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Amazing Benefits of Honey (+5 Refreshing Recipes)

Amazing Benefits of Honey (+5 Refreshing Recipes)

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.

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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).

    Ingredients:

    • 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

    Directions:

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    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!

      Ingredients:

      • 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

      Directions:

      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.

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        Ingredients:

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

        Directions:

        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.

          Ingredients:

          • 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)

          Directions:

          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.

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          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.

            Ingredients:

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

            Directions:

            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

            More by this author

            Elise Moreau

            Elise helps desk workers lead healthier lifestyles. Visit her website on her profile to get a free list of health hacks.

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            Last Updated on September 18, 2020

            7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

            7 Simple Rules to Live by to Get in Shape in Two Weeks

            Learning how to get in shape and set goals is important if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and get closer to your goal weight. While this does require changes to your daily routine, you’ll find that you are able to look and feel better in only two weeks.

            Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to get in shape. Although anyone can cover the basics (eat right and exercise), there are some things that I could only learn through trial and error. Let’s cover some of the most important points for how to get in shape in two weeks.

            1. Exercise Daily

            It is far easier to make exercise a habit if it is a daily one. If you aren’t exercising at all, I recommend starting by exercising a half hour every day. When you only exercise a couple times per week, it is much easier to turn one day off into three days off, a week off, or a month off.

            If you are already used to exercising, switching to three or four times a week to fit your schedule may be preferable, but it is a lot harder to maintain a workout program you don’t do every day.

            Be careful to not repeat the same exercise routine each day. If you do an intense ab workout one day, try switching it up to general cardio the next. You can also squeeze in a day of light walking to break up the intensity.

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            If you’re a morning person, check out these morning exercises that will start your day off right.

            2. Duration Doesn’t Substitute for Intensity

            Once you get into the habit of regular exercise, where do you go if you still aren’t reaching your goals? Most people will solve the problem by exercising for longer periods of time, turning forty-minute workouts into two hour stretches. Not only does this drain your time, but it doesn’t work particularly well.

            One study shows that “exercising for a whole hour instead of a half does not provide any additional loss in either body weight or fat”[1].

            This is great news for both your schedule and your levels of motivation. You’ll likely find it much easier to exercise for 30 minutes a day instead of an hour. In those 30 minutes, do your best to up the intensity to your appropriate edge to get the most out of the time.

            3. Acknowledge Your Limits

            Many people get frustrated when they plateau in their weight loss or muscle gaining goals as they’re learning how to get in shape. Everyone has an equilibrium and genetic set point where their body wants to remain. This doesn’t mean that you can’t achieve your fitness goals, but don’t be too hard on yourself if you are struggling to lose weight or put on muscle.

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            Acknowledging a set point doesn’t mean giving up, but it does mean realizing the obstacles you face.

            Expect to hit a plateau in your own fitness results[2]. When you expect a plateau, you can manage around it so you can continue your progress at a more realistic rate. When expectations meet reality, you can avoid dietary crashes.

            4. Eat Healthy, Not Just Food That Looks Healthy

            Know what you eat. Don’t fuss over minutia like whether you’re getting enough Omega 3’s or tryptophan, but be aware of the big things. Look at the foods you eat regularly and figure out whether they are healthy or not. Don’t get fooled by the deceptively healthy snacks just pretending to be good for you.

            The basic nutritional advice includes:

            • Eat unprocessed foods
            • Eat more veggies
            • Use meat as a side dish, not a main course
            • Eat whole grains, not refined grains[3]

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            Eat whole grains when you want to learn how to get in shape.

              5. Watch Out for Travel

              Don’t let a four-day holiday interfere with your attempts when you’re learning how to get in shape. I don’t mean that you need to follow your diet and exercise plan without any excursion, but when you are in the first few weeks, still forming habits, be careful that a week long break doesn’t terminate your progress.

              This is also true of schedule changes that leave you suddenly busy or make it difficult to exercise. Have a backup plan so you can be consistent, at least for the first month when you are forming habits.

              If travel is on your schedule and can’t be avoided, make an exercise plan before you go[4], and make sure to pack exercise clothes and an exercise mat as motivation to keep you on track.

              6. Start Slow

              Ever start an exercise plan by running ten miles and then puking your guts out? Maybe you aren’t that extreme, but burnout is common early on when learning how to get in shape. You have a lifetime to be healthy, so don’t try to go from couch potato to athletic superstar in a week.

              If you are starting a running regime, for example, run less than you can to start. Starting strength training? Work with less weight than you could theoretically lift. Increasing intensity and pushing yourself can come later when your body becomes comfortable with regular exercise.

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              7. Be Careful When Choosing a Workout Partner

              Should you have a workout partner? That depends. Workout partners can help you stay motivated and make exercising more fun. But they can also stop you from reaching your goals.

              My suggestion would be to have a workout partner, but when you start to plateau (either in physical ability, weight loss/gain, or overall health) and you haven’t reached your goals, consider mixing things up a bit.

              If you plateau, you may need to make changes to continue improving. In this case it’s important to talk to your workout partner about the changes you want to make, and if they don’t seem motivated to continue, offer a thirty day break where you both try different activities.

              I notice that guys working out together tend to match strength after a brief adjustment phase. Even if both are trying to improve, something seems to stall improvement once they reach a certain point. I found that I was able to lift as much as 30-50% more after taking a short break from my regular workout partner.

              Final Thoughts

              Learning how to get in shape in as little as two weeks sounds daunting, but if you’re motivated and have the time and energy to devote to it, it’s certainly possible.

              Find an exercise routine that works for you, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and watch as the transformation begins.

              More Tips on Getting in Shape

              Featured photo credit: Alexander Redl via unsplash.com

              Reference

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