Most of us probably grew up with at least some exposure to honey. Maybe you watched a certain bear in a red shirt take a scoop out of his “hunny pot”. Or perhaps parents and grandparents gave you a spoonful of the liquid gold when you were sick and your throat hurt. Ooey-gooey honey has become a widespread symbol of the pure deliciousness of nature. But with something so delectably sweet, we might want to slow down and learn a little more. Can something so sugary really be part of a Paleo diet?
IS HONEY A HEALTHY PART OF THE PALEO DIET?
If you’ve been tracking honey in the news over the last few years; You’ll have noticed a big controversy bubbling over about the pollen content of most honey we buy. It turns out that a large portion available to us has had the pollen removed; without pollen, the source of the honey is untraceable. That’s not good news because some parts of the world (China being just one example) often produce it laced with antibiotics, heavy metals, and other toxins. That’s definitely not a good thing!And on top of that, in order to get that pollen out and make their honey clearer manufacturers will heat and press it. Neutralizing and removing the trace vitamins and minerals that it started out with. Sounds like you might as well be eating table sugar!
But what about honey that does still have the pollen? Well, it will be darker in color, for one thing. For another, because it still has the pollen, it hasn’t had all of its trace nutrients removed either. Some of the vitamins and minerals you can find in this kind, which is often called “raw honey,” are all of the B vitamins (that’s right, all of them!), vitamin K, phosphorus, and manganese, to name just a few. It has been shown to reduce inflammation, and it improves healthy cholesterol ratios as compared to other types of sugars. Interestingly, it’s also been shown that putting honey on meat that you cook reduces the oxidative toxins that come from the fat of the meat. Who knew?
So it looks like we’ve got some conflicting data—honey can be both good and bad! Honey has nice nutrients, but what about the chance of taking in some toxins with it? Paleo experts agree that honey can be a little tricky, but they tend to come to the same conclusion.
WHAT DO OTHER PALEO EXPERTS SAY?
Chris Kresser says: “Raw honey may have some therapeutic properties for digestion despite having a high fructose content, and it’s definitely the most Paleo sweetener out there, so it’s a good option if you tolerate it well.”
Mark Sisson says: “Darker honey is typically higher in bioactive compounds and shows greater antioxidant activity. They also taste better, if you ask me. When in doubt, choose the darker one. It’s clearly superior to refined sugar, and the extent of the damage we normally see from sugar intake doesn’t seem to occur with honey.”
IS HONEY PALEO?
Yes! If it’s raw honey, preferably local to the region that you reside in.
Also, use a sweetener for the little “sweeter” dishes in the Paleo diet. In other words, use sparingly, since it still has a high sugar content. If you need a sweet fix, raw honey maybe the way to go!
Remember that what you’re buying is raw and untreated. That means that most brands you find in stores are out. Be careful of honey that comes from China and Egypt; consider brands like Really Raw Honey or Stakich. As always, though, going down to your local farmer’s market is your best bet!
A note, as well—honey might be a great source of lots of trace minerals but avoid giving it to your youngsters. Because we want the kind that’s got pollen in it, honey may cause an allergic reaction in children young enough to have an immature immune system. In addition, it contains some bacteria spores that can germinate in the digestive system of a young child, causing botulism, a potentially fatal illness. You should definitely wait until your child is more than a year old, but some other sources recommend waiting until three years old, just to be safe.