Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bloomfield's Badass Foods: Honey

I find it quite odd, sometimes, that being healthy is seen as a chore; that a lot of people believe we have to sacrifice tasty noms and treats in order to eat healthy foods. This is an especially strange viewpoint when you consider that one of the most common food and drink sweeteners is also amazingly good for you!

Honey is probably one of the most nutritious foods out there, as well as being a super sweet treat! It's fantastic for many reasons but I think we should start with considering how easy it is to eat - which is surely the most important aspect of all foods. Amazingly enough, it comes to us ready prepared by our industrious little bee chums. Just think about that - it astounds me just as much as it astounds Eddie Izzard.

I absolutely love honey. I have it in my earnest and wholesome porridge every morning and it really livens up what could otherwise be a dull and dreary breakfast routine. Yet honey isn't just a tasty sugar substitute to sweeten up Scottish foods; it's much more than that.

The Energy Source
Honey has an average calorie count of 65 per tablespoon, compared to 15 per tablespoon of ordinary white sugar. Whilst this might alarm some hardcore calorie counters, please don't start tossing the honey aside yet; the sugars in honey are much more easily digested due to it being a combination of the natural sugars glucose, fructose, maltose and sucrose. It also allows the body to absorb the minerals it has in it far more easily than refined sugar would (if refined sugar has any mineral value at all!)

The Vitamin and Mineral Monster
That's right: honey not only maintains the mineral balance in your body, which is crucial for proper functioning of processes like digestion) but it also contains several of the B vitamin complex, which help with sugar metabolism and promote a feeling of wellbeing, especially in the case of thiamine. it also commonly contains vitamin C, calcium and iron, regardless of regional difference in the flowers that the bees visit.

The Healer
Honey has always been used as a traditional medicine, both inside the body and out. It has been used to treat sore throats, coughs, cankers of the mouth and lips, stomach ulcers, high blood pressure and lastly (but never least) constipation. That's right; if you can't go, get some honey down you! It has a therapeutic effect on the mind as well as the body, soothing and calming, especially when eaten with hot water and lemon. The hot water allows for better digestion, the honey gives a pleasant taste and a vitamin injection and the lemon gives the classic vitamin C boost as well as being an antiseptic. Put stock in old wives cures, because sometimes they work!

The Hayfever Fighter
Locally-sourced honey is an excellent way to bolster your immune system, especially if you suffer from hayfever and other irritations. By exposing yourself to low amounts of local pollen within the honey, most people will desensitize themselves to those particular pollens before spring's brutal onslaught on the olfactory regions! Getting some locally-sourced honey will help your sniffles as well as supporting local producers too, which is super important now that honey production is decreasing worldwide as the bee population takes a hit. You can try manuka honey too, which is famous for its echinacea and ginseng-gathering bees, but I find that locally-sourced honey works better. My girlfriend's severe hayfever symptoms have been greatly reduced since we upped our honey intake from a local farm!

The Fungus Foe
Honey is a fantastic enemy of the overgrowth of internal bacteria, and can help promote the correct and stable growth of the "good" bacteria in your gut. This will help keep your digestive system working well and getting the most from the B vitamins that come in with the honey, as they are partly digested by bacteria on the body's behalf.

You're Pollen My Leg!
Bee pollen is a tremendous food: 30% protein and packed full of a large concentration of minerals such as vitamins A, C, D, E and the B complex. The protein contained in it is complete and offers more essential amino acids than meat! Vegetarians, toss aside that soy nonsense and give yourself a decent amount of pollen every week. Not only is it a dietary powerhouse but it is also far less allergenic than airborne pollen. You can take 20g or so for a normal supplement or 40g for a therapeutic dosage.

I'm sure my honey bleatings have become tiresome by now, so let me wrap this up by offering my top tips for getting good quality honey, wherever you are in the world:

1) Buy local! This will increase the quality generally and mean that you have more chance of reducing hayfever symptoms. As with most locally-sourced foods, it tends to be tastier too, with a more varied and subtle flavour than the coarse, overly-sweet offerings from the big producers.

2) Buy multi-floral honeys and avoid mono-florals! This will increase the type of pollen you are exposed to and will also avoid your immune system being hammered by single-flower honey!

3) Try a variety! Find some tasty honey that suits your tastebuds. It's well worth the effort and will add a lot of punch to your day. Keep on giving yourself this tasty treat and you'll find that a change in perception is not far off!

The simple way to describe honey is this: it is good for you, and will give your body a serious helping hand to feel great every day!


  1. Very informative! Just wondering with the buy local thing; what happens if you live away from where you were born / grew up?

    I guess my question is, is the ability of the honey to impact on your hay fever related to the type (geographically) of pollen you are ingesting, or is it down to your reactions based on your immune system and how it has learnt to over react based on the pollens it encountered as you grew up?

    Hope that makes sense!

  2. Great question! My understanding of this is that it is the nature of the pollen you're ingesting rather than the stuff you were exposed to growing up, so you should buy local to wherever you are living. I'll let David catch this one for a real answer though!

  3. Hi Tom,

    Sorry for the lateness of the reply, been a busy pre-Christmas for this weaselly nutrition man!

    The question you ask is an excellent and pertinent one. The simple answer is that it is better to eat the honey from the area you live in locally NOW.

    This is for two reasons, one, that you live there and are going to need to adapt to the local flora at some point and two, by ingesting the pollen in the honey from your new local area, you are ensuring your body can adapt to the area's pollen more quickly. Pollen in its raw airborne state is quite tough and can be an irritant, whereas honey transmits the same pollen but in far less irritating shapes and sizes. This means that you can adjust to the effect of the pollen from that area much more quickly and with no adverse effects. A much better alternative than rocking up, turning bright red and spotty and sneezing the place down!