They finally wanted to know whether honey really protects against so many ailments. And whether it is true that you sleep better or have more energy when eating honey. For this reason, the Austrian Beekeeping Association commissioned some scientists to carry out a detailed study.
The study with EU funding selected 50 healthy participants between the ages of 25 and 65 who had hardly consumed honey before. Now they had to consume at least two tablespoons of honey a day. The results are interesting. Several blood tests were made before and after the test period.
The eating habits should be maintained as before the study, just two full tablespoons of honey were added every day! That brings extra calories. How will this influence the weight after the eight weeks and what about the blood sugar?
Honey and the Sweet Tooth
84% of the study participants regularly craved something sweet, being chocolate the most popular snack. Now the two tablespoons of honey were added every day. But lo and behold, the desire for chocolate disappeared in almost everyone. Only one person continued to nibble on their sweets every day. 76% said they found it easier to snack less or nothing at all. Honey can therefore satisfy the desire for sweets very well.
Honey consists of 52% fructose. This type of sugar is slowly absorbed in the small intestine and therefore does not lead to blood sugar spikes. The honey also provides small amounts of vitamins B1, B2 and B6. These play an important role in energy metabolism. They also help convert simple sugars into the storage form, glycogen. Glycogen is stored in the liver and muscles and is released again between meals for a stable energy supply. That is also the reason why the additional honey consumption did not affect negatively the blood fat parameters. Total cholesterol, HDL, LDL, triglycerides and uric acid hardly changed. An excess of refined carbohydrates like table sugar and white flour usually has a negative impact on fat metabolism. Refined carbohydrates result in blood sugar spikes, and as soon as glycogen stores are full, excess carbohydrates are converted into harmful fatty acids. Such a diet also lacks the B group vitamins.
Honey and Obesity
58% of participants were struggling with obesity. But the changed attitude towards sweets also shed some extra pounds. 23 people were able to reduce their weight in these eight weeks. One person even by 5 kilograms, although she had “nibbled” 3 tablespoons of honey every day. Although honey is sweet, it does not cause addictive behavior. In addition to fructose, honey also contains other types of sugar. After consuming honey, blood sugar rises slowly but steadily and then remains constant for a long time until it slowly falls again. Because it also leads to a lower insulin secretion, there are no cravings during meals. A steady blood sugar curve also ensures that the feeling of satiety lasts longer. So honey can even help you lose weight.
Honey and Sleep
Of course, sleep problems may be the result of grief, stress, excitement and fear. However, waking up at night can also result from a sharp drop in blood sugar levels during the night when nothing is eaten. Honey provides, as we have seen, a slower drop in blood sugar curve. Before the study, 31 participants said they slept well. After eight weeks numbers increased to 43 subjects.
Honey Keeps You Fit
Serotonin, a hormone-like substance, elevates our mood and our ability to concentrate. Although some foods contain serotonin, it cannot pass through the blood-brain barrier to enter the brain. So it has to be formed there directly. But for this the brain needs all the components and the right vitamins. Honey meets these conditions, thus promoting the formation of serotonin in the brain. Honey for breakfast is therefore a good energizer.
Honey Reduces Headaches
Headaches have many causes. One reason may be magnesium deficiency. If that is the cause, the blood vessels become more sensitive and cramp more easily. This leads to lack of oxygen and causes headaches. Also, a high-protein and low-carbohydrate diet can lead to a headache because the brain then suffers from a lack of serotonin. But serotonin stimulates the brain to produce pain-relieving substances. This effect is particularly pronounced when little protein is eaten. 34 people had regular headaches before the study. In the end, only 17 were still affected.
Honey and Leg Cramps
40% said before the study of suffering from leg cramps. After the test phase it was only 30% and those who had eaten three or more tablespoons of honey suffered even less from leg cramps. This has to do with the magnesium content and the B vitamins in honey.
Honey Improves Digestion
Before the study, 20 people stated that they did not have regular digestion. After the test, only five were unsatisfied. Honey ingredients such as pollen, potassium, acids and fructose are the reason for this. Lactic, malic and tartaric acid promote the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria. Acetic, butyric, and gluconic acid contain putrefying bacteria. The result is a healthy intestinal flora. This in turn has a positive effect on the immune system.
Honey and Immune System
The different cell types of the lymphocytes were examined by means of special tests. The T lymphocytes are the immune police in the body. They fight off bacteria and viruses before they can multiply. In infectious diseases, many such cells are activated to form antibodies. Another police force are the natural killer cells. They kill tumor cells and cells infected with viruses. They track down cancer cells that are often caused by free radicals. The honey diet increased the proportion of T lymphocytes by 6 percent and the proportion of natural killer cells by as much as 20%.
Honey and Free Radicals
Free radicals act like terrorists in the body. They cause genetic defects in the cell nucleus, which can lead to the formation of cancer cells. They also tear holes in cell walls and they are involved in the development of many diseases. The body has several ways to intercept free radicals. Among other things, the so-called antioxidants are included. These are vitamin C and E, flavonoids and enzymes, as well as trace elements such as chromium, copper and zinc. Honey also contains a lot of such radical scavengers. This could be shown well by measuring the free radicals in the blood before and after the honey diet. The free radicals in the subjects’ blood decreased by up to 40%. Blossom honey showed a greater effect than forest honey because it contains a higher flavonoid content from the pollen.
With this honey study it was possible to scientifically show what popular wisdom has long known: honey is healthy. Its valuable ingredients have a positive effect on the intestinal flora and thus the entire immune system. It has 20% less calories than sugar, while providing more sweetness at the same time. Part of its value is due to the fact that it is not being heated during production. All other alternative sweeteners such as maple syrup, agave syrup, molasses, sugar and cane sugar were heated to a high temperature during production. But like all other sweeteners, honey should be used with moderation. Excessive use can be detrimental for blood sugar levels, the immune system and much more.
Tips for Honey Use
The most popular and easiest use is honey bread. It is advantageous to use cream honey to spread it on bread. For sweetening drinks it is easier to use a liquid one because it dissolves more quickly. But if you want to sweeten a pudding or grits with honey, the problems begin. The result is watery. And if macaroons are baked with honey, you notice that they quickly are soft and chewy.
There are dishes that cannot be made with honey. Honey does not go well with starch such as corn, rice or potato starch, arrowroot flour or some sauce thickeners with starch. Even dishes thickened with wheat flour become more liquid again when sweetened with honey. Why? Honey contains a starch-breaking enzyme called diastase. This causes the starch to split and the pudding or cream liquefies again. Just if honey has been boiled for a long time that the diastase is destroyed. If you want to thicken dishes with honey, you have to use agar agar, locust bean gum or gua gum. Breadcrumbs can also be used to thicken sauces.
A sugar glaze to decorate a cake cannot be made with honey. Caramel won’t work either because honey browns too quickly. When nuts and oatmeal are roasted with honey, they burn very quickly and also quickly soften again. Preserving jam with honey has also not proven to be effective, unless you make cold-stirred jams from fruit purees and honey. I myself make a delicious rose hip jam this way every year.
Honey Crystallization and Durability
Any honey not treated with heat will crystallize sooner or later. Some honey varieties stay liquid for longer. Many beekeepers also offer a cream honey. The honey is stirred for a while during the crystallization process so that large crystals that are felt in the mouth cannot form. The honey stays creamy and spreads easily on the bread.
If stored correctly, honey has an almost unlimited shelf life. Honey has inherent antibacterial properties, and was even used to mummify dead bodies. But of course, the consumer wants a fresh product. That is why a good beekeeper limits himself to a shelf life of two years. Honey should always be stored with the lid tightly closed, since it attracts moisture and odors. Properly stored, it does not require refrigeration. If too cold, it does not develop its flavor to the fullest.
If honey is crystallizing, it is a sign that he has never been treated with heat. But as already said, some honey varieties crystallize very late. If you want crystallized honey to become liquid again, you heat it gently in a water bath, stirring frequently.
The cheap, liquid types of honey were usually treated with heat when being filled, to speed up the process in industrial filling stations. But a good beekeeper doesn’t do that. He has patience and knows how to treat correctly his natural product. He gently heats solid honey to around 40 degrees, then it is reaching a consistency that can be portioned using the filling system. To maintain the nutritional qualities, add honey to tea after cooling down, and to dishes preferably after cooking.
There is a wide range of varieties available. Therefore, there will always be personal preference. In the case of unifloral honey, more than half must come from the specified plant. This can be determined by a pollen analysis. Caution is advised with varieties of a pronounced inherent flavor if you want to sweeten with them, since they can significantly alter the taste of a dish. But certain drinks or baked goods may call for strong-flavored varieties.
Without much inherent flavor is acacia honey. The rapeseed honey is delicately sweet, almost white in color. Forest honey tastes pleasantly spicy, is dark and less sweet than blossom honey. It comes from honeydew secretions of certain insects. Dark honey varieties tend to have higher concentration of minerals.
Mild honey rounds off the flavor of sour dishes. Food with acidity such as lemon juice as well as sour fruits or vegetables taste much better if the sharpness of the acids is softened by honey. Depending on the amount, half a teaspoon to a full teaspoon or, with salad dressings, just a knife tip is sufficient.
When baking with honey, it should be noted that honey browns the pastries faster than sugar. So turn back the heat a little. Honey is sweeter than sugar. Depending on the variety, 110 – 160 g correspond to around 200 g sugar. Honey has a certain amount of water. Therefore reduce the liquid content a little.
Admittedly: good honey has its price. But it’s worth it. The bees work without labor union and without wages. But the beekeeper is many hours behind his colonies. Even if the bees are no longer flying, he still has a lot of work to do for the next year. Then there are also production failures due to bee diseases or cold weather. No toxic products are allowed to be used in the treatment of the colonies. Otherwise they would destroy the bees or pass into the honey. Good quality has its price everywhere.
Honey from the region is a food with a short transport route. It therefore also contributes to environmental protection. Bees provide pollination work for the region. When beekeepers can no longer market their products, they reduce their colonies. The pollination activity for the regional flora is lost. The beekeeper already has many problems with introduced bee diseases, fire blight, plant protection and mysterious colony deaths. Think about supporting your local beekeeper by buying regional honey.
- 1 cup honey
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 1/4 All-Purpose Flour
- 1 teaspoon yeast
- 1/2 cup finely chopped blanched almonds
- 1/2 tablespoon soy lecitine or 2 tablespoons flaxseed
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
- 2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
- 1 teaspoon ground or finely grated ginger
- 3 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground sweet anise
- In a large bowl, beat together honey, soy lecitine, and the lemon and orange peel. If you use flaxseed instead of soy lecitine, soak them in a little bit of water for 2 hours and blend well.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and stir well. The dough will be stiff and sticky. If needed, add a little bit of water to be able to form the dough.
- Cover the bowl and put into the fridge overnight.
- The next day: Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Lightly grease a cooking sheet.
- On a floured surface, roll the dough open and cut out cookies in your preferred shape and transfer to the sheet.
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. The cookies will be still soft and will harden when cooling down.
- Store the cookies in an airtight container with a slice of apple (for its softening powers). If you make the lebkuchen 2 to 3 days ahead of time, they'll taste even better and be softer. They'll last for several weeks.
Peanut Oat Cookies
- 3 cups oats
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1 cup roasted peanuts
- Beat the peanuts in a blender with a little water to form a cream.
- Pour into a bowl and put the remaining ingredients, mix well.
- Make cookies in the format you want.
- Bake in moderate heat until golden brown.
- 1 cup cooked wheat
- 1 handful of coconut
- 2 tablespoons of honey
- 1 pinch of salt
- Wash the wheat and soak for 12 hours.
- Wash again and cook for 40 minutes in the pressure cooker.
- Blend half of the wheat with the coconut and 1 cup of water.
- Pour into a pan together with the rest of the wheat and raisins and bring to a boil for 5 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and add honey.
- Serve in bowls and decorate with pieces of coconut, apricot or other dried fruit.
Sweet Bulgur Bowl
- 1 cup of bulgur wheat for kibe
- 1 cup of coconut
- 3 tablespoons of honey
- 1 pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon orange peel
- 1 cup orange juice
- 2 small grated apples
- 2 tablespoons of honey
- 1/2 cup chopped plums
- Liquify 1 cup of coconut with a 1 1/2 cup of water.
- Place the bulgur in a bowl, mixing with the coconut milk.
- Add the orange peel, salt and honey.
- Put into the refrigerator overnight.
- The next day, place the dough in individual forms and bake for approximately 40 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, wait for it to cool slightly and cover with the syrup.
- Peel the apples and grate.
- Mix with orange juice and plums.
- Bring to a boil for about 5 minutes over medium heat. If necessary, add a little water.
- ½ cup water
- 1 cup unsweetened peanut butter
- ½ cup honey
- 1 tablespoon carob powder
- 1 pinch of salt
- In a blender first put the water and then the other ingredients
- Blend everything together and then place in a glass jar with a lid
- 10 cups of rolled oats
- 1 cup of water
- 1 cup of chopped Brazil nuts
- 1 cup chopped almonds
- 1 cup chopped dried apple
- 2 cups shredded coconut
- 1 cup of honey
- 1 cup raisins
- 2 teaspoons salt
- Put all the ingredients, except the raisin, in a large bowl and stir well.
- Pass the ingredients to a large sheet (or two small ones) and bake at 180ºC (350°F).
- Every 15 minutes open the oven and with the help of a spoon stir the granola (repeat this process for about 5 times or until the granola is very dry).
- Remove the baked granola from the oven, add the raisin and store in a large glass jar or smaller pots.
Coconut Cream with Plumb Syrup
- 1 liter coconut milk 1 quart
- 6 tablespoons cornstarch
- 5 tablespoons honey
- 1 pinch of salt
- 10 chopped dried prunes
- 1 cup of water
- 2 tablespoons of honey
- Blend 1 coconut with water to make the milk (Or buy an industrial coconut milk).
- Place in a saucepan and bring to a boil
- Add the cornstarch dissolved in water and boil for about 5 minutes over low heat and finally add the honey.
- Place the plums, water and honey in a saucepan, boil a few minutes until a slightly thick syrup forms.
- Allow the cream to cool slightly and place in bowls.
- Decorate with the syrup and grated coconut and refrigerate for about 4 hours to harden.
Esther Neumann studied Nutrition at the University of Vienna. Since then she served as an author for the health magazine “Leben und Gesundheit” and conducted health lectures in various locations of Austria.