By- Meena Ganagani,Practicing Clinical Nutritionist,Mumbai.
Honey is the natural sweet, viscous substance produced by honeybees from the nectar of blossoms or from the secretion of living parts of plants or excretions of plant sucking insects on the living parts of plants, which honeybees collect, transform and combine with specific substances of their own, store and leave in the honey comb to ripen and mature. Honey has been a common sweetener for foods and a powerful medicinal tool for centuries. It is the simplest and often the best way to soothe a sore throat and it can be taken at any time.
Honey has proven safety for use. Compared to glucose and sucrose, it has lower glycemic and incremental indices in type I diabetic patients. It is simple sugars are absorbed directly into bloodstream without digestion and can serve as an athletic aid. (1)
Honey is one of the most appreciated and valued natural products introduced to humankind since ancient times. Honey is used not only as a nutritional product but also in health described in traditional medicine and as an alternative treatment for clinical conditions ranging from wound healing to cancer treatment.
- Traditionally, honey is used in the treatment of eye diseases, bronchial asthma, throat infections, tuberculosis, thirst, hiccups, fatigue, dizziness, hepatitis, constipation, worm infestation, piles, eczema, healing of ulcers, and wounds and used as a nutritious supplement.
- The ingredients of honey have been reported to exert antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative, anticancer, and antimetastatic effects.
- Many evidences suggest the use of honey in the control and treatment of wounds, diabetes mellitus, cancer, asthma, and also cardiovascular, neurological, and gastrointestinal diseases.
- Honey has a potential therapeutic role in the treatment of disease by phytochemical, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties. Flavonoids and polyphenols, which act as antioxidants, are two main bioactive molecules present in honey.
- According to modern scientific literature, honey may be useful and has protective effects for the treatment of various disease conditions such as diabetes mellitus, respiratory, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and nervous systems, even it is useful in cancer treatment because many types of antioxidant are present in honey. (2)
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends honey as a natural cough remedy.
Types of Honey
There are about 320 different varieties of honey originating from various floral sources. The flavor, color, and odor of a specific type of honey are depending on the various liquid sources of the flowers and plants visited by the honey bee. Assorted types of honey are comparable in terms of temperature, rainfall and seasonal and climactic changes. Honey color ranges from light brown to dark brown depending on where the honey bees buzzed. (3)
Replacing added sugar in the diet
Honey’s sweet flavor makes it an ideal substitute for sugar in the diet. Added sugar in the diet provides excess calories with no nutritional benefit. This can lead to an increased body weight, which comes with an increased risk of high blood pressure and diabetes.
Honey can be added to food and beverages to sweeten the taste without the negative health impact of added sugars. However, since honey is still a sweetener, it is important to remain mindful of how much honey being is used. (4)
Are there any risks?
In addition to beneficial prebiotics and nutrients, raw honey can also carry harmful bacteria such as Clostridium botulinum. This is particularly dangerous for babies. Raw honey should never be given to an infant less than a year old. (5)