Honey has long been known for it’s health-enhancing properties, dating back 5,000 years ago to the ancient Egyptians. It has remained a trusted natural remedy, still used often in various forms of alternative medicine.
Honey’s place in the kitchen is a more recent development. Once scarce, it was available only to the wealthy as an ingredient for cooking. Over time, it became commonplace, used by many cultures as a natural sweetener.
Honey vs. Refined Sugar
In recent years, refined sugar has all but replaced the natural alternatives like honey and maple syrup. But is it an even swap? Not even close. Although honey and refined sugar are both comprised of fructose and glucose, the body processes them very differently. The particular molecular structure of honey results is a more gradual rise in blood sugar levels – not the spike often associated with refined sugar.
Requiring little to no processing, honey is also able to maintain valuable nutrients. Refined sugar, on the other hand, is so processed that any of the trace minerals that originally existed in the sugar cane have completely disappeared.
Kitchen Tip: Refined sugar can easily be replaced by honey in most recipes. Because it is a bit sweeter, you can use less honey than sugar – about 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of honey for every 1 cup of sugar. Also, to avoid having too much moisture, reduce other liquids in the recipe by 1/4 cup.
HOW TO SELECT
There are many different types of honey to choose from. Some of the more common include clover, wildflower, alfalfa and orange blossom. When selecting honey, a couple things to consider are:
Dark vs. Light: The color of honey is determined by the nectar source used to make the honey. In most cases, lighter-colored honey has a milder flavor. Darker honey tends to be richer and more robust. Studies also indicate that darker honey has a higher level of antioxidants.
Raw vs. Pasteurized: Most store-bought honey goes through a mild pasteurization process to keep it from crystallizing and/or fermenting. During this process, the honey is exposed to elevated temperatures that can have an adverse effect on its nutritional value. In contrast, raw honey is just that – raw and unrefined. It may be filtered to remove any remaining wax but that is it. The honey is no different than when removed from the hive.
HOW TO STORE
Aside from being deliciously healthy, honey also rarely goes bad. If stored properly, it can have an indefinite shelf life. Honey is best kept in an airtight container, in a dark place at room temperature. Colder temperatures will cause it to thicken. Exposure to higher temps will alter its flavor and cause it to darken in color.
Over time, honey may crystallize. No worries. If you would like to return it to it’s liquid form, simply place the honey’s container in a bowl of lukewarm water for 20 minutes or so. Good as new.
There are many believed health benefits to honey. A few include:
Stable energy source. Unlike the more common refined alternatives, the sugars in honey enter the blood stream more gradually. Instead of experiencing an energy spike and subsequent drop, increases in energy are more gradual and sustainable.
Soothes sore shroats. Honey has long been known to reduce the discomfort that comes with a nasty sore throat. During a recent study, buckwheat honey proved to be a more effective sore throat remedy than today’s store-bought medicine, dextromethorphan.
Prevents chronic disease. Honey is right up there with apples, strawberries and oranges in terms of its level of antioxidants, protecting the body from potentially harmful free radicals.
Heals cuts & burns. Although honey isn’t the first thing we think of when it comes to healing our scrapes and scratches, it is proven to be highly effective. The antimicrobials in honey prevent infection and promote healing.
Check out a few delicious ideas for getting your honey fix:
And don’t forget… honey heals!