"More than 30 years ago, there was a big push by the doctors and the government to get people to eat less fat. That was to help lower the rate of heart disease. Low fat they said means heart healthy. So, out went the fat, but in many foods, to keep them tasting food, in went more sugar. And so, here we are today, as you've heard me say over and over again, we as a nation are more unhealthy than ever. Not to mention fatter. You've heard a lot of theories as to why, but one in particular is getting a much closer look. It's about sugar. Everybody knows too much is bad, but I have been surprised to see just how bad." ~ Dr. Sanjay Gupta
|Good things to look for on a honey label: Organic, Raw and Unfiltered.
Honey is alchemy of the highest order. Merriam-Webster defines alchemy in this way: a power or process of transforming something common into something special.
Honey from our friend the bee is transformed from pollen, as we all know, and in a magical process, is converted into a sweet, thick and heavenly ambrosia. I can't think anything more mysterious, delicious or just bursting with the power of nature than honey.
"...honey has long been an important food in the human diet. Its fructose to glucose ratio is similar to that of high fructose corn syrup, with about 38% fructose and 31% glucose (the rest being primarily water). Honey also contains enzymes and other proteins, trace minerals, flavonoids and other polyphenols.
Although honey is “Paleo” even in the strictest sense, it can be easy to think of it as just another source of sugar; better than table sugar, perhaps, but still an indulgence that should be kept to an absolute minimum. Sugar is sugar, right? On the contrary, increasing evidence indicates that honey is a functional food with uniquely beneficial physiological effects.
For example, two human studies found that supplementing with 3-5 tbsp of honey per day (depending on body weight) increases serum antioxidant levels, including vitamin C and glutathione reductase. In another study, the same dose of honey lowered plasma prostaglandin levels by 48-63% after 15 days, signaling a reduction in inflammation.
In overweight and obese patients, consumption of about 3.5 tbsp honey per day for a month resulted in lower LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and C-reactive protein (particularly in people with elevated values), and higher HDL cholesterol. In another study, honey also reduced levels of homocysteine and blood glucose.
So armed with this information and the realization that, "Wow, honey isn't just a more natural form of sugar—it actually promotes health and weight loss!", I resolved a few months back to make a more concerted effort to use honey in my diet and eliminate refined sugars as much as I possibly can. Stevia is another valid choice for a natural sweetener, but it has a bitter after taste for me, and regrettably, I am not a fan.
The problem with honey though, is that I have found it to be inconvenient to use. It is gloppy, messy, and sticky and is hard to measure accurately. It also doesn't combine well into cold drinks. In addition, it crystallizes if is sits in your cupboard for too long, and high heat destroys its beneficial properties. What changed all that for me, however, was learning how to make simple syrup from honey, prompted by the Worthybar Paleo Margarita recipe. This little asterisked comment at the very bottom of the post caused a light bulb to turn on in my head:
* Honey syrup can be made by simply combining equal parts honey and filtered hot water (not boiling!), then stirring to incorporate the two. I suggest using a lighter honey, such as raw clover honey, as you don't want the flavor of the honey to overpower the drink. You can make 8 to 16+ ounces at a time and store in a sealed bottle or container in the fridge for up to a month.
|A nose dive into a coriander, aka cilantro, bloom.
|Check out my visit to Heidrun Meadery and more information about bees and Colony Collapse Disorder.
Honey Simple Syrup
I have found a multitude of uses for honey simple syrup since I began making it. I keep a jar in the fridge at all times. I use it when make my day off Mocha on Saturday morning. On this hot summer afternoon while I am writing this post, I am using it to sweeten my iced Chai. It is also great for cocktails (simply replace equal parts of simple syrup with honey simple syrup). It can also be used for smoothies, vinaigrettes or anything else that would benefit from a touch of sweetness.
|I have found that the squeeze bottle purchased at my local restaurant supply has been
a very handy dispenser for the honey simple syrup.
Raw unprocessed honey (light honey will produce a more neutral flavor)
Use one part honey to one filtered water. In the simple syrup I am making in the photo, I scooped the honey from the one pound jar into the empty two pound jar. I then pour hot water (not boiling) in the just emptied small jar to the top. Stir the hot water in the jar to incorporate all the remaining honey, and then pour it over the honey which is now in the large jar. Do not stir. Place lid on jar and allow to sit for about 30 minutes. This will allow the hot water to slowly soften the honey, and it will become easy to mix. It also helps keep the honey cool, preserving all of the health benefits. When honey is softened, stir until the water is well mixed in, and then I usually finish off my simple syrup by giving it a good shake to make sure that all the honey is dissolved. Transfer honey simple syrup into a covered container and store in the refrigerator. It will last at least a month—most likely longer since honey is naturally antibacterial.