It’s no secret that refined sugars are harmful to our health, however many of us still reach for a sweet fix, especially during the Christmas holidays. If you still want to indulge in all the delicious festive foods but with far less guilt, honey is a fantastic alternative to refined sugar when baking Christmas treats. So, what are the benefits and how do we use honey as a substitute?
You read that right – using honey instead of sugar has several health benefits. A study on the metabolic effects of honey versus sugar compared two breakfasts with the same number of calories and percentage of sugars. The only difference was that one breakfast contained sucrose, while the other breakfast’s sugar content came from honey. Results revealed that the use of honey delayed participants’ hunger post-meal, and reduced spikes in blood sugar, therefore maintaining a more balanced response to food intake. If we eat too often and our accompanying blood sugar levels become too high, we can develop insulin resistance and the unabsorbed sugar can cause tissue damage, including more wrinkles!
Another study compared the cardiovascular and metabolic effects of eating honey to those of eating sugar. Honey reduced cholesterol, inflammation, blood sugar, and homocysteine that is toxic to the nervous system in high levels. Naturopaths commonly test for homocysteine and related markers in clients with cardiovascular disease, neurological conditions and mental illness.
Honey may also support our friendly species of gut bacteria that help to balance our immune system and brain chemistry. Laboratory research has found that consuming honey could increase the populations of two Lactobacillus species – L. acidophilus and L. plantarum – by 10-100 times more than the equivalent of sugar consumption. These species of bacteria relieve inflammation and are commonly found in probiotic supplements as they are great for gut health!
Furthermore, honey-based jam or jelly may be helpful in persistent coughs, where throat irritation remains even after the respiratory infection itself has passed. A trial of 97 people who had persistent cough for at least three weeks compared the effects of a jam-like paste of honey and coffee to a typical corticosteroid treatment to see which was best. Steroid use showed only limited benefits, while the honey and coffee mixture reduced cough severity from 2.9 to 0.2 on a 0-4 point scale. Persistent coughs can also result from smoking and air pollution, including from chemical sprays used at home, so it’s best to address these causes instead of simply relieving the symptoms. Avoiding toxic chemical sprays and introducing more air-filtering plants into the home are two simple ways of reducing exposure to air pollutants. This combined with eating a spoonful of high-strength, antibacterial Manuka Honey, such as our own 100% Australian Manuka Honey MGO260+ can help to reduce the likelihoods and severity of coughs.
Of course, we can’t just use the same amount of honey in a recipe that originally called for sugar. Honey is sweeter, more acidic, browns easier and is roughly 25 percent water. To compensate for the inconsistencies between sugar and honey, try the following methods:
Still not confident in how to swap out sugar for honey in your go-to Christmas recipes? Try this deliciously healthy Christmas trifle recipe!
With all the health benefits of honey, why not make the switch from sugar this Christmas?! Not only will you go easier on your health, but you will be supporting local bees in reducing your contribution to chemical sprays and pesticides. To purchase some of our Beetanicals 100% Australian Manuka Honey MGO260+ click here. If you have any tried and tested dessert recipes using honey instead of sugar, please share them with us!
Wishing our wonderful Beetanicals community a Christmas as sweet as honey!