When a cup of tea or a piece of toast is in need of some sweetness, honey often does the trick. This deliciously sweet and sticky substance produced by bees can offer you more health benefits than you might expect, and it’s actually been used for centuries for its claimed healing properties.

Despite the fact that honey is just a natural form of simple sugar, it’s possible to use it strategically to support a healthy weight and improve your health overall. So if you thought that sugar was really all that bad for you, think again.

Skeptical, but curious to find out more? Here’re how this natural sweetener can help you become healthier.

1. It helps regulate your blood sugar.

Honey is a simple sugar, but research has shown that it’s more beneficial for the body than table sugar (for healthy adults at least–perhaps not for diabetics). During the honey-making process, the bees divide the honey molecules into glucose and fructose, which our bodies can directly absorb for a gentler impact on blood sugar levels. With table sugar (sucrose), however, our bodies have to work to separate the molecules before using it as energy, causing blood sugar levels to get a bigger jolt.

2. It can promote the growth of good bacteria in your gut.

Research has shown that swapping out table sugar for honey can help to prevent the harmful effects of bad bacteria in the intestine by providing probiotics that increase good bacteria. To get the full benefit of honey’s gut bacteria balancing power, however, you’ll need to select a type of raw honey with the least amount of processing. Heating, filtering and processing honey eliminates the enzymes and nutrients that make it such a functional food for health.

3. It may improve brain function.

Although there’s very little research to back it up at the moment, raw honey is known to contain naturally active compounds that can enhance memory and lower anxiety. In a study on postmenopausal women who were given tualang honey as a supplement, results showed improvements in immediate memory. Despite these findings, more scientifically rigorous research is still needed to determine with more precision how honey really impacts the brain and nervous system.

4. It can be used to soothe a sore throat or cough.

Honey has long been used as a popular home remedy for the common cold because of its natural anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. In a study conducted on children aged two and up with respiratory tract infections, two teaspoons of honey taken orally before bedtime was shown to have helped reduce nighttime coughing and promote better sleep. Although safe for most adults and children over one year old, honey should never be given to babies (due to concerns of botulism).

5. It can help you get a better night’s sleep.

If you find that you never quite feel rested when it’s time to get up in the morning, try drinking some milk or herbal tea with honey before bed. Consuming a bit of honey prior to hitting the hay will cause a steady rise in insulin along with a mood-boosting release of serotonin, which is then turned into melatonin–the hormone responsible for sleep regulation. Your brain also uses quite a lot of energy when you sleep, so a small amount of honey may help improve your of sleep quality.

6. It can give you an energy boost.

Carbohydrates are your body’s main source of energy, and at 17 grams per tablespoon, honey can give you a dense hit of simple carbs in the morning when you need to wake up, before an intense workout, or any time of the day when you feel a bit of a slump. You likely won’t need more than a tablespoon. Honey doesn’t have any protein, fat or fiber to it, so stick to a very small portion to avoid insulin spikes that could cause you to crash later on. It does, however, have as many as 80 valuable nutrients to offer–including vitamins A, C, D, E, K and all the B-complex plus essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc and others.

7. It can aid in the healing process of wounds and burns.

For non-severe burns and wounds of the skin, topical application of honey to the affected area may help it heal faster and more effectively. It turns out that honey’s acidity, hydrogen peroxide content, osmotic effect, nutritional and antioxidant contents, stimulation of immunity, and other compounds work together to promote new tissue growth and minimize scarring. As long as a burn or wound is mild enough not to require medical treatment from a professional, honey may be used as a safe, effective and all natural healing remedy.

8. It encourages you to cut down on table sugar so that you can lose or maintain weight.

Per tablespoon, honey is about 64 calories while standard sucrose (a.k.a. table sugar) is about 48 calories. Yikes, there’re more calories in honey than in regular sugar! But it’s not all bad news. In fact, honey is much sweeter than regular sugar, meaning that you need less of it than you would if you used sugar. If you were to go by sweetness rather than by the tablespoon, you’d most likely end up consuming less calories by choosing honey over sugar, which is great for anyone who’s looking to shed a few pounds or avoid gaining any.

How to Incorporate the Benefits of Honey Into Your Diet

Keep in mind that raw honey is best for its rich nutrition, and when shopping around for specific brands, make sure to go for the type that is extremely dark in color. The darker the honey, the less processing it’s been through and the higher its nutritional calue.

Honey is more of a condiment or an ingredient you add to foods to make them taste better. Check out the list below for a few creative and delicious ways to liven up your current meals and snacks with honey.

(Note: The first three recipes require heating the honey in order to cook with it, which may destroy some of its nutrients. If you want to leave all of its nutritional content intact, try the last two recipes, which don’t require heating the honey.)

1. Honey Roasted Butternut Squash

Here’s a sweet way you can use honey to get yourself eating more vegetables (even though butternut squash actually belongs to the fruit family).


  • 1 lb butternut squash, cut into cubes
  • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the cubed butternut squash and the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and toss gently to coat all the cubes. Spread the cubes out on a baking sheet with parchment paper and roast them in the oven for 30 to 45 minutes until they turn lightly brown and are soft when poked with a fork.

2. Grilled Honey Garlic Salmon

When it comes to cooking up a few salmon fillets, you can experiment with different toppings for a nice burst of flavor. Natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup make a perfect addition to this healthy, omega-3-rich fish!


  • 4 salmon fillets
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons parsley, chopped
  • Sea salt to taste


Preheat your oven to medium-high heat on its grill or broil setting. Cook the butter in a skillet on the stovetop over medium heat, stirring for 2 to 3 minutes until the foam disappears and it changes to a light brown color. Add the honey, garlic and lemon juice, stirring it all in for about a minute. Remove the skillet from the stovetop and pour half of the mixture out into a glass bowl to save for later.

Place the salmon fillets skin side down in the skillet with the remaining mixture and cook for 3 to 4 minutes until they turn a golden color. Remove the skillet and transfer it to the oven to grill or broil the salmon for about 6 minutes. The top layer of the salmon should flake away when it’s done. Transfer them to plates, drizzle with the remaining mixture from the bowl, and season with salt and parsley.

3. Honey Roasted Almonds

Nuts make a perfectly healthy and filling snack almost any time of the day. For those who love a little something that’s both sweet and salty, roasting your own nuts with honey will make them taste like candy.


  • 3 cups raw almonds
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar


Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt the butter first in the microwave (if you’re using it instead of oil) and then mix in the honey. In a large bowl, mix the almonds with the honey and butter/oil mixture until they’re full coated. Spread them out on the baking sheet and bake them for 10 minutes.

Remove the almonds from the oven to stir and flip as many over as you can before returning them to the oven for another 10 minutes until they turn a golden brown color. After the baking, throw the almonds in a bowl and give them a thorough stir with the salt and sugar.

4. Frozen Banana & Honey Smoothie

One of the easiest ways to get the full benefits of honey without using heat is by using it to sweeten up your smoothies. Even if your smoothie is already pretty sweet, a tablespoon or two honey will probably make it taste even better.


  • 3 ripe bananas, sliced and frozen
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • 1 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 dates (optional)
  • Cinnamon to taste (optional)


Blend all ingredients together in a blender until they’re smooth and creamy. You can add extra ice, water, or more almond milk to get your desired consistency.

5. Greek Yogurt with Mango Fruit, Granola and Honey

When the weather's nice, I love having fruit, greek yogurt, honey and some crunchy granola for breakfast.

A small amount of honey makes a great morning energizer. By combining honey with some protein and fiber, you’ll have a complete breakfast that will help you get through those early hours leading up to lunch.


  • 1/2 cup plain, nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup fresh mango fruit, chopped
  • 1/3 cup granola
  • 1 tablespoon honey


Scoop out the yogurt into a bowl and top it with the mango and granola. Drizzle the honey over everything, serve and enjoy!

Honey is really one of Mother Nature’s most spectacular foods. Here’s hoping that we can keep the bee population healthy as we head into the future–not just for the honey, but more importantly for being the number one species we rely on to cross-pollinate crops that make it possible for us to grow a wide variety of plant-based foods.

Featured photo credits: Roasted butternut squash, grilled salmon, roasted almonds, banana smoothie, yogurt with fruit and granola.

Featured photo credit: Oksana Shufrych via shutterstock.com

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