By Cheshire Que, RND, RN, RD
Revered for its therapeutic effects in ancient times, honey has long been used as food and medicine. Due to seemingly lack of scientific studies, however, honey and its health benefits have played an insignificant role in modern medicine. Plus the fact that honey is technically made of sugar and people are fearful about the consequences of sugar consumption.
Honey is primarily composed of simple sugars fructose and glucose. It contains more fructose, which is the sugar found in fruits. Glucose is the simplest form of sugar that circulates in the blood. It is the preferred source of energy by the brain and body. It is stored in the form of glycogen in the liver and muscles.
Some studies suggest that fructose may cause obesity, insulin resistance, fatty liver disease, elevated LDL or bad cholesterol, and triglycerides. According to the European Food Safety Authority, however, fructose is preferred over sucrose (table sugar) and glucose in manufacturing food and beverage because of its lower effect on blood glucose level, especially after meals.
Given these conflicting ideas on the effects of fructose on our health, what then is the gist behind honey consumption? Is honey good or bad for you?
Honey and Diabetes
To understand how sugar affects the body, we need to consider two factors. First is the Glycemix Index (GI), which is the measurement of how a carbohydrate containing food impacts the blood sugar level. Second is Glycemic Load or GL, which determines the amount of carbohydrates a food contains and its effect on the rise of blood glucose after consumption (GI). Ideally, food items with lower GI and GL must be chosen. A GI of 70 and above is considered high as well as a GL of 20 or higher.
Twenty-five grams of honey has a GI of 61 and a GL of 12, which is lower than that of ordinary table sugar and glucose. Studies also show that food and beverages sweetened with fructose cause less impact on blood sugar level compared to those manufactured with sucrose or glucose.
It is important to take note that honey and sugar have the same amount of calories even if they have differences in their impact on blood sugar levels. So, if you are watching your weight it is best to consider the total amount of calories you are consuming. But then again, fructose in honey makes it much sweeter than table sugar so you tend to consume a lesser amount, ergo lesser calories, too!
If you have diabetes mellitus, consume moderate amounts of honey during a meal. The protein sources you eat will help decrease the absorption rate of sugar preventing undesirable peaks in your blood values. Honey is a better choice than refined sugar.
We have just concluded that honey is safe for individuals with diabetes as long as it is consumed within their total caloric allowance per day. After all, we shouldn’t blame food all the time. Not even sugar or rice for that matter. Wake up and accept reality. It is uncontrolled eating behavior and limited movement or physical activity that makes us sick.
Other health benefits of honey
Aside from honey being a source of energy, an excellent one for athletes, it also boasts a number of health benefits as evidenced by studies. The most common is being an effective cough suppressant. It also has antimicrobial properties that help fight infections and promote wound healing. It has anti-inflammatory effects, anti-allergy, antioxidants, and potential anti-cancer properties. It promotes a healthy digestive tract and heart health. It aids in increasing good cholesterol, thus decreasing bad cholesterol and triglycerides. It can also improve sleep and mood.
Honey sounds like a miracle food that is why we see it everywhere being sold. But apiculture expert Dr. Cleofas Cervancia warned consumers during the launch of Langnese Honey early this year, to be familiar with brands that are authentic because as she said: “People adulterate it to exploit for business.” Filtered honey no longer has pollen, which is the one that contains health benefits. Dr. Cervancia advises consumers not to trust labels that claim pure honey, unless the brand passes the standards set by the Codex for International Federation of Honey and EU standards.
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