Not all honey is created equal! Raw honey is a healthy sweetener and should not be confused with commercially processed honey or agave nectar. Raw honey is loaded with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and living enzymes that have anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. These valuable nutrients are destroyed during the heating and pasteurization process that commercially-processed honey undergoes. Processed honey is similar to white, refined sugar, with glycemic index values in the 60s and 70s, which causes a spike of sugar in the blood that increases body fat and decreases insulin resistance. However, raw honey with its lower glycemic index (near 30) helps to stabilize blood sugar.
IMPORTANT: Never give any kind of honey to a child under one year of age, since an infant’s immature immune system can’t effectively deactivate the botulinum spores that may grow and produce toxins.
Raw honey is not clear like processed honey, but opaque and often lighter in color. It’s also solid at room temperature, but melts nicely on warm food. Raw honey is delicious on toasted English muffins, in peanut butter sandwiches, on oatmeal, in hot tea and in almost any food with which you would typically use sugar. Tart fruit sweetened with raw honey and then cooked down makes a delicious topping for waffles and pancakes. Because it is sweeter than sugar, the amount of honey that you use can be reduced by 25% to 50% when substituted for sugar. In baked goods, the oven temperature can be lowered by 25 degrees to prevent over-browning. If you are using more than 1 cup of honey in a recipe that requires baking, decrease the liquids in the recipe by one-fourth of the stated amount and add ½ teaspoon of baking soda. These Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Swirl Cookies (sweetened with raw honey and made with beans instead of flour) are delicious. Also try Rachel Ray’s Honey-Mustard Sesame Chicken Planks.
Despite agave nectar’s very low glycemic index of 17, it didn’t pan out to be the healthy sweetener that we all hoped for, since it seems to increase unhealthy visceral fat (fat inside your abdomen) and to increase insulin resistance in a similar fashion to high-fructose corn syrup.
If you have a sweet tooth, stick with a whole food, unrefined sweetener like raw honey. This naturally delicious alternative to white sugar and processed honey provides valuable nutrition without so many negative health effects. Take July’s Healthy Challenge and use raw honey to sweeten your food.