This week it is the turn of honey which has been providing sweetness to our diet for thousands of years. First I look at its many health benefits and then Carol is going to work her magic in the kitchen.
Many people are enjoying the benefits of plant based sweeteners such as Stevia which are very useful in cooking and as an alternative to table sugar. I do use at times but I still use honey for its reputation for thousands of years as a healing food.
I doubt that there are many people today who are not aware of the health risks in consuming too much sugar-rich food. Diabetes is on the increase, especially in children, and along with obesity is likely to be one of the top causes of premature death within a few years.
To my mind, the insidious inclusion of sugars in processed foods and equally as bad the introduction of toxic artificial sweeteners is one of the reasons for increased levels of cancer and degenerative diseases such as arthritis and Alzheimer’s disease. We are becoming nutritionally deficient as we become more and more reliant on convenience and junk food laden with fats and sugars.
Honey is the exception and I encourage even my clients with Candida Albicans to use it in moderation as a healthy alternative to sugar or artificial sweeteners.
History of Honey.
For thousands of years it has been used both as a nutritious addition to diet and as an effective medicine and the oldest reference to this delicacy dates back to 5500 BC. At that time Lower Egypt was actually called Bee Land while the Upper Egypt was called Reed Land. By 2500 BC bee keeping was well established and a thriving trade existed between Egypt and India – where honey became associated with religious rites.
Apparently, 110 large pots of honey was equivalent to one donkey or ox. Babylonian and Sumerian clay tablets describe honey’s use as a medicine, some of which included powdered bees, which was considered a cure for bladder stones and dropsy. In all over half of the documented remedies, recognised from these periods in our history, were based on honey.
At first honey was treasured, due to not only its sweet taste but also its rarity. It was considered to be a divine substance and therefore it played a substantial role in many ancient people’s rites and ceremonies. Apart from anointing the dead, jars of honey were sent into the next world to nourish the deceased and in some civilisations honey took on mythical and magical properties.
The Aztecs and Mayan cultures of South America kept colonies of native bees, for their honey and wax, mainly for use as medicine. Sometime in the 16th or 17th century settlers brought European bees into the Americas and honey became more available to everyone.
It is considered to be very pure and therefore used in marriage rites around the world including in our own expression of “honeymoon” as it promoted fertility and was thought to act as an aphrodisiac.
If all that is not enough to tempt you to use honey on a daily basis then some of the health benefits of honey may be able to persuade you.
Raw Irish Honey: https://www.coolmorebees.com/
Health benefits of honey
Having given honey such a wonderful lead-in I now have to put in a proviso and that is that not all honey is created equal.
Bees make honey for their own nourishment from the nectar collected from flowers and the enzymes in their saliva. They carry the honey back to the hive where it is deposited in the cells in the walls where it dries out and forms that consistency that we are familiar with.
The quality and medicinal qualities of honey are very dependent on the plants that the bees producing that honey have had access to. Most of the commercially available honey originates from bees feeding on clovers, heather and acacia plants but there are some wonderful flavours available from bees with access to herb plants such as thyme and lavender.
Unfortunately, in the processing of wild honey to the commercially acceptable product you find on most supermarket shelves, many of the nutrients can be lost. One in particular that is a very valuable anti-bacterial agent is Propolis, the glue that bees use to seal the hive and protect the contents. This is usually present in small amounts in wild honey but is lost in processing – unless it is marked on the jar. You can buy Propolis honey but it can be a little more expensive but worth it.
One of the best honeys in the world comes from New Zealand and is called Manuka honey and because of its reputation for healing it is very heavily tested and regulated to maintain its high standards.
Active Manuka honey is used both internally and externally to treat a number of medical conditions and research is being conducted to legitimise the claims that are made of its effectiveness which show a great deal of promise. Currently it may help prevent stomach ulcers, poor digestion, gastritis, Helicobacter Pylori (H.Pylori), skin ulcers, sore throats, skin infections, boost immune system and energy levels. It is thought that it might even work effectively against MRSA, which would be very interesting.
If you are eating honey then do buy locally and if possible from source. Visit the beekeeper and you should see someone in glowing health, which will be a testament to the quality of his bees and honey. We had bee farms near where we lived in Madrid and they are miles from pollution and surrounded by wild plants of every variety in the hills.
Internal health benefits
Good quality raw honey is anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal. It is also an amazing energy source and certainly Greek athletes used both honey and figs to enhance their performance on the track. Modern researchers conducted a study using athletes, some of which were given a honey, some sugar and some maltodextrin as the carbohydrate source. The athletes who were given the honey maintained a steady blood sugar level throughout the two hour training session and their recovery times was much better than those athletes on the alternative energy sources.
For anyone suffering from diabetes, finding a sweetener that does not affect blood sugar levels dramatically is vitally important and honey would appear to raise levels far less than any other refined alternative. However, this still does not mean that a diabetic can eat honey freely but it does mean that breakfast porridge and cups of tea can benefit from a little sweetness if it is required. Please check with your doctor beforehand.
It has also been found that natural honey rather than processed honey can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels (smaller particle cholesterol that when oxidised can attach to the walls of arteries and block them), homocysteine levels and increases the level of HDL (healthy cholesterol) helping to prevent heart disease.
Honey’s healing properties are beneficial for stomach ulcers, sore throats and intestinal damage with a balancing effect on intestinal bacteria. This includes Candida Albicans, which goes against most therapists’ philosophy of eliminating all sweeteners from a sufferer’s diet. All my clients have switched to honey in their programmes and it seems to not only help in the recovery but also provides a small element of sweetness to satisfy cravings.
It has been found that taking natural honey on a daily basis raises blood levels of the protective antioxidant compounds that we need to prevent disease and to heal ourselves. Admittedly the subjects in the study that confirmed this consumed four tablespoons of buckwheat honey per day which would grate on even my sweet tooth. I do believe as you know in the accumulative effect and therefore over a period of time taking a teaspoon or so of honey per day on food or in drinks should benefit you in the long term.
External health benefits
As with ulcers internally, honey is excellent for external wound healing. Honey absorbs water in the wound inhibiting the growth of bacteria and fungi. Also honey contains glucose oxidase that when mixed with water produces hydrogen peroxide which is a mild antiseptic. There are also specific enzymes in honey, particularly Manuka honey that appear to speed up the healing process in combination with the common antioxidant properties.
Now time to hand over to Carol to share some of the wonderful ways you can incorporate honey into your diet.
Honey, Nectar of the Gods.
What a brilliant post from Sally on the benefits of honey, there is nothing like locally produced raw honey if you can get it, if not buy the best honey you can either Manuka or Propolis honey, you will reap the benefits health and taste wise.
Where do I get my honey? Well my first bottle ……I was sitting on the beach with my sun downer…..fending off the ever-present sellers of touristy bits and bobs……when a man appeared carrying a very heavy-looking bucket ….what did he have…Well I had to look and what a surprise…it was fresh, very fresh honeycomb..and he strained the most glorious bottle of fresh honey…I just had to purchase it…the taste was so fresh and very slightly scented…amazing and a beautiful golden colour.
Just the thing to make some delish Honey, Coconut and Lemon Pancakes.
This recipe makes 5-6. Ingredients:
- 2/3 cup of coconut flour.
- 1 tbsp of honey.
- 1 cup of coconut milk.
- 8 eggs.
- 1/4 tsp of baking soda.
- Coconut oil or butter for frying, lemon wedges and extra honey to serve.
Place all of the pancake ingredients in a large bowl and combine well. Heat a frying pan on medium-high heat and add one teaspoon of coconut oil, covering the base of the pan while it melts. Add a large scoop of pancake batter into the frying pan and cook until the top of the pancake begins to bubble and has started to cook. Flip the pancake over and cook for a further 1-2 minutes or until the pancake has cooked through. Repeat with the remaining batter then serve with a drizzle of honey and a lemon wedge for squeezing the juice over the pancakes.
Now I have moved to the North of Thailand I get my honey straight from the comb…I am so lucky and I know that and it is beautiful.
I always take a little apple cider vinegar with a spoonful of honey in hot water first thing in the morning…on an empty tummy I have been taking it for a couple of years ..it is said to fight off joint inflammation and I don’t suffer from joint pain or anything…..
Almond and mixed nuts
Need a quick gift or a healthy snack then these almonds or mixed nuts are delicious and super easy to make. Just mix honey into some raw almonds or nuts of your choice and sprinkle them with sea salt. Bake for about 25minutes in the oven…You can even get creative with the spices…a little chilli or cinnamon….
Honey mixed with Dijon mustard makes a lovely glaze for BBQ meats. Or one of my favourites is ¾ cup of honey, 1 tbsp red chillies finely chopped, 1 tbsp green chillies finely chopped and 1 tbsp lime juice. Mix all together and leave for 1 hour in fridge it is then ready to use.
Another wonderful dip for a cold meat platter on a summer’s day…
- 2 tbsp oil,
- 3 garlic cloves chopped,
- 1/2-1 tsp red pepper flakes,
- 1/3 cup honey,
- 2 tsp soy sauce,
- 2 tsp rice vinegar,
- ¼ to ½ cup water
- and 2 tsp cornstarch.
- In a small bowl stir together the honey, soy sauce, rice vinegar, ¼ cup of water and the cornstarch.
- Put the oil in a medium saucepan over a medium heat and let the mix warm up for about 30 seconds, add the garlic and cook until fragrant and just starting to colour, 15-20 seconds max.
- Add the red pepper flakes and cook for another 15-30 seconds until garlic is very lightly browned.
- Restir the honey mixture and pour into the saucepan, bring to a simmer stirring, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 mins stirring frequently.
- Add more water if desired.
You now have a lovely dip for your cold platter.
What I also love is chilli infused honey… Place honey in a saucepan and warm until it reaches 180 degrees on a sugar thermometer. Watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn. Then pour your honey over a jar of chillies. Cool to room temperature.
Beautiful with meat or fish….
For a lovely honey, ginger and mint tea which not only tastes great but is full of health benefits as it is anti oxidant and anti flammatory.
- Take a 1 inch piece of fresh ginger and chop finely or grate.
- 2 cups of water
- The juice of 1 med lemon or lime about 3 tbsp
- 2 tbsp honey
- Mint leaves.
- Bring the water to the boil and steep the ginger fro 10-15 minutes, add the honey and lemon juice then strain to catch the ginger bits although if I have grated the ginger then I leave it in. Add the mint.
- Serve hot or cold …I like it chilled and keep a jug in the fridge.
Well, we can’t leave you without a cake to have with your elevenses or afternoon tea… Can we???
This lovely honey cake is beautiful and lasts for 4-5 days wrapped and stored in an airtight container.
I definitely need airtight and ant proof container here as those pesky little sugar ants get in the smallest of gaps they even get in unopened packets…grrrr
- Oven 140C Fan/160C/Gas 3.
- Grease and line a 20cm round loose bottomed cake tin.
- 250 gm clear honey plus 2tbsp to glaze cake.
- 225 gm unsalted butter
- 100 gm raw cane sugar
- 3 large eggs beaten
- 300 gm unbleached SR flour
- Cut the butter into pieces and put in a pan with the honey and the sugar once it has melted then increase the heat and bring to a rolling boil for 1 minute. Then leave to cool for 10- 15 minutes as you don’t want the eggs to scramble.
- Once the mix has cooled down beat the eggs into the mix then add the mix to the sieved flour. Beat until smooth.
- Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 50-60 minutes until well risen and golden brown. A skewer should come out clean.
- Turn the cake out onto a cooling rack and melt 2 tbsp of honey and brush the top of the cake with the melted honey.
- Leave to cool.
Well that all for this week I hope you have enjoyed mine and Sally’s collaboration because we love doing it.
©Recipes Carol Taylor
If you love it then please share with your friends or reblog as we want to show as many people as we can that good, healthy food need not be expensive or hard to find it is just normal foods you can grow yourself or buy from your farmers market or local store.
My thanks to Carol for another fantastic array of foods that bring honey into the spotlight.
You can find out more about Carol and catch up with her Food and Cookery Column HERE
Connect to Carol via her blog: https://carolcooks2.com/
Thank you for dropping in today and if you have any questions for either of us then please do not hesitate to ask in the comments. Your feedback is always welcome.
Please feel free to share thanks Sally