Updated: Feb 5, 2021
Paleo’ and ‘ancestral’ diets are all the rage these days, and for good reason! It encourages us to return to eating real whole foods, in place of all the processed foods we now have access to.
Amongst the foods that we can find in this way of eating is a forgotten food, it’s honey! Did you know that amongst (some) of the very few modern day hunter gatherer communities left on earth, raw honey is a staple! The classic example is the Hadza tribespeople of Northern Tanzania. They’re reported to get about 15% of their total calories from honey, and also report honey as their favourite food!
Honey sometimes gets a bad rap because it’s high in fructose. Personally, I don’t think this argument holds up at all. Consider that humans have been eating fructose for millions of years - from fruits and foods like honey.(This may be why humans have a completely separate pathway for metabolizing fructose, versus glucose!) Certainly fructose in excess can be problematic - but you can’t say fructose, or honey for that matter, is innately bad just because excess is bad!
On the contrary, honey actually has some intriguing antioxidant and anti bacterial properties. It’s been shown to contain antioxidant flavonoids pinocembrin, pinostrobin and chrysin.
It’s antimicrobial properties were actually put to the test in a randomized controlled trial assessing gingivitis. 20 female orthodontic patients were randomized to receive either honey, sucrose (positive control), or sorbitol (negative control). They then assessed pH and bacterial responses after chewing or rinsing honey. They found that, compared to the controls, bacterial counts were significantly reduced in the honey group compared to the other treatment groups, and honey significantly inhibited the growth of all studied strains of bacteria.
Raw honey is a superior source to conventional processed honey because it still contains all of these natural antioxidants, anti-bacterials, and other natural compounds we didn’t even discuss, including digestive enzymes or even bee pollen. Conventional honey is exposed to high heat processing and can destroy much of this.
Huge thanks to our friend Chett Binning, creator and Chief Nutrition Consultant of Brain Ignition for writing this post! His Instagram is a great follow for information on nutrition, training, and health: @brainignition.
Atwa AD, AbuShahba RY, Mostafa M, Hashem MI. Effect of honey in preventing gingivitis and dental caries in patients undergoing orthodontic treatment. Saudi Dent J. 2014;26(3):108-114. doi:10.1016/j.sdentj.2014.03.001
Jed W. Fahey and Katherine K. Stephenson. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2002 50 (25), 7472-7476. DOI: 10.1021/jf025692k
Marlowe FW, Berbesque JC, Wood B, Crittenden A, Porter C, Mabulla A. Honey, Hadza, hunter-gatherers, and human evolution. J Hum Evol. 2014 Jun;71:119-28. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2014.03.006. Epub 2014 Apr 17. PMID: 24746602.