Honey has been used for centuries in a variety of foods and drinks for flavor and sweetness. Shayna Komar, a licensed and registered dietitian at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont, shares the ins and outs of what makes honey — particularly the raw, unpasteurized variety — a great staple to have in your diet today.
What are the health benefits of raw honey?
Choose raw honey to reap the most benefits.
“Raw honey is honey in its simplest form,” says Komar. “It has not been processed, heated or pasteurized.”
Has antiseptic and antibacterial properties. Studies have found manuka honey from New Zealand to be effective in treating chronic wound infections and throat conditions brought on by head and neck cancer.
Becomes alkaline in the gastrointestinal tract and helps balance out acid-forming foods.
Is naturally fat-free.
Contains some potassium.
Which honey is best?
Komar recommends both manuka honey as well as local, raw honey. Raw honey can be found at farmers markets, health food stores and some larger grocery stores. Komar recommends checking the label to see if it has come from your area.
Can honey help with allergies?
While honey’s ability to help with allergies has been debated and studied for years, research indicates honey does not reduce allergy symptoms. The pollen that blows in the wind triggers allergies, not the pollen bees collect from flowers to make honey. Honey is made up of a variety of pollens, but flower pollen usually dominates.
How to fit honey into a balanced diet
Get your daily dose of honey:
Stir into yogurt
Drizzle over fruit or cereal
Add to a smoothie or shake
Spread on toast
Add to a cup of hot tea or lemon water
Blend into stir fry or sauces
Komar believes honey retains its health benefits even when it is heated at high temperatures. However, she advises against heating it over 95 degrees for a long period of time. Some research indicates it may lose some of its nutritional value in this case.
And while honey offers some health benefits, it should be enjoyed in moderation.
“Honey is a sugar, so it should be limited in a food plan just as any sugar should,” says Komar. “It can be a less processed alternative to other sugars, but it is still sugar and it still has calories. But if used in moderation, it is a better alternative.”
Note: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that honey should never be fed to children under 1 year old because it may contain bacteria that leads to infant botulism.
Check out more nutrition tips from Cancer Wellness experts.