5 Amazing Health Benefits of Honey (+ Recipes!)

Featured Article, Healthy Recipes and Nutrition, Nutrition
on January 16, 2015
health benefits of honey
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Call it an oldie but a goodie: Honey has been hailed for its health benefits since ancient times; even Aristotle (384 BC) hyped honey’s healing qualities. Today, researchers are finding that many historical claims about this sweet nectar may be true. Honey is about 70 to 80 percent sugar (fructose and glucose), which is why it’s so sweet. The remaining 20 to 30 percent is composed of valuable minerals and water. But there’s more. Honey also possesses antiseptic and antibacterial properties that seem to fight infection and aid chronic wound management. And, that spoonful of honey for a cough? There’s truth to that, too. Check out what researchers are saying about the health benefits of honey:

Acid reflux: Honey may help prevent GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. Scientists claim it is honey’s viscosity, or thickness, that seems to help prevent stomach contents from leaking back into the esophagus.

Gastroenteritis in infants and children: A study in the British Medical Journal revealed that when infants and young children with bacterial diarrhea were fed honey, the duration of their symptoms was shortened significantly. In addition, the sugar content from the honey was safely used as a substitute for glucose in the oral rehydration solution (a solution that also contains electrolytes).

Wounds and burns: When applied topically, honey may alleviate the symptoms of bacterial skin infections, including cellulitis and Staphylococcus aureus (eliminating the need for oral antibiotics in some cases). Scientist discovered that honey contains bee defensin-1, an antimicrobial peptide that kills bacteria and, in some cases, helps prevent infection from developing in the first place. Manuka honey (honey produced in New Zealand and Australia from the nectar of the wild Manuka tree) has been shown to kill bacteria by destroying key bacterial proteins. It’s even been effective in treating MRSA (antibiotic resistant bacteria that is difficult to treat), chronic leg ulcers and pressure sores. In fact, Manuka is the basis of Medihoney, which the FDA approved in 2007 for use in treating wounds and skin ulcers.

Allergies: Honey may reduce the symptoms of seasonal allergies, such as stuffy nose and itchy, watery eyes. How? Researchers are working on scientific proof, but anecdotal evidence of honey’s positive effect on allergies is based on the prevailing theory that eating honey every day is similar to gradually vaccinating the body against allergens. Honey contains a variety of the same pollen spores that give allergy sufferers symptoms, so introducing these spores into the body in small amounts gets the body used to them and helps prevent an immune system response (such as the release of histamines, which causes symptoms).

Colds: Buckwheat honey seems to reduce the early symptoms of a cold by calming and soothing inflamed membranes and easing coughs. In a study of over 100 children, buckwheat honey beat out dextromethorphan (a cough suppressant) and diphenhydramine (an antihistamine) in suppressing nighttime coughs.

Now that we’ve got the healing qualities covered, let’s start cooking! These three recipes celebrate honey’s sweet addition to both sweet and savory dishes

Honey tips and facts

  • Always select 100% natural honey, not artificial honey
  • Opt for darker-colored honey; in general, the darker the honey, the better its antibacterial and antioxidant power
  • Honey comes in many varieties, depending on the flower source and nectar gathered by the honey bee; sample a few to see what you like best
  • Honey producers may apply to the USDA for a “grade”, but their score has nothing to do with the honey’s color. Honey is judged for clarity, aroma, flavor, and the absence of sediments, such as honeycomb particles.
  •  Never give honey to an infant due to the risk of botulism (botulism spores are found in dust and soil and can make their way into honey; an infant’s immune system isn’t developed enough to defend against this type of infection)

Honey-Pecan Glazed Chicken

honey glazed chicken

You may substitute almonds or pine nuts for the pecans if desired.

Ingredients:

  •  Cooking spray
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves (about 4 ounces each)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons honey, the darker the better
  • 3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 lemon, juice and zest
  • 1/4 cup pecan pieces
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Directions: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat a shallow baking pan with cooking spray. Arrange the chicken in the prepared pan and season the top with salt and pepper.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, and 1/2 teaspoon finely grated and lemon zest. Pour the mixture all over the top of the chicken.
  3. Place the chicken in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the chicken from the oven and spoon over any honey glaze from the pan. Arrange the pecan pieces all over the top. Return the chicken to the oven and bake for 5 to 7 more minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.
  4. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and garnish with chives. Serves 4.

Cucumber-Radish Salad with Honey-Lime Vinaigrette

cucumber radish

Ingredients:

  • 2 limes, juice and zest
  • 2 tablespoons honey, preferably dark
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard or country-style grainy mustard
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 English cucumber, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
  • 1 cup sliced radishes (sliced into 1/8-inch thick rounds)
  • 4 red lettuce leaves

 Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the juice of the two limes (about 3-4 tablespoons), 1/2 teaspoon of finely grated lime zest, honey, oil, parsley, and mustard. Whisk until blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Add the cucumber and radishes and toss to coat.
  3. Arrange the lettuce leaves in a shallow serving bowl. Spoon the cucumbers and radishes over the lettuce leaves and drizzle the dressing over top.Serves 4.

Greek Yogurt with Raspberry-Honey Swirl

yogurt

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup frozen raspberries, keep frozen until ready to use
  • 2 tablespoons honey, preferably dark
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt, any variety
  • 4 teaspoons prepared granola

Directions: 

  1. In a small saucepan, combine the raspberries, honey and vanilla extract. Set the pan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Simmer 2 to 3 minutes, until the raspberries break down. Remove the pan from the heat and strain the mixture through a fine sieve to remove the raspberry seeds.
  2. Spoon the yogurt into four individual bowls. Top each bowl of yogurt with the raspberry mixture and stir a few times to create a swirl. Top with granola. Serves 4.