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Is honey healthy? All fables and facts at a glance!

  1. There is as much discussion about few foods as about honey. One calls it a super healthy sweetener, the other claims it is no better than regular sugar. In addition, the studies and medical terms fly across the table on both sides. What do you still have to believe?

  1. Unfortunately, the honey debate sometimes makes very selective use of scientific literature. Worse still, sometimes outright falsehoods are proclaimed. In this article we list all the facts and fables. Is honey healthy, or is it disappointing?

Fact or fable about honey?

  1. Below we list ten claims about honey that you often see passing by. For each statement we discuss whether it is a scientifically substantiated fact, or rather an unreliable fable! On the basis of these ten points, we ultimately see whether honey can be called healthy.

  1. A common argument: honey is better than sugar, because honey is natural, and sugar is not. Sounds nice, until you think about it a little longer. The term â € naturalâ € ™ does not mean very much. Sometimes food becomes unhealthy because it is processed, but sometimes also healthier. Consider, for example, fermentation or cooking legumes. So something is not necessarily healthier if it is â € naturalâ € ™.

  1. And besides â € “why should sugar be â € unaturalâ € ™? Doesn't it just come from beets or other plants? And honey is also heavily processed before it reaches the supermarket… All in all, this difference between honey and sugar is more a case of clever presentation, not an actual difference. A myth, so!

  1. A variation on the same argument is that the sugars in honey are different from those in, for example, granulated sugar. We can be brief about that: that is not the case. Honey contains a combination of fructose and glucose, just like other sugars.

  1. Yet it is said that the sugars from honey have a different effect on your body. For example because it contains â € the perfect ratio of glucose and fructoseâ € ™. Or because it would have a lower glycemic index and therefore absorb the sugars more slowly.

  1. However, that is quite disappointing. According to this study (table 2), ordinary table sugar has a GI of 60. For honey, the GI is on average 58 - hardly any difference, so. For some varieties the GI can be a bit lower, but that certainly does not apply to the honey you find in the supermarket… This is also a myth.

  1. It is true that honey contains slightly less calories in sugar per 100 grams, approx. 300 kcal against 400 kcal. This is not because honey has a completely different composition, but because honey contains a little more water. That â € dilutesâ € ™ the sugars, leaving relatively less energy.

  1. So theoretically you could save some calories by replacing all your sugar with honey. Unfortunately, honey is also slightly less sweet than sugar. Many people end up using a lot of extra, so that you end up with just as many calories. So this is a fact - but one that you should be careful with.

  1. Health blogs often make a lot of fuss about the many vitamins and minerals that honey is said to contain. All essential micronutrients are said to be found in honey! Doesn't that prove that honey is healthy?

  1. Well… not really. The amount of vitamins and minerals in honey is also still relevant. And it turns out that it is not exactly high. Or, as this research says: “The vitamin level in honey is low and does not come close to the recommended daily intake.” In other words, the amount is too low to contribute to your daily intake.

  1. In addition, the honey in the supermarket is often highly heated, filtered and otherwise processed. As a result, many vitamins and minerals have been further lost. All in all, the so-called high nutritional value of honey is a myth.

  1. Then: honey is said to be full of antioxidants, and thus offer protection against diseases such as cancer. That is partly fact, partly fable. It is true that honey provides antioxidants, substances that prevent cell damage in your body. However, the effect of those antioxidants needs to be investigated even more closely. Claiming that honey prevents cancer is therefore much too strong.

  1. Nice to know: the antioxidant activity of honey is not the same for all types. According to this study, dark honey contains more active antioxidants than light honey.

  1. As a home, garden and kitchen remedy, honey has many medicinal properties. For example, it could cure colds and sore throats. Indeed, there is some evidence that honey can relieve some symptoms. For example, children appear to suffer less from a cough if they take a portion of honey before going to bed.

  1. However, no evidence was found for more than symptom control. It does not seem that sore throats have healed faster overall. EFSA has therefore rejected claims in that direction due to lack of evidence.

  1. It does seem that honey in general has an antibacterial effect. Its effectiveness with internal use is not yet entirely clear, but externally it may yield more results. Honey is sometimes used to disinfect wounds.

  1. In some cases the results are spectacular. For example, in this study, honey could even heal wounds where the bacteria resisted common antibiotics. However, this review indicates that results from other studies were very contradictory: sometimes not much effect was visible.

  1. Besides a natural antibiotic, honey is also sometimes called a probiotic. That means it would be good for the bacteria that live in your gut. These gut flora are more important than you might think: they determine a lot of your health and may even affect your mood.

  1. Unfortunately, a lot of research on this topic has not been done with 'ordinary' honey, but with fortified honey or supplements. Research with normal honey on mice does suggest that honey strengthens the healthy intestinal flora. This may well be a fact, but it is not entirely certain yet!

  1. It sounds so good: a spoonful of honey a day and your memory will improve. A study with that conclusion was therefore received with great enthusiasm in some circles. Unfortunately, there are a few drawbacks. For example, this is an exotic Malaysian honey for which you quickly pay big money.

  1. Even more problematic: experts have a lot to say about the research. For example, it was not randomized, leaving a lot of room for placebo effects. Moreover, the result has not been duplicated in any other study. So this is probably a fable!

  1. This blog is often quoted as â € proveâ € ™ that you recover from honey better after a workout. However, the blog only says that honey works just as well as certain gels and supplements. It is simply a good source of carbohydrates, and carbohydrates are essential for replenishing your glycogen after exercise.

  1. In short, fact or fable? It is true that honey is a great product to use as a fast energy supplier after exercise. However, that makes it no better than practically all other carbohydrates. You certainly don't have to use honey.

Is honey healthy?

  1. With all that in mind: is honey healthy? The difference with sugar is unfortunately negligible. It does not contain completely different ingredients, does not magically deliver fewer calories, and is not processed significantly slower by your body. As a natural sugar substitute, honey therefore has few benefits.

  1. It may have a few other advantages, for example as an antibacterial agent or as a probiotic. Much research is still being done into the properties of honey. In addition, honey functions as an antioxidant, which can contribute to the repair of cell damage in your body.

What's the best honey?

  1. Due to the amount of fast sugars in honey, it is better not to eat too much of it. It is fine to use a little honey now and then, as long as your diet is generally in order. In that case, you just have to pay attention to which honey you buy.

  1. A lot of honey in the supermarket is not 'real' honey. It is produced by bees that are fed sugar water, rather than plants with decent nutrients. Or worse, regular sugar has been added to the honey to reduce production costs. Finally, pesticides can get into honey when the bees feed on sprayed plants.

  1. It may therefore be wise to opt for organically produced honey. It is usually less processed, contains no unhealthy additives and contains no pesticides. This way you keep the honey as healthy as possible.

  1. Have you heard any other arguments in the discussion whether honey is healthy? We would love to hear from you so that we can expand our article!

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