News about honey has been buzzing around the internet of late, with new varieties coming to our shores — Manuka from New Zealand and Beeotic honey from Australia among them. We live in a region of the country famous for our own honeys, too, thanks to a diversity of flowers and fruit trees on which our threatened honeybees can feed.
Each touts its own health benefits, so where does the truth lie? Somewhere in between, it seems.
"Some honeys can be highly processed and include ingredients like flour, starch, dextrose and other ingredients," warns Danielle Townsend, a registered dietitian with Primary Health Care Center. She advises sticking with honey that is minimally processed — and read the ingredients label.
"Some experts even say to pick the darkest honey you can find to ensure the most nutrients," she says, adding that because of the possibility that your raw honey may contain botulism, it should not be given to children under 12 months old.
But now for the good stuff — its health benefits.
Dr. Mehmet Oz says Manuka honey is good for healing so many of the things that ail us. However there are varying degrees of Manuka honey, and it's quite expensive. I picked some up at Trader Joe's in Atlanta in a small, 8.8-ounce jar for $15.
It's advised that when buying Manuka honey, look for brands that contain a UMF rating of at least 10. Ratings lower than that are considered inferior and do not contain the beneficial qualities found in higher grades. UMF ratings are a universally accepted trademark that ensures Manuka honey is natural and unadulterated. The honey comes from New Zealand, where bees feast on the flowers of the tea tree plant. It's very thick with a strong, somewhat bitter taste compared to some other honeys. It was first brought to the United States 30 years ago but has only recently gained national attention.
"Manuka honey has been studied for decades and has even been documented in the world's oldest medical literature," Townsend says. "The basis of the claim is that it contains antimicrobial as well as wound-healing properties. Other studies have shown that using Manuka can increase the effectiveness of FDA-approved antibiotics."
Another new honey on the market is Capilano's Beeotic honey, sold at Walmart, in stores and online. It's a lighter honey with a very nice taste — and price. Twelve-ounce jars are around $10. The honey contains naturally occurring prebiotics that help feed the good bacteria in our guts.
Townsend says the most-common alleged health benefit is that honey can help improve seasonal allergies. "Though the type of pollen included in each variety is almost never the pollen that is causing your allergy issues," she says.
"Honey does contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants because it is plant-based. The amount and type of these nutrients will vary between brands of honey, but consumption of any honey you choose may not have a significant impact on your health."
Townsend enjoys honey, but only for its sweetening capabilities, not for any medicinal properties. And, she says, any vitamins found in honey degrade when honey is baked in breads and other foods. So, for good measure, drizzle a spoonful on top of your biscuit or muffin. Never hurts.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup honey, plus more for drizzling
Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, combine egg, milk, butter and 1/4 cup honey. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups three-fourths full. Bake 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Do not overbrown. Cool 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Drizzle more honey on top of warm muffins before serving. Makes 12-14 muffins that freeze well when cooled and sealed in freezer bags.
Contact Anne Braly at firstname.lastname@example.org.