I don’t know about you, but I hated honey as a kid. I thought it was cloyingly sweet and without flavour. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that the store-bought honey I disliked isn’t really honey at all: it’s a heavily processed honey-like product, that is often cut with high fructose corn syrup, to make it cheaper. Real honey—raw, unpasteurized honey—as it turns out, is delicious and insanely flavorful. Depending on the time of year, or the flowers its made from, it can be light and floral, or dark like molasses. Not only that, this natural sweetener is extremely nutritious: loaded with enzymes, vitamins and minerals — clearly raw honey benefits are plentiful.
Here are our top seven benefits of consuming raw honey:
Honey has been used for thousands of years to help with the relief of cold symptoms. And with good reason: a 2007 study found that honey was effective at reducing nighttime coughing in children—even more so than cough medicine. Just take a teaspoon of honey 30 minutes before bed (either in a cup of hot water, or on its own) to feel its soothing effect.
High antioxidant levels and a variety of probiotics make honey a great tool in preventing illness and strengthening the immune system. Probiotics work by increasing the good bacteria in our gut, and fighting off bad bacteria, while antioxidants work to protect immune cell damage. Take a spoonful everyday, or add to a hot cup of ginger tea when you’re feeling under the weather.
We are only just starting to learn about the nootropic effects of honey. Raw honey is rich in antioxidants known as polyphenols. These polyphenols enhance memory function, reduces cellular damage, and reduce inflammation in the brain. One study found that menopausal women who took 20g of honey every day for four months had better short-term memory than those who didn’t. Raw honey often contains royal jelly—the food of the queen bee—which contains acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate memory and improve focus.
Honey’s antibacterial properties and high pH may help to treat wounds and burns. Manuka honey in particular, has been studied for its healing properties, and a study in the British Journal of Surgery found that patients with leg wounds and sores showed remarkable improvement after using honey topically.
Unlike conventional honey, which has been ultra-filtered and processed at high temperatures, raw honey is only lightly filtered and still contains small amounts of pollen. As it turns out, that pollen may be able to help relieve allergy symptoms. This might sound counterintuitive, but the theory behind it is that it acts as a vaccine, exposing the body to small amounts of pollen, and triggering an immune response in the body. To make the most of this effect, buy local honey, as this will allow your body to build an immune response to the very pollen in your environment triggering your allergies.
Despite its sweetness, raw honey may be a healthy sweetener option for diabetics: studies have found that raw honey lowers blood plasma glucose levels, increases insulin and reduces hyperglycemia. Even more interesting, combining raw honey with cinnamon—which is also known for its ability to regulate blood sugar—gives it low glycemic effect. Use raw honey in baking, or drizzle on yogurt and fruit with a dash of cinnamon—and ditch the white sugar for good!
Forget about your energy drinks—honey is one of the best sources of carbohydrates to get the instant fuel (and pick-me-up) you need. Because it’s mostly sugar, it’s easily absorbed by the body, making it a great way to fuel up before and after a workout. You can even take it by the spoonful or add it to a snack to fight off the midday fatigue that plagues your workday!
So there you have it: seven ways raw honey benefits your performance every day. Do you eat raw honey? What’s your favorite way to include this nutritious powerhouse into your diet?
Tisha Riman is a Holistic Nutritionist, a Wellness Chef-in-training and the blogger behind The Nourished Mind – her little corner of the Internet to share whole food recipes, healthy living tips, and maybe (always) talk about her pets. She’s a lover of delicious food, fact-based nutrition, red wine, a good sense of humor and dark roast coffee. She also works as a Recipe Developer, Content Creator, Nutritional Consultant and Food Stylist.