We will begin our analysis of sweeteners with a traditional fructose produced by nature’s honeybee. History’s first record of the use of honeybees is found in the hieroglyphics of the sun temple erected in 2400 BC in Cairo, Egypt. Honey is recorded throughout history as a sweetener and for its valuable medicinal properties. So, is it appropriate for a nourishing diet today? Allow the following paragraphs to equip you to decide.
Honey, as a carbohydrate, provides a source of energy. In 1040 BC, Jonathan, Israel’s prince and warrior, was refreshed by a taste of honey in between battles: “So he put out the tip of the staff that was in his hand and dipped it in the honeycomb and put his hand to his mouth, and his eyes became bright.” 1 Samuel 14:29. Similarly to 1 Tbsp. of table sugar, which has a Glycemic Load (GL) of around 12, 1 Tbsp. of honey is about 10. (GL of 20 or more is high; GL of 10 or more is medium; GL of less than 10 is low.)* However, there are many things which set it apart from table sugar.
First of all, honey is a whole food in contrast to refined sugar. Remember, it takes 3 feet of sugar cane to make 1 tablespoon of sugar (raw or bleached). Raw honey is a gem that does not need to be processed in order to be enjoyed. Because of this, it contains the nutrients and enzymes required for proper digestion. Actually, honey provides an extraordinary dose of the enzyme amylase derived from the pollen of flowers. This is the enzyme which functions to digest starch. If you spread honey on a starchy food, it will actually predigest it before your salivary and pancreatic amylase pitch in. (Note: It very important to only buy raw honey, because once it has been pasteurized, the vitamins, minerals, and enzymes are destroyed.)
Secondly, raw honey can help to buffer allergies. This is in part understood by the theory of immunotherapy--which explains that when we consume the pollens collected by the bees (through honey or pollen granules) it helps our bodies build immunity to the allergens. However, the antioxidants in honey also strengthen our immune system and allow us to more effectively fight allergies. (Note: Local honey provides the obvious choice for fighting allergies to which you are susceptible.)
Last of all, this beneficial sweetener is used to promote the healing of wounds and burns. This has been particularly evident with Manuka honey, produced in New Zealand from the manuka bush. Honey contains antibacterial properties (it contains good bacteria which fight the bad) preventing the growth of infectious microorganisms in the wound or burn. For this reason, it is also healthy for our digestive systems’ gut ecology. Infants younger than 1 year of age should not ingest honey, because they may lack sufficient stomach acid and become ill.
So, what is the verdict on honey? Emphatically, this is an amazing sweetener! However, how much and how often you use it should be determined by your bio-individual health. If you have blood sugar handling concerns (including excess weight or diabetes) the use of honey should be minimal. Although, after nutritional therapy, it’s possible to reintroduce this sweetener, since it provides so many other health benefits! For others, whose goal is just to maintain a nourished body, my only caution is to be aware of how accustomed your palate is to sweets. If you depend on honey to enjoy a tea or fruit, it may be ideal to cut out honey for a season. Then when you reintroduce it, your taste buds will be more attuned to its sweet strength. Observe the wisdom of Proverbs 25:16 “Have you found honey? Eat only as much as you need, lest you be filled with it and vomit.” Meaning, moderation should always be the goal-- a little honey, even 1-2 tsp, goes a long way!
Thus, whether you buy raw honey from Sunny Cove Farm, The Rogue Carrot, or your neighborly beekeeper, I hope you enjoy this nutrient-rich, Thriving Health approved sweet.
*Refer to previous article for Glycemic Load definition.
 Howell, Edward, and Maynard Murray. Enzyme Nutrition: the Food Enzyme Concept. Avery Pub. Group, 1985.