Healthy Eating: The key to a healthy new year (part II)

Dipping your apple in some honey this Rosh Hashana will definitely start your new year off on a sweet note, but what about health benefits?

Honey 311 TS (photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Honey 311 TS
(photo credit: Thinkstock/Imagebank)
Produced by honeybees using the nectar from different types of flowers, honey is a sweet and tasty treat. However, it is more than just a sugar alternative. Aside from its high sugar content, honey contains several beneficial nutrients that can prevent and cure many different physical symptoms. In fact, honey has been used for hundreds of years in folk and traditional medicines to treat a variety of ailments and their symptoms, and today, scientific studies have found that honey provides relief and even helps prevent many different ailments.
But before diving into the health benefits, it’s important to remember that not all honey is created equally. As with most foods, much of honey’s nutritional value is lost when processed. Unlike the processed version, typically is found in cute bear shaped jars, raw honey is extracted directly from the hive and jarred for human consumption. It therefore contains more health beneficial compounds than its processed counterpart.
Healthy Eating: the key to a healthy new year (part I)
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Now while there is some disagreement among experts about how many and how much of these nutrients are exactly destroyed, there’s no question that at least some damage is done to honey’s nutritional and medicinal properties during processing.  Now, this is not to say that most honey is not good for you – as long as it does not contain added sweeteners such as corn syrup - it still offers many of the health benefits of raw honey, just to a lesser degree.
Here’s a closer look at what honey can do for you:
Wound Healer: Cut or scrape yourself? Most people’s first instinct would be to wash the wound, and then apply some Polysporin, Neosporin or any other antibacterial agent. But what happens if this ointment isn’t available? Go into your kitchen and grab some honey! Honey contains hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), an antiseptic compound that will help to disinfect the wound – killing off harmful bacteria that could lead to an infection. Moreover, honey’s viscosity creates a protective barrier around the wound and also absorbs moisture, drying out the area to inhibit the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms. By creating a healing layer between the wound and the dressing that does not stick or cause tissue damage, applying honey reduces the chances of scarring as the skin cells regenerate without forming any scab. Apart from cuts and scrapes, studies have also found that honey can be applied topically to help treat eczema, acne and ringworm as well as relieve the pain of a minor burn or insect bite, and can even be used as a skin moisturizer.
Cold fighter:  Probably its most well-known property, honey has been used for centuries to help treat sore throats. However, a teaspoon of honey will not only help to sooth an achy throat, it may help to treat it too. Thanks to its antibacterial properties, honey may also help to kill the bacteria causing your throat to ache and the rest of you to feel ill.  Studies also found that honey may work better at reducing the frequency and severity of nighttime cough than most over-the-counter cough suppressants.
Sinus Pain Relief:  Apart from treating symptoms of the common cold, did you know that honey can also help to treat sinusitis? A condition that affects millions of people each year (31 million Americans to date), sinusitis occurs when mucous membranes in the sinus cavities become inflamed, causing a stuffy nose, difficulty breathing, and moderate to intense head and facial pain. Now while there are many causes of sinusitis, such as allergies and fungus, a bacterial infection is still one of the leading causes of this discomforting disorder. So how can humble honey help? A Canadian study found that two types of honey, manuka honey from New Zealand and sidr honey from Yemen were effective in killing the bacteria that can cause a sinus infection, and worked even better than antibiotics. The study also found that bacteria growing in a biofilm - a thin layer formed by bacteria that is resistance to antibiotics - were more susceptible to honey.
Insomnia Remedy: Probably the most common sleep disorder, insomnia is believed to affect nearly 20% of the world’s population. Now while there are many different ways to treat this disorder, did you ever consider honey as one of the most effective ways? While it may seem counter-intuitive as sugary foods normally make you more alert, studies have found that consuming small doses of honey will help you get to sleep faster as it tells your brain to switch off production of orexin – a neurotransmitter linked to alertness. In fact, the University of Cambridge Counseling Service suggests eating bread with honey or drinking warm tea with honey before bedtime to alleviate anxiety and to help you sleep better.

Hangover cure: Everyone has his or her own cure to a hangover – whether it be drinking plenty of water, sleeping it off, sipping on a banana milkshake or even drinking more alcohol; but has honey ever crossed your mind as the ultimate hangover cure? Probably not, but it really should. Honey is not only gentle on the stomach (thereby helping to get rid of the post-drinking uneasiness) but its high fructose content helps to speed up the oxidation of alcohol. A UK study found that honey helps the body break down alcohol into harmless by-products, rather than a toxic substance that causes those blinding hangovers. So if you are planning to indulge in the red wine next Wednesday night, make sure to keep dipping those apples in the honey.

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