Benefits of honey

About honey – Part I

Today, I am going to tell you about the benefits of raw honey. This is a very short summary from what I read about honey in beekeeping magazines with my own thoughts added. I will list the resources at the end.

As most people already know, bees forage for nectar mostly on flowering plants. Those flowering plants need bees and other pollinators’ invaluable services in order to procreate, and, in return, they offer something very valuable to them: a source of easily absorbed energy, i.e. carbohydrates. These simple carbohydrates include sucrose, glucose, fructose and others. They need to be predigested and stored in the hive. Honey is sweeter than sugar, because it contains more fructose. As the bees collect their nectar they add at least three recognized enzymes: invertase, diastase and glucose oxidase. Invertase continues to break down sucrose (which some nectar sources contain more or less) into glucose and fructose; diastase breaks down starch (more complex sugars) and glucose oxidase helps to break down glucose into hydrogen peroxide and gluconic acid.

So, that is a lot of information for now. Let’s see what it means for us. The three most common types of sugar in honey (sucrose, fructose and glucose) are each digested differently. For diabetics, it is important to avoid glucose (it does not get broken down), and since honey has a lower glycemic index but is even sweeter than sugar, honey is better. Honey contains mostly fructose, which is absorbed into our bodies using the liver, not pancreas. Fructose is the easiest sugar to absorb. I am not advocating eating a lot of any kind sugar, by the way, but if I had to choose between glucose and fructose, I would always choose fructose. Now, about the sucrose. Sucrose needs to be broken down into glucose and fructose and most of it does, actually, thanks to that enzyme that the bees regurgitate with the freshly made honey: invertase. Invertase is very important to me, because my children have a lot of allergies and digestive disorders and part of the problem is that they don’t produce enough digestive enzymes. Undigested food travels into their small intestines causing all sort of allergic reactions, bacterial infections and yeast growth. For that reason, we completely removed table sugar (sugar cane, beet, coconut) from our diet. For that same reason, I will never heat my honey. Heat destroys enzymes. My children may be enjoying the sweetness of honey, but I enjoy the fact that they are getting a load of enzymes with it, which help them digest their food. Each morning, we start with a bowl of gluten free (uncontaminated with flour, basically) oats, little almond oil or coconut oil and a spoon of honey. If the honey is fresh, the porridge turns runny.

The important part: If the honey is from the last year’s stores, it will remain viscous. If you are buying “fresh” and “raw” honey at the market, you can test it by making yourself a starchy breakfast and testing if the enzymes in the honey start breaking that starch down for you. OK, enough for today. Some time in the future, I will continue the honey series.

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