By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
If you’re a honey-lover, hold onto your hat because I’ve got some sweet news for you.
The health benefits of honey—which date back to ancient civilizations and include treating burns, wounds, infections, and GI upset (to name just a few)—now include helping to keep your heart healthy, too.
I think this is fantastic. I’ve always used honey as my go-to sweetener because it’s more natural than table sugar or artificial sweeteners. To know that it’s benefiting my heart and health just “sweetens the deal.”
Before I dig into what makes honey heart-healthy, you need to know two important rules for consuming honey in order to gain its benefits. First, you have to eat it in moderation—no more than a teaspoon a day. Second, the honey should be raw. Raw honey is the only kind of honey that will boost your health in noticeable ways because of its high vibrational properties and because it contains the highest amount of nutrients when compared to other honeys.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the sweet benefits…
Honey Can Help Fight Inflammation
The first and foremost heart health benefit of raw honey is its ability to help reduce inflammation.
In addition to sugar and water, raw honey contains flavonoids, polyphenols, and other antioxidant micronutrients. These antioxidants increase your natural ability to both neutralize inflammation-causing free radicals and prevent the oxidation of unused LDL cholesterol.
The result? Less damage to the delicate endothelial lining of your arteries and less inflammation. By keeping inflammation to a minimum, you’re putting the brakes on dangerous plaque buildup in your arteries and helping to protect yourself against a heart attack or stroke.
The exact amount and combination of antioxidants in a jar of raw honey depends on which plants the bees gathered nectar from. Generally, though, the darker the honey, the more antioxidant power it packs. (It’s like red wine this way.) Buckwheat honey, in particular, has been shown to significantly raise antioxidant levels in the blood.
Honey Can Reduce Your Insulin Response
Another heart-healthy benefit of raw honey is that it prevents insulin from spiking as significantly as table sugar and other sweeteners.
Too much insulin in the bloodstream leads to arterial damage, inflammation, and eventually heart disease. It’s the reason why I believe refined sugar is one of the most dangerous things we can put in our bodies.
Avoiding sugar altogether is one way to prevent these things, but frankly, it’s not a very realistic one. It’s a much better approach to keep healthier, more natural alternatives to sugar—like honey—on hand for occasions when you want to add a touch of sweetness to what you’re eating.
Just keep in mind that raw honey still contains natural sugar, so just don’t go overboard with it. Even though honey won’t cause the same kind of insulin response table sugar does, you will still get one—so it’s a good idea to help offset that by also having some healthy fat, protein, or fiber at the same time as the honey.
Honey Helps Improve Cholesterol and Circulation
If you’re looking for a little extra help optimizing your cholesterol ratios, substituting sugar with raw honey may get you over the hump.
We know from research that honey can help lower triglycerides (blood lipids that are harmful when elevated) and raise HDL (“good” cholesterol)—the two most important lipids when it comes to heart health. (Make sure your triglyceride-to-HDL ratio doesn’t exceed 5:1.) One thing to keep in mind in regards to this research is that the marked improvements seen were small, so simply eating more honey probably won’t get you the outcome you’re looking for. You’ll see the best results by combining a little bit of honey every day with foods included in my Pan Asian Modified Mediterranean diet.
Honey has also been linked with lower LDL cholesterol, but I wouldn’t worry about that particular number unless yours is 250 or higher.
As a bonus, there’s also some suggestion that the micronutrients in honey have positive benefits on blood viscosity and arterial function. The more easily your blood flows, the less likely you are to have high blood pressure and blood clots.
Honey Is a Good-Vibe Food, Too
Last (and perhaps most importantly), I love raw honey because it’s a healthy-vibrational food.
The idea behind healthy-vibrational foods began with the ancient Greeks. They believed that the energy of the foods you take in directly affects the energy your body is able to put out—except “energy” wasn’t limited to nutritional value. It also included the energy of nature.
For example, they loved bee pollen and considered it a superfood, in part because it contained healthy ingredients, but also because it contained the energy of bees and of the sun. Greek athletes even ate it to improve strength and endurance.
If you’re saying right now, “Doc, bee pollen and honey are two different things,” well, you’re right. But they’re produced by the same bees and the same flowers, under the same sun—which makes honey a good-vibe food in my book.
Plus, the Greek take on energy is spot-on when it comes to your heart.
No other organ burns as much energy in a day. Feeding your body nourishing healthy-vibrational foods like honey instead of sugar helps to keep the cells in your heart healthy and well-balanced—and if your heart is strong, the rest of your body will be, too.
Don’t Get Stung by “Fake Honey”
You can safely eat raw honey every day in small amounts, but as I mentioned earlier, try not to exceed a teaspoon (remember, honey is still mostly sugar). Many people use it to sweeten tea, oatmeal, or cereal, and I also know folks who like it on whole-grain toast.
There’s really only one word of caution I’d offer when it comes to honey, and that’s to make sure the product you’re eating is truly raw. Here’s how you can tell:
- Beware of grocery store products. Unfortunately, a lot of the honey on store shelves is so highly refined that it’s nothing more than flavored syrup. It’s anything but raw—and it contains no nutritious nectar at all! (Check out this investigation by Food Safety News.)
- Avoid products that look “too clean.” Raw honey undergoes minimal filtration, so it will have a hazy and sometimes opaque appearance.There may even be bits of wax or insect parts in it. These harmless bits of unfiltered raw materials are completely fine to eat, and are a sure sign that the honey came from a living beehive and not a factory.
- Buy from a farmer’s market or a local beekeeper. You’ll want to ask these producers how they prepare their honey, just to be sure. But usually, this honey is as close as you can get to sticking your hand directly into the hive.
I’ve been searching for an ideal honey for several years now, and am excited to announce that I’ve finally found one! My raw, high Connecticut-sourced honey is now available at Vervana.com!
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