Recently the TV show 60 Minutes aired an amazing segment on the toxicity of sugar. The research that has gone into this broadcast is groundbreaking for mainstream media and I applaud their efforts. Many us in the complementary health field have been telling the world for years that sugar is destructive. Having scientific studies to back us up is exactly what we need to get the message out there about the toxicity of sugar.
In this 60 Minutes show, honey was lumped in with the rest of the sweeteners as equally problematic as refined cane sugar. I would say in many cases when a consumer is buying “honey” they are in fact buying a highly processed product that is primarily refined sugar with a bit of honey flavour thrown in. Honey laundering is a dirty business and an area of the food industry that is not very well monitored.
Raw unpasteurized honey is a different animal from other sweeteners. It contains small amounts of Folate, Choline, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium and Selenium but the biggest benefit is the Hydrogen Peroxide.
Here is an excerpt from Wikipedia:
When honey is used topically (as, for example, a wound dressing), hydrogen peroxide is produced by dilution of the honey with body fluids. As a result, hydrogen peroxide is released slowly and acts as an antiseptic.
Use for diabetic ulcers: topical honey has been used successfully in a comprehensive treatment of diabetic ulcers when the patient cannot use topical antibiotics.
Acidity: the pH of honey is commonly between 3.2 and 4.5. This relatively acidic pH level prevents the growth of many bacteria.
Nutraceutical effects: antioxidants in honey have even been associated with reducing the damage done to the colon in colitis in a study involving administering honey enemas to rats. Such claims are consistent with its use in many traditions of folk medicine.
So is it okay to consume honey on a daily basis?
It really depends on you. If you are an athlete that requires carbs to refuel your muscles, etc. then a daily dose of raw honey is fine. If you have any issues with candida, I would seek the advice of an ND and cut out all sweeteners all together. The 60 Minutes segment suggests 150 calories per day in sweeteners for men and 100 for women. That would be about two tbsp of honey per day (1 tbsp has 64 calories). As they suggest, maintaining your blood sugar level is key to so many health issues, so if you can spread your honey consumption over the course of the day with other nutrients such as healthy fats, fibre and protein, you are better off.
Sugar cane is my personal kryptonite. I actually have an allergic response to it that can be detected in minutes. I work to keep my blood sugar even all day long with a balance of carbs from vegetation along with organic protein and healthy fats. I barely consume extra sweeteners, even in the form of honey, for my own health needs. My 18-year-old athletic nephew, on the other hand, benefits from consuming 300 extra calories from honey or dates (with raw nuts or coconut to slow the absorption process) post workout as much of this fuel goes directly back to his muscles. Without the proper glycogen stores in the muscles athletes do not have the fuel to burn during a workout.
When it comes right down to it, many of us really don’t “earn” our carbohydrate intake. If you want to consume large amounts of organic concentrated forms of carbohydrates such as raw honey, dates, raisins or maple syrup, then you have to start increasing your activity level to keep your blood sugar balanced.
Julie Daniluk, RHN, hosts Healthy Gourmet, a reality cooking show that highlights the ongoing battle between taste and nutrition by using unique groups such as bikers, dragon boat racers and ballroom dancers to challenge their taste buds with nutritious foods. Julie is excited that her show was chosen to be part of OWN (the Oprah Winfrey Network). Similar to Oprah’s book club, programs on OWN explore stories of strength and transformation. Television viewers also recognize Julie from her “busted” segments on The Right Fit (W Network) and The Marilyn Dennis Show (CTV) where she examines the foods people need to stay healthy, acting as a nutrition encyclopedia. Her fun and engaging style comes in handy when she creates a recipe a week that is packed with health tips for www.chatelaine.com. Her new book Meals That Heal Inflammation is available in stores now.