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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 November 12, 2020

            Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (and What to Do About It)

            Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (and What to Do About It)

            If you find that you’re feeling tired all the time, it’s important to understand that it’s a common problem for many. With all of the demands of daily life, being tired seems to be the new baseline. In fact, two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week.[1]

            If you’re tired of feeling exhausted, then I’ve got some great news for you. New research is helping us gain critical insights into the underlying causes of feeling tired all the time.

            In this article, we’ll discuss the latest reasons why you’re so tired and practical steps you can take to finally get to the bottom of your fatigue and feel rested.

            What Happens When You’re Too Tired

            If you sleep just two hours less than the normal eight hours, you could be as impaired as someone who has consumed up to three beers.[2] And you’ve probably experienced the impact yourself.

            Here are some common examples of what happens when you’re feeling tired:[3]

            • Trouble focusing because memory and learning functions may be impaired.
            • Experience mood swings and an inability to differentiate between what’s important and what’s not.
            • Dark circles under your eyes and/or your skin make look dull and lackluster in the short term and over time your skin may get wrinkles and show signs of aging because your body didn’t have time to remove toxins during sleep.
            • Finding it more difficult to exercise.
            • Immune system may weaken, causing you to pick up infections more easily.
            • Overeating because not getting enough sleep activates the body’s endocannabinoids, even when you’re not hungry.
            • Metabolism slows down, so what you eat is more likely to be stored as belly fat.

            Why Are You Feeling Tired All the Time?

            Leading experts are starting to recognize that there are three primary reasons people feel tired on a regular basis: sleep deprivation, fatigue, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

            Here’s a quick overview of each common cause of fatigue and feeling tired all of the time:

            1. Tiredness occurs from sleep deprivation when you don’t get high-quality sleep consistently. It typically can be solved by changing your routine and getting enough deep, restorative sleep.
            2. Fatigue occurs from prolonged sleeplessness, which could be triggered by numerous health problems, such as mental health issues, long-term illness, fibromyalgia, obesity, sleep apnea, or stress. It typically can be improved by changing your lifestyle and using sleep aids or treatments, if recommended by your physician.
            3. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a medical condition also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis that occurs from persistent exhaustion that doesn’t go away with sleep.

            The exact cause of CFS is not known, but it may be due to problems with the immune system, a bacterial infection, a hormone imbalance, or emotional trauma. It typically involves working with a doctor to rule out other illnesses before diagnosing and treating CFS.[4]

            Always consult a physician to get a personal diagnosis about why you are feeling tired, especially if it is a severe condition.

            You can learn more about some causes of fatigue in this video:

            Feeling Tired Vs Being Fatigued

            If lack of quality sleep doesn’t seem to be the root cause for you, then it’s time to explore fatigue as the reason you are frequently feeling tired.

            Until recently, tiredness and fatigue were thought to be interchangeable. Leading experts now realize that tiredness and fatigue are different.

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            Tiredness is primarily about lack of sleep. However, fatigue is a perceived feeling of being tired that is much more likely to occur in people who have depression, anxiety, or emotional stress and/or are overweight and physically inactive[5].

            Symptoms of fatigue include:

            • Difficulty concentrating
            • Low stamina
            • Difficulty sleeping
            • Anxiety
            • Low motivation

            These symptoms may sound similar to those of tiredness, but they usually last longer and are more intense.

            Unfortunately, there is no definitive reason why fatigue occurs because it can be a symptom of an emotional or physical illness. However, there are still a number of steps you can take to reduce difficult symptoms by making a few simple lifestyle changes.

            How Much Sleep Is Enough?

            The number one reason you may feel tired is because of sleep deprivation, which means you are not getting enough high-quality sleep.

            Research suggests that most adults need 7 to 9 hours of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep per night[6]. If you’re sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you need increases.

            Get the right amount of sleep to stop feeling tired.

              The key to quality sleep is being able to get long, uninterrupted sleep cycles throughout the night. It typically takes 90 minutes for you to reach a state of deep REM sleep where your body’s healing crew goes to work.

              Ideally, you want to get at least 3 to 4 deep REM sleep cycles in per night. That’s why it’s so important to stay asleep for 7 or more hours.

              Research also shows that people who think they can get by on less sleep don’t perform as well as people who get at least seven hours of sleep a night[7]

              If you are not getting 7 hours of high-quality sleep regularly, then sleep deprivation is the most likely reason you feel tired all the time. That is actually good news because sleep deprivation is much simpler and easier to address than the other root causes.

              It’s also a good idea to rule out sleep deprivation as the reason why you are tired before moving on to the other possibilities, such as fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which may require a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

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              4 Simple Changes to Reduce Fatigue

              Personally, I’m a big believer in upgrading your lifestyle to uplift your life. I overcame chronic stress and exhaustion by making these four changes to my lifestyle:

              1. Eating healthy, home-cooked meals versus microwaving processed foods or eating out
              2. Exercising regularly
              3. Using stressbusters
              4. Creating a bedtime routine to sleep better

              After I made the 4 simple changes in my lifestyle, I no longer felt exhausted all of the time.

              I was so excited that I wanted to help others replace stress and exhaustion with rest and well-being, too. That’s why I became a Certified Holistic Wellness Coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute.

              Interestingly enough, I discovered that Dr. Sears recommends a somewhat similar L.E.A.N. lifestyle:

              • L is for Lifestyle and means living healthy, including getting enough sleep.
              • E is for Exercise and means getting at least 20 minutes of physical activity a day, ideally for six days a week.
              • A is for Attitude and means thinking positive and reducing stress whenever possible.
              • N is for Nutrition and means emphasizing a right-fat diet, not a low-fat diet.

              The L.E.A.N. lifestyle is a scientifically-proven way to reduce fatigue, get to the optimal weight, and to achieve overall wellness.[8]

              Living Healthy

              Getting enough high-quality sleep every day is the surefire way to help you feel less fatigued, more rested, and better overall.

              In fact, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body isn’t getting the time it needs to repair itself; meaning that if you are suffering from an illness, it’s far more likely to linger. In fact, long-term sleep deprivation has been linked to an increase in Alzheimer’s later in life[9].

              As unlikely as it sounds, though, fatigue can sometimes make it difficult to sleep. That’s why I’d recommend taking a look at your bedtime routine before you go to bed and optimize it based on sleep best practices.

              Here are 3 quick and easy tips for creating a pro-sleep bedtime routine:

              1. Unplug

              Many of us try to unwind by watching TV or doing something on an iPhone or tablet. However, tech can affect your melatonin production due to the blue light that they emit, fooling your body into thinking it’s still daytime. This won’t help you stop feeling tired all the time.

              Try to turn off all tech one hour before bed and create a tech-free zone in your bedroom.

              2. Unwind

              Use the time before bed to do something you find relaxing such as reading a book, listening to soothing music, meditating, or taking an Epsom salt bath.

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              3. Get Comfortable

              Ensure your bed is comfortable and your room is set up for sleep.

              Make sure you room is cool. 60-68 degrees is the ideal temperature for most people to sleep. Also, it’s ideal if your bedroom is dark and there is no noise.

              Finally, make sure everything is handled (e.g., laying out tomorrow’s clothes) before you get into your nice, comfy bed. If your mind is still active, write a to-do list to help you fall asleep faster.[10]

              This article also offers practical tips to build a bedtime routine: How to Build a Good Bedtime Routine That Makes Your Morning Easier

              Exercise

              Many people know that exercise is good for them, but they just can’t figure out how to fit it into their busy schedules.

              That’s what happened in my case, but when my chronic stress and exhaustion turned into systemic inflammation (which can lead to major diseases like Alzheimer’s), I realized it was time to change my sedentary lifestyle.

              I decided to start swimming because it was something I had always loved to do. Find an exercise you love and stick to it to stop feeling tired all the time. Ideally, get a combination of endurance training, strength training, and flexibility training during your daily 20-minute workout.

              If you haven’t exercised in a while and have a lot of stress in your life, you may want to give yoga a try as it will increase your flexibility and lower your stress.

              Attitude

              Stress may be a major reason why you aren’t feeling well all of the time. At least that was the case with me.

              When I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive, I felt chronically stressed and exhausted, but there was one thing that always worked to help me feel calmer and less fatigued: Breathing.

              But not just any old breathing. It was a special form of deep Yogic breathing called the “Long-Exhale Breathing” or “4-7-8 breathing” (or “Pranayama” in Sanskrit).

              Here’s how you do Long-Exhale Breathing:

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              1. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight and your hand on your tummy.
              2. Breathe in deeply and slowly from your diaphragm with your mouth closed while you count to 4 (ideally until your stomach feels full of air).
              3. Hold your breath while you mentally count to 7 and enjoy the stillness.
              4. Breathe out through your mouth with a “ha” sound while you count to 8 (or until your stomach has no more air in it).
              5. Pause after you finish your exhale while you notice the sense of wholeness and relaxation from completing one conscious, deep breath.
              6. Repeat 3 times, ensuring your exhale is longer than your inhale so you relax your nervous system.

              This type of “long-exhale breathing” is scientifically proven to reduce stress.

              When your exhale is twice as long as your inhale, it soothes your parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates the relaxation response.[11]

              Nutrition

              Diet is vital for beating fatigue if you’re feeling tired all the time – after all, food is your main source of energy.

              If your diet is poor, then it implies you’re not getting the nutrients you need to sustain healthy energy levels, which may lead to daytime sleepiness.

              Eating a diet for fatigue doesn’t need to be complicated or time-consuming though. For most people, it’s just a case of swapping a few unhealthy foods for a few healthier ones, like switching from low-fiber, processed foods to whole, high-fiber foods.

              Here’re 9 simple diet swaps you can make today:

              1. Replace your morning coffee with Matcha green tea and drink only herbal tea within six hours of bedtime.
              2. Add a healthy fat or protein to any carb you eat, especially if you eat before bed.
              3. Fill up with fiber, especially green leafy vegetables.
              4. Replace refined, processed, low-fiber pastas and grains with zucchini noodles and whole grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, oats, amaranth, millet, teff, brown rice, and corn.
              5. Swap natural sweeteners for refined sugars, and try to ensure you don’t get more than 25g of sugar a day if you are a woman and 30g of sugar a day if you are a man.
              6. Replace ice cream with low-sugar alternatives.
              7. Swap omega-6, partially-hydrogenated oils such as corn, palm, sunflower, safflower, cotton, canola and soybean oil for omega-3 oils such as flax, olive, and nut oils.
              8. Replace high-sugar yoghurts with low-sugar, dairy-free yoghurts.
              9. Swap your sugar-laden soda for sparkling water with a splash of low-sugar juice.

              Also, ensure your diet is giving you enough of the daily essential vitamins and minerals. Most of us don’t get enough Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, Calcium, Iron, and Magnesium. If you are low on any of the above vitamins and minerals, you may experience fatigue and low energy.

              That’s why it’s always worth having your doctor check your levels. If you find any of them are low, then try to eat foods rich in them.

              Alternatively, you might consider a high-quality multivitamin or specific supplement.

              The Bottom Line

              If you are tired of feeling tired all the time, then there is tremendous hope.

              If you are tired because you are not getting enough high-quality sleep, then the best remedy is a bedtime routine based on sleep best practices. If you are tired because you have stress and fatigue, then the best remedy are four simple lifestyle changes discussed above.

              Overall, adopting a healthier lifestyle is the ideal remedy for feeling more rested and energized.

              More Tips to Stop Feeling Tired All the Time

              Featured photo credit: Cris Saur via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1] YouGov: Two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week
              [2] National Safety Council: Is Your Company Confronting Workplace Fatigue?
              [3] The New York Times: Why Are We So Freaking Tired?
              [4] Mayo Clinic: Chronic fatigue syndrome
              [5] Very Well Health: Differences Between Sleepiness and Fatigue
              [6] Advanced Sleep Medicine Services: NEW Guidelines: How much sleep do you need?
              [7] Mayo Clinic: Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
              [8] Ask Dr. Sears: The L.E.A.N. Lifestyle
              [9] National Institute on Aging: Sleep loss encourages spread of toxic Alzheimer’s protein
              [10] American Psychological Association: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
              [11] Yoga International: Learning to Exhale: 2-to-1 Breathing

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