As a follow on from the recent series on the Weekly Grocery Shopping List of foods that contain the nutrients the body needs that contain the nutrients the body needs I am going to repeat my series from 2017 on the health benefits of some of our most common foods.
Food therapy is a broad term for the benefits to the body of a healthy, varied and nutritional diet of fresh foods.
Most of us walk through the fresh produce departments of our supermarkets without really paying much attention to the individual fruits and vegetables. This is a great pity because the vast majority of these foods have been cultivated for thousands of years, not only for their nutritional value but also for their medicinal properties. If you eat a healthy diet you are effectively practicing preventative medicine. A robust immune system, not only attacks external opportunistic pathogens, but also works to prevent rogue cells in the body from developing into serious disease.
NOTE – If you are on any prescribed medication do not take yourself off it without consultation with your doctor. If you follow a healthy eating programme and lose weight and are exercising you may not need the same dose and with your doctor’s agreement you may be able to reduce or come off the medication all together.
This week it is the turn of honey which has been providing sweetness to our diet for thousands of years. First a 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: Coolmore Bees Cork
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, anti -viral and anti-fungal agent is Propolis, the glue that bees use to seal the hive and protect the colony. 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.
Whilst I only take supplements at certain times of year, one that I take from September onwards is propolis in capsule form, through to April ( I have taken longer in 2020). There have been some studies on the action of propolis on virus strains and the conclusion was that it prevents replication of the virus: NCBI – Propolis
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
- 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.
I use a range of organic Manuka skincare for face and body and it actually works out less expensive and less polluted then many of the expensive brands.
If you would like to know how to add honey into your diet on a regular basis, Carol Taylor has some delicious recipes in this post from 2018: Cook from Scratch with Honey
©Sally Cronin Just Food for Health 1998 – 2020
I am a qualified nutritional therapist with twenty-two years experience working with clients in Ireland and the UK as well as being a health consultant on radio in Spain. Although I write a lot of fiction, I actually wrote my first two books on health, the first one, Size Matters, a weight loss programme 20 years ago, based on my own weight loss of 154lbs. My first clinic was in Ireland, the Cronin Diet Advisory Centre and my second book, Just Food for Health was written as my client’s workbook. Since then I have written a men’s health manual, and anti-aging programme, articles for magazines and posts here on Smorgasbord.
If you would like to browse my health books and fiction you can find them here: My books and reviews 2020
Thank you for dropping in today and your feedback and questions are very welcome.. thanks Sally.