how sweet it is

A roughly 8,000-year-old cave painting in Spain shows a person climbing a ladder to collect honey from a hive, illustrating that humans have been using this sweet treat since ancient times. Egyptian hieroglyphs even show both honey and beekeepers. Hives and honey had many uses: from culinary to healing to monetary.

Fast forward to the present. Although honey is no longer used as currency, it is a wonderful sweetener, and its healing properties are no longer an old wives’ tale. Science has shown honey to have antibacterial properties and is also considered an antioxidant, due to the amazing variety of nutrients contained within. And research is ongoing to see how honey may help in fighting certain cancers and other conditions.

To be clear, we are not talking about honey that comes in little bear-shaped containers. Rather, we are referring to raw unfiltered honey, ideally sourced from the beekeeper. Many beekeepers sell their honey at farmers’ markets and you can also find raw honey, clearly labeled, in health food stores and some supermarkets.

At this point, it’s only fair that I disclose I am a huge proponent of eating whole foods, which are as close to their original form as possible. The challenge here: most honey purchased in a grocery store is not a whole food. It has been adulterated and, in that process, lost much of its nutrient value.

What happens? Most of the honey found in your local supermarket has been ultra-filtered or pasteurized, and the heating process in pasteurization kills off many of the nutrients. Pasteurization does, however, keep the honey in a liquid state and prevents it from fermenting. Depending on the company, some honey has added ingredients, such as high fructose corn syrup and hidden chemicals. None of these should be part of your diet.

For at least the past 10 years, there have been reports of imported honey being found to have dangerous chemicals. Honey is big business and, according to a recent article in, honey is the third most faked food in the world. An additional problem is that many of the fake honey exporters put fake labels on the jars so we, as consumers, might not be able to tell what we are buying. Yet another reason to support your local beekeepers and purchase raw honey!

If you have ever had raw honey, direct from a local beekeeper, you will know that the taste is different from what comes out of those little plastic bears. And, all raw honey does not taste the same; it varies depending on what plants the bees are pollinating. It can be fun to do a blind taste test and find your favorite.
As already mentioned, raw honey is an antioxidant, antibacterial and helpful for healing wounds. Honey is also antifungal, meaning that honey has all sorts of medicinal properties, used both internally and topically.

Manuka honey, used topically, has been shown to be especially effective for wounds, rosacea, acne, chapped lips, skin irritations, and dry skin care. Real Manuka honey comes from the bees that pollinate the Manuka bush, which grows primarily in New Zealand. New Zealand is on the other side of the world so, naturally, Manuka honey is much more expensive than local honey. Unfortunately, some of the products are also adulterated. The best way to tell if it is real is to check the label for a UMF rating.

Even with all these amazing properties in raw honey, it is still a form of sugar. We should eat only a small amount each day.

WARNING: Anyone allergic to bee stings needs to be very cautious when using honey, as there is a possibility of reacting to the pollen in the honey.

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