When you think of natural sweeteners, what do you think of? Coconut sugar, coconut syrup, date syrup, brown rice syrup, stevia, monk fruit…maybe even organic cane sugar. But what about honey?
This natural food (and yes, it is a food and not just a sweetener) has taken a bit of a dip in popularity in recent years as the low-carb craze took over, but it’s on the Carnivore Scores Food Ranking chart now for a reason. Honey is a whole, ancestral food, period—and it’s one that humans have been eating for over 9,000 years for a reason. Records from ancient civilizations like Mesopotamia and Egypt show evidence of beekeeping, and honey has only continued to grow in popularity over time, especially because it offers such impressive healing and medicinal properties. It is so much more than something that tastes sweet.
Honey is as whole and unprocessed as you can get since it naturally comes from bees (carnivore advocates even claim it as their own!), and carries very low anti-nutrient concerns. Another bonus? It never gets old—seriously: honey never expires (although it can spoil if it has been improperly stored, so keep it sealed at all times; if not it can absorb moisture that makes it possible for bacteria to survive). Beyond that, it’s a superfood—far from being a simple sweetener or sugar source, honey also comes with organic acids, minerals, vitamins, enzymes, proteins, amino acids, and bioactive substances. Yes, it’s still a source of quick carbs, however, these carbs are so different from processed sugar due to all the antioxidants and benefits it contains.
Honey is powerful. It has impressive antiviral, antimicrobial, and antiseptic properties and can alleviate symptoms of acid reflux, cough, sore throat, and upper respiratory tract infections. Studies have looked at the therapeutic role honey can play in treating various diseases and have found its phytochemical, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties make it a natural therapeutic agent for various medicinal purposes. It has prebiotic properties (which help maintain a healthy balance of beneficial bacteria in your gut) and is also extremely helpful in treating (and speeding up healing for) wounds and burns. It also contains the sugar trehalose—this is notable because trehalose activates a protein that causes immune cells to actually remove fatty plaque from your arteries.
Studies comparing honey to refined sugar have found that honey lowered fasting glucose, cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and the liver enzyme ALT. Honey is also high in nitric oxide metabolites (even higher when it is raw and unfiltered), which is important because nitric oxide metabolites deficiency has been linked to histamine responses, allergies, and inflammation and it can influence metabolic function. Studies have looked into the effect honey has on athletic performance and found that consuming honey during exercise heightens athletic performance and provides nearly identical benefits to that of popular sports drinks and gels and that it may even have a positive effect on bone health.
There is one variety of honey that deserves its own special shoutout because it contains specific properties and benefits that outshine regular honey’s abilities: manuka honey. All honey has wound-healing properties, but manuka honey is on another level. It is one of nature’s richest antimicrobial sources—so effective that the FDA approved it as an option for wound treatment in 2015 because of its ability to help with tissue regeneration, superficial partial thickness burns, diabetic and gastric ulcers, eyelid wounds, post-surgery scars, and recovery. Studies also show that manuka honey can help prevent dental plaque build-up and that its antibacterial properties can help successfully treat the increasingly antibiotic-resistant H.pylori bacteria (a gastric infection that up to 50% of the world’s population has).
Personally, I began incorporating more raw honey into my diet when I started my energy balance experiment in May of 2022 and began eating more carbs, more calories, and fasting less. I also started picking up really nice raw honeycomb around this time (the kind you get at a good natural foods store) and would take a spoonful of honey after my morning workout, and also drop a bit more into my evening tea. I have felt great since I started consuming honey and have zero adverse effects to report (probably because honey is a superfood), so don’t be sugar-phobic people—you’re missing out on too much good stuff!