea, the simple act of replacing sugar with honey will work wonders for your health.

Let’s take a look at what makes honey so different from sugar.

Whole foods are always best

It’s easy to lump all sweeteners in the same category, but remember: honey is a whole food made by bees, while sugar is an extract of the sugarcane plant (the isolated component is technically called sucrose).

We’ve written a lot in the past about the folly of trying to isolate variables in complex systems—it’s what makes allopathic medicine so short-sighted and side-effect-riddled, and it’s why whole foods are superior to individual compounds. Things are nearly always best when left in their natural form.

Sweeteners are no exception. Honey is a remarkably complex substance made up of hundreds of different compounds—macronutrients and micronutrients, prebiotics and probiotics, enzymes, and various components of which we barely have an understanding. It even has twenty-five different kinds of “sugar,” including sucrose, glucose, and fructose, as well as more complex sugars like melezitose and erlose.

For reasons that researchers haven’t yet fully deciphered, the “sugars” in honey don’t have the same negative health effects as isolated sucrose, as long as they remain an integrated part of honey’s complex chemistry. In fact, honey has actually been shown to improve some of the very health conditions that consuming sugar can cause.

For example, one double-blind, randomized clinical study demonstrated that, contrary to sugar, honey had a positive effect on appetite hormones (ghrelin and peptide YY), as well as glucose response.[7] Another study published in The Journal of Medical Food compared honey to both dextrose and sucrose, and found that honey consumption can lower C-reactive protein, homocysteine, and plasma glucose, even in diabetic and hyperlipidemic individuals.[8] There’s even reason to believe that honey can reduce triglyceride levels, weight gain, and fat accumulation.[9]

How to get the most out of honey

As miraculous and healthful as honey can be, it’s important to remember that not all store-bought honey is equal. Here are a couple principles that will help you get the most out of honey.

Always choose raw honey. As we’ve already mentioned, whole foods are always best when left in their natural, unprocessed form. When honey is heated, processed, or filtered, a large percentage of its beneficial nutrients and components are destroyed or altered.

When left in its raw form, honey is packed with enzymes that can heal the immune system and boost disease resistance, as well as beneficial bacteria that can help balance your digestion and microbiome health. Researchers have demonstrated that the replication of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Lactobacillus plantarum bacteria (both of which are centrally important for healthy microbiome composition) is increased up to 100 times by honey (compared to sucrose).[10]  

Eat local honey. If you’re interested in honey’s famed allergy-healing benefits, be sure to eat local honey, which will contain traces of the pollen from local allergenic plants. In addition to providing homeopathic exposure to allergens (thus fortifying the immune system and decreasing allergic reactions in the future), honey also contains an enzyme called diastase, which some researchers and experts believe will help fix the immune dysfunctions associated with allergies.

Try Manuka honey for extra healing benefits. As we covered in a past article, some varietals of honey have particularly powerful antimicrobial properties—and Manuka honey is the king of them all. It’s been shown to destroy over 250 different strains of bacteria (including MRSA),[11] as well as a wide range of viruses and harmful fungi.

 


References 

 [1] https://stateofobesity.org/obesity-rates-trends-overview/

[2] http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0306987783900956

[3] http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/86/4/899.short

[4] https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/199317

[5] http://www.journal-of-hepatology.eu/article/S0168-8278(07)00427-8/abstract

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2673878/

[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21504975

[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15117561

[9] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21310307

[10] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10849275

[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21903658

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